Sitting at the south-western tip of Africa, the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) encompasses the incredibly scenic Peninsula mountain chain that stretches from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south – a distance of some 60km. This narrow finger of land with its many beautiful valleys, bays and beaches is bound by the cold waters of the Atlantic ocean in the west and the warm waters of False Bay in the east.
It has within its boundaries two world-renowned landmarks – the majestic Table Mountain and the legendary Cape of Good Hope – both important beacons for the early explorers and from which many myths and legendshave sprung.Recognised globally for its extraordinarily rich, diverse and unique flora and fauna, this singular land formation – with its rugged cliffs, steep slopes and sandy flats – is a truly remarkable natural, scenic, historical, cultural and recreationalasset locally, nationally and internationally. Nowhere else in the world does an area of such spectacular beauty and such rich biodiversity exist almost entirely within a metropolitan area – the thriving and cosmopolitan City of Cape Town. Location map
The Cape Peninsula’s dramatic topography and Mediterranean-type climate has produced an enormous array of habitats which in turn means the park offers an incredibly rich variety of plants and animals.
Aerial view of Cape Town Geologically, three major rock types exist – the ancient Malmesbury shale, the Cape granite and the very hard Table Mountain quartzitic sandstone. The erosion of these rocks has resulted in the relatively sandy, shallow and nutrient-poor soils found in the park. Because of this, the plant species which have evolved here, such as fynbos, have had to adapt these harsh conditions resulting in the many endemic (i.e. found nowhere else) species found in the park.
South Africa is the only country in the world to have within its borders an entire floral kingdom (only six such kingdoms exist). The Cape Floral Kingdom – of which the TMNP forms an extremely significant part – is recognised as the world’s most prominent “hot-spot” of plant diversity. The Peninsula has more than 2,285 species of plants – more than the entire British Isles (1,492 species) and New Zealand (1,996 species). Of these, 90 are considered endemic.The predominant vegetation – mountain fynbos (fine bush) – is characterised by three main plant types or growth forms: the Cape reed or restiose grasses; the small-leafed, heath-like ericas and the larger, leathery-leafed proteas. You will also find a large variety of bulbs, rhizomes and tubers which form an important part of the fynbos group as well as many types of ground orchids.

Other types of unusual vegetation found in the park include the rare renosterveld grassland and the evergreen forest found largely in the moist eastern valleys and sheltered ravines of the Peninsula mountain chain. The hardy strandveld (beach vegetation) has evolved to survive in the salty, coastal marine sand. Proteas

Click HERE for a detailed vegetation distribution map.
But it is not just the flora for which the park is renowned.

Although most of the indigenous large animals have become locally extinct (the last lion for example was killed in 1802), the park still supports viable populations of many medium sized and smaller animals, such as Bontebok, grysbok, caracal, mongoose, otter and baboon.

A large variety of birds also call the park home, some of which, like the beautiful Cape Sugarbird, have evolved to live exclusively on the flowering fynbos.

There are at least 111 endemic invertebrates and one endemic vertebrate (the Table Mountain Ghost Frog) resident in the park. Many of these endemic invertebrates, such as the extremely rare white peripatus, are found in the deeper recesses of sandstone caves in the park.

Marine scene The Cape Peninsula is in a unique position in that the coastal environment lies at the junction of two major southern African marine (biogeographic) provinces, namely: the cool Namaqua Province on the west coast and the warmer Agulhas Province on the east coast. Cape Point forms the boundary between these two provinces. Because of this the biology of the marine area surrounding the park is tremendously diverse.
Many of the species found here are endemic to Southern African waters. Of the 2,008 marine invertebrate and vertebrate species identified along the southern African coastline from Namibia to Mozambique, 660 (33%) occur on the Peninsula (three percent of the total coastline).All 24 species of rock pool fish that occur on the Peninsula are endemic to Southern Africa. On top of all that, of the 259 continental-shelf fish species which occur around the Peninsula, 88% are endemic to southern Africa. The large number of seaweed species found along the southern African coast reaches its highest density around the Peninsula.

Conserving this unique natural heritage was first mooted in 1929 when the South African Wildlife Society proposed the idea of declaring Table Mountain a national park. The establishment of the TMNP has been a long and often arduous road. In the years preceding the establishment of the TMNP, Table Mountain was proclaimed a National Monument, several local authority nature reserves were established and the natural areas of the Cape Peninsula were proclaimed a Protected Natural Environment. The problem however was that these areas were under the ownership and management of 14 different public bodies and over 200 private landowners. After numerous attempts, over many years, to consolidate this land ownership under one single conservation management authority, the first portions of the TMNP were proclaimed in May of 1998, giving the area the highest legal protection as a conservation area and placing it under a single management authority, the South African National Parks .

However, managing the park is no easy task. Many crucial aspects still need to be addressed. One of these is the establishment of the park. Intense negotiations to incorporate parcels of strategic, conservation-worthy land, into the park, is still underway. Some of this land is privately owned and some it is still under the control of state, provincial and local authorities. It is also the intention to extend the park into the marine area.

Click HERE for Land Tenure Map.

This natural treasure trove is threatened by a number of factors, many of these related to its urban and socio-economic context – the spread of invasive alien plants, wildfires, encroaching urban development and informal settlements, apathy, increasing number of tourists, increasing conflicting recreational use and illegal exploitation of the area. These threats, however, are also opportunities and the challenge to the park management is to realise these opportunities. Fire

The TMNP is involved in numerous strategic initiatives to address these, and other, threats and opportunities. These include establishing a partnership with the neighbouring communities; devising and implementing visitor management strategies to deal with the expected increase in the number of recreational users and tourists, and; conservation strategies which can enable natural areas to be effectively managed in the urban context.

It is however critical that the park attracts funding to support these strategic initiatives. The park secures funding from a multitude of sources with its primary objective to ensure its financial self-sustainability.

The Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) was proclaimed on May 29, 1998. Since then the park has grown to nearly 22 100ha, or about 73% of the entire Cape Peninsula Protected Natural Environment (CPPNE).

Of this about 15 700ha is proclaimed and some 6 400ha is public land managed by the CPNP but not yet proclaimed. It is hoped that all public land will eventually be proclaimed and that the owners of much of the private land within the CPPNE will agree to contract their land into the park.

Approximately 6 000ha – nearly a third of the area managed by the park and a fifth of the CPPNE – has now been initially cleared of invasive alien vegetation, and 22 000ha have been followed up during the first three years of the Global Environment Fund (GEF) funded clearance programme. This programme has created employment for nearly 300 people drawn from historically disadvantaged communities adjacent to the park.

The TMNP has also developed an Integrated Environmental Management System (IEMS). The process involved the representatives of some 1 200 non-governmental and governmental organisations and was voted best project of the year by the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2).