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Table Mountain Hiking

With everything from flat rambles to white-knuckle scrambles on offer,Table Mountain hiking can be as easy or as dramatic as you like. The flagship of the Cape Town hiking experience, this magnificent 1 000 metre mountain provides one of the world's most recognisable skylines and is visited by hundreds of thousands of people a year, marvelling at both the views and the audacity of its location right in the centre of Cape Town.

The overwhelming majority of visitors to Table Mountain however never go beyond the cable car area and the flat-as-a-pancake Western Table, but Table Mountain's flat-topped appearance hides a pleasant secret: there is another world up there, waiting to be explored.

Table Mountain hiking is all about discovering the many aspects of this iconic destination. A dozen or so paths wind their way up to the top through shady forest or fynbos-covered slopes. Some are easy and popular with hikers; others are tough scrambles and are virtually unused but all take between one and two hours to reach the top.

And then the fun starts.

That flat, crowded part of Table Mountain is only a tiny portion of this 57km² wonderland - the rest of it is a beautiful and beguiling mix of craggy peaks, plunging valleys, wetlands and waterfalls. There are tucked-away forests, whiskey-coloured dams and extravagant shows of flowers. A network of well-maintained trails means easy access and straight-forward Table Mountain hiking as well as the bonus of doing circuits for as much variation as possible.

And that's important as the constantly changing environment of Table Mountain means that no part of it is quite the same. Varying rainfall patterns, soil types and exposure to sun and wind mean the Table Mountain hiker can be walking through canopied indigenous forest the one moment, and sandy heathland the next. The plant life is incredible - the dense collection of striking but unfamiliar plants catches the eye immediately and and although the August - December period is best for flowers, there is always plenty in bloom at any time of year.

There are animals too - Table Mountain is home to endemic birds such as the gaudy orange-breasted sunbird and constantly quarreling Cape sugarbird as well as many reptiles and small mammals. The largest animals that live on the mountain are porcupines, klipspringers (a small antelope), dassies (the 'rock rabbit') and even carcal (lynx). Buzzards, kestrels and ravens patrol overhead, and lucky hikers may even catch a glimpse of a black eagle -  a surviving pair still nest on the southern peninsula - or a peregrine falcon, diving on folded wings down the great cliffs that protect its nest.

Table Mountain hiking - it's where the wilderness meets the city.