Afro-montane forest in Skeleton Gorge.
One of the delights of hiking Table Mountain is that you pass through different floral zones: from boulder fields to open shrubland to thickets to marshes to indigenous forests. The southern and eastern slopes of Table Mountain receives three times more rain than the northern and western slopes, and are shaded against the scorching afternoon sun in summer, conditions conducive to the growth of Afro-montane forest (‘Afro’ referring to its occurrence in Africa, ‘montane’ on mountains). Pockets of forest can be found in deep, shaded ravines on the west side of the mountain, but these appear stunted for lack of giant trees.
Several hiking routes on Table Mountain passes through these forests, the most well-known being Skeleton Gorge. There is also adjacent Nursery Ravine and the more challenging Window Gorge and Hiddingh-Ascension. If you enjoy forest walking, then be sure to ascend the mountain along one of these routes. Disa Gorge in Orange Kloof, on the south side of Table Mountain, also provides splendid forest settings. Although views are limited in forests, they offer an unique atmosphere, often mysterious and surreal, reminiscent of a tropical jungle, not found on open shrubland. And in summer, they offer welcome shade.
Forests are not for everyone: some find them monotonous, claustrophobic or unnerving. But if you enjoy the gloom and mystery created by trees, then be sure to plan your hike up Table Mountain along a route that passes through indigenous forest.