Preserving biodiversity on Table Mountain

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) has earned a global reputation for its commitment to responsible tourism, and its contributions to protecting the historic mountain on which it operates one of the world’s grandest cableway experiences. 

Cape Town’s aerial cableway is located within the Table Mountain National Park: a pristine ecosystem of staggering biodiversity, which is itself nestled within the Cape Floral Kingdom, a Unesco World Heritage Site and an ecological treasure trove nestled entirely within the borders of South Africa.

The breathtaking journey by cable car affords panoramic views of the region’s beautiful, pristine environment and natural habitat. The Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, but is home to over 9 000 plant species, 69% of which are endemic to the region.

Beloved by hikers, birdwatchers and tourists the world over, Table Mountain itself is a biodiversity hot spot with over 2 000 (again, mostly endemic) plant species that have adapted and evolved to thrive in the nutrient-poor, sandstone-based soils of the mountain’s breathtaking slopes and valleys.

Visitors may also spot some fauna, as the area sports a rich diversity of wildlife including porcupines, dassies (rock hyrax), caracal (rooikat), klipspringers, several snake species and over 200 different kinds of birds. 

The broader region is a sanctuary for a diverse array of reptiles, which lucky visitors may catch sight of during their mountain excursions, including several rare tortoise species. The biome also hosts amphibian species found nowhere else in the world, while the mountain’s crystal-clear streams are inhabited by unique endemic fish species such as the Cape galaxias and redfin minnows.

The mountain also boasts a fascinating array of invertebrates including hundreds of butterfly species, notably the Table Mountain beauty, aptly known colloquially as the mountain pride butterfly.

Maintaining this sanctuary in its pristine natural state over the past nine decades – as the city below expanded into the bustling metropolis we know and love today – is a remarkable feat of long-term conservation and sustainable tourism. 

“Visitors to Table Mountain play a crucial role in safeguarding this botanical wonder for generations to come,” says Selma Hercules, TMACC’s executive director. “A key element of TMACC’s approach is to involve every visitor and every member of staff in the process, and to help them embrace their role as co-stewards of the mountain and its rich heritage.

“TMACC’s facilities are specially designed to have a low environmental impact. The company uses energy-efficient technologies and has a robust water management system, in which water is carried up and down the mountain in the cable cars. The water tanks at the base of the cable cars also act as stabilising ballasts that prevent the cars from swaying in high winds. This is one of the innovations that allow millions of travellers to experience the breathtaking pristine beauty of the mountain without altering its water cycles or disturbing its delicate natural aquatic biology,” she adds.

The region experiences a yearly fire season that spans much of spring, summer and autumn. Many plants, trees and shrubs are adapted to depend on these fires for their survival. Some fynbos species rely on fire to stimulate seed germination. These periodic fires are thereby a natural feature of the mountainous landscape and help rejuvenate the biome by clearing old growth and making way for new life.

Although on-site carbon neutrality is not feasible for an attraction of its scope, TMACC has achieved a net-zero carbon footprint through carbon offset programmes. 

The company spearheaded Kuyasa, a low-carbon housing development and solar geyser project in Khayelitsha, in conjunction with Credible Carbon. The project has seen around 2 100 homes augmented with solar water heaters, energy-efficient lighting and improved insulation, with positive impacts rippling throughout the community.

TMACC offers visitors an easily accessible way to immerse themselves in the awe-inspiring biodiversity of this ecological marvel. Come join us in appreciating and preserving nature’s endless wonders.

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