New7Wonders of Nature

On the 11th of November 2011 the winners of the New7Wonders of Nature will be announced. What does this have to do with me, you ask? Well, our own beloved Table Mountain is one of the finalists in the running to take top honours. This global competition began in 2008 with an amazing 440 contestants entering from all over the world. Three rounds later, the final shortlist of 28 sites was announced in July 2009. Each site then was given two years to rally votes from their own and other countries citizens in order to be voted one of the top seven. Cape Town’s majestic Table Mountain is one of these 28 finalists, along with other famous natural sites such as The Grand Canyon in the United States, the Amazon Rainforest in South America and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. This worldwide competition’s results will be announced on the 11th of the 11th month of 2011, with voting closing at 11:11.

The top of Table Mountain is almost three kilometres from side to side with impressive cliffs on all sides. The plateau is flanked on the east by Devil’s Peak and by Lion’s Head on the west. The highest point is Maclear’s Beacon, towering over Table Bay harbour and the city bowl at 1086 meters above sea level. The first recorded ascent was by Antonio de Saldanha in 1503.

The mountain host an incredibly rich biodiversity and the vegetation on and around the mountain consists mostly of different types of unique Cape Fynbos. The endangered Peninsula Sandstone Fynbos, Peninsula Granite Fynbos, Peninsula Shale Renosterveld and Afromontane forest form part of the Cape Floral Region. This protected area is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with an estimated 2200 species of plants. This is a wider variety of plants in one area than in the entire United Kingdom. Many of these species, such as several of the protea types, are endemic to the mountain and cannot be found anywhere else on Earth.

The most commonly found animal on the mountain is the dassie, who cluster around the upper cable station and near areas where tourists may discard food. The mountain also provides home to porcupines, snakes, tortoises and mongooses. The last of the mountain’s lion population was shot in the early 1800s and leopards were seen on the mountain until the 1920s. The caracal (rooikat) is still spotted occasionally, but researchers are unsure as to whether there are still African Wild Cats on the mountain. Other animals that have at times roamed the mountain include Himalayan tahrs, Klipspringers, fallow deer of European origin and sambar deer from southeast Asia.

The mountain offers climbers many other historical sites to compliment the panoramic view of the city and the abundant fauna and flora. Mountaineers can see a cross carved by a Portuguese navigator in 1503, three blockhouses built in 1796, a steam locomotive used in the 1800s and 1900s and the Waterworks Museum. The mountain became part of the Cape Peninsula National Park in the 1990s and the park was then renamed in 1998 to Table Mountain National Park.

The internationally known Table Mountain Cable Way takes passengers to the top of the mountain and first construction started in 1926 and it was officially opened in 1929. The cableway underwent an extensive upgrade in 1997 and the capacity of cars increased from 25 people to 67 people. At the top of the mountain passengers can enjoy viewpoints, a restaurant, curio shops and walking trails.

Should Table Mountain be named as one of the seven wonders, economists predict that this distinction will create an additional 11 000 jobs and generate R1.4 billion annually from tourism and travel to and within the country.

Many South African celebrities have become ambassadors for this cause in order to get more members of the public to cast their votes. The list of celebrity ambassadors includes Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Springboks, music group Freshlyground, Jo-Ann Strauss and Soli Philander.

If you’d like to cast your vote in the last month before the close of the competition, there are many ways for you to do so. Voting takes place online at www.votefortablemountain.com, via SMS (“table” to 34874), on Mxit and also on Facebook. So cast your vote and help give Cape Town and all Capetonians just one more reason to be proudly South African.