Cape Town's Many Names
Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula are known by a variety of names.
Some of these are:
- The Mother City
A term used to describe Cape Town, which is South Africa’s
- The Cape of Storms
The name Bartholomew Diaz used in 1486 after he and his three
ships battled the storms for 13 days.
- The Cape of Good Hope
A term used by King John II of Portugal and Bartholomew Diaz,
from the great hope it gives of discovering the Indies.
of the Seas
Cape Town has been a stopover port for passing ships
for centuries, and has provided a haven and friendly
hospitality for the weary
- The Fairest Cape
Sir Francis Drake, on his round the world voyage I the 16th century,
recorded in his log after seeing the Cape: “A most stately
thing, and the fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference
of the earth…” Carl Linnaeus,
- In a letter to Governor
Ryk Tulbagh, wrote: “that paradise
on earth, the Cape of Good Hope, which The Beneficent Creator
has enriched with His choicest wonders…”
The Peninsula’s Mediterranean climate is one of the most
pleasant found throughout the world. Its long summer has its
peak during December and February with temperatures averaging
at around 28 degrees C. The prevailing wind during summer and
autumn is from SSE to SSW, mainly from October to march, and
is generally known as “The Southeaster”, or the “Cape
Doctor”. It brings very little rain with it, but as it
travels over the mountain-tops, its low moisture content condenses
into clouds which disappear as the air descends, and Table Mountain
gets covered by a “tablecloth’ of cloud. (An interesting
myth surrounds the Table Mountain “tablecloth”. It
is said that Van Hunks, a retired pirate, who smoked an evil-
smelling pipe, challenged a stranger (the “Devil”)
to a smoking competition on the Devil’s Peak mountainside.
The two competitors puffed and puffed until the mountain was
covered in a dense cloud - the origin of the tablecloth – and
van Hunks was never seen again. He is still puffing away at the “Devil”.
Occasionally during summer the Cape will experience northerly “berg
winds” which bring with it oppressive heat from the country’s
interior. The Southeaster subsides slightly during February and
March and these are probably the best months of the summer season.
The prevailing wind during winter and spring blows from N to
NW, mainly between May and August, and is called the Northwester.
The wind is not as strong as the Southeaster and occurs less
frequently. It precedes a cold front and is therefore followed
by much needed rain. The rainy season peaks during June and July,
but of late the rainy days have reduced in number and Cape Town
winters often produce perfect summery days, as a result, winter
in Cape Town has become known as the “secret season”.
The Cape Peninsula is home to that most famous and beautiful
monument – Table Mountain. Table Mountain is 1086 meters
above sea level. The highest point on the mountain is known as
Maclear’s Beacon, The “tabletop” is flanked
by Lion’s Head and Signal Hill and precedes the Twelve
Apostles in the mountain chain. Table Mountain’s upper
part consists of rock that is subdivided into rectangular chunks,
with horizontal and vertical divisions. The upper material is
known as Table Mountain Series (TMS). It is horizontally layered
as a result of being deposited originally as sediment under a
body of water. All the TMS mountain caps were once connected
many years ago in one large piece stretching across the present-
day Cape Flats. These were slowly eroded, weaker sections first
and the northern part of Table Mountain has a fairly flat surface
a result. The TMS is most obvious on Lion’s Head, where
it is found almost right from the top. The TMS is also found
in most of the mountains in the Cape Peninsula as well as in
the Hottentots Holland Mountains beyond Somerset West. The base
of the TMS descends and disappears into the sea further south
in the Peninsula.
Table Mountain is a walker’s paradise, offering many different
routes to discover the mountain on foot. If you’re looking
for a faster way up to the top, then the Table Mountain Cable
Car is the way to go. This new revolving cable car gives stunning
views over Cape Town and its surroundings. Table Mountain was
proclaimed a Natural and Historic Monument in 1951. Table Mountain
is home to many plants, some of which are unique to the mountain.
The Cape Peninsula is home to about 2600 species of plants, and
approximately 1470 of these plants are found on Table Mountain,
some of which are found nowhere else, like the silver tree and
some species of orchid.
Beaches and Bays
The Cape Peninsula’s coastline is surrounded by the warm
Indian Ocean in the south coast side and the cold Atlantic Ocean
on the west coast side. The point where the warm Agulhas Current
and the cold Benguela Current meet is not a fixed one and shifts
depending on various factors such as the season, winds, tides,
or water depth. It is cartographically fixed at 20 degrees east.
False Bay Coast
The beaches have warmer water as a result of the Aghulas Current,
but are often exposed to the strong South Easter. This coast
includes the following beaches, bays and pools: Buffels Bay,
Miller’s Point, Boulders Beach, Sea forth Beach, Simon’s
Town Harbour, Glencairn Beach, Fish Hoek Beach, Kalk bay Harbour,
St James Beach and Pool, Muizenberg Beach, Strandfontein Beach,
Mnandi beach, Swartklip, Macassar Beach, the Strand, Gordon’s
Bay and Koegelbaai.
The beaches on this side of the coast have ice-cold water supplied
by the Benguela Current, but the sand is soft and comfortable
and the sunsets are breathtaking. The beaches and bays on this
side of the coast are as follows: Mouille Point, Three anchor
bay, Sea Point Pavilion, Sunset beach, Queens Beach, Saunders
Rock, Clifton bay(which comprises Moses Beach, First beach, Second
beach, Third Beach and Fourth Beach, Bachelor’s Cove, Maiden’s
Cove, Glen Beach, camps bay, Oudekraal, Llandudno, Sunset Rock,
Sandy Bay, Hout Bay, Noordhoek, Longbeach, Kommetjie, Soetwater,
Witsands, Misty Bay and Scarborough.