Constantiaberg on the left, with the peak of Elephants Eye beside it.

Table Mountain Day Walk

Tokai Forest Arboretum to Elephant's Eye

31st December 2011


Elephants Eye as viewed from the paths below.

Back in the country of my birth for the first time in four years, I could not resist a walk from my Cape Town home village of Tokai, along a route well known in the area, which I had frequented on more occasions than I care to remember. Tokai, named after Tokaj, a range of hills in Hungary, was originally an open area with various wine farms and smallholdings. Today, though most of the wine farms are no longer there, there are still a few old Cape Dutch houses like those found in Constantia. The suburb was built in the late 1940s, and was built quickly because of the urgent need for housing for predominantly white, English-speaking South African soldiers returning from World War II.

View from the path towards Ou Kaapse Weg as it heads up towards Silvermine Nature Reserve, with False Bay beyond.


Taken from the fire prevention lookout, Vlakkenberg reaches across from Elephants Eye to Constantia Corner.


Beyond Vlakkenberg, the path from Constantia Nek is clearly visible, with Kirstenbosch Gardens and finally Devils Peak just visible below the cloudline.


Having contacted an ex-colleague of mine, Kobus Botha, from the days when we both plied our trade at Plessey Tellumat, we agreed to meet up for a walk to Elephants Eye, a cave on the Constantia side of Table Mountain, just below Constantiaberg. The route starts out from the Tokai Forest Arboretum, zigzagging up the hillside across several plantation service roads, eventually making its way towards a junction on the edge of Silvermine Nature Reserve, where one has the option of heading south towards False Bay and the reserve or alternatively, taking a short walk via the fire prevention lookout to Elephant's Eye. It's by no means an extensive walk, in the region of some 6 km, however it is worth it in terms of quick access to Table Mountain's fynbos and the incredible views across False Bay as well as north across Constantia, towards Devils Peak.




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Tokai Forest Arboretum lies but a short drive up Tokai Road, just after Tokai Manor House. The farm was originally granted to Johan Rauch in 1792, Within two months, had sold it on to Andries Teubes, who probably built its manor in 1795-96 according to a design by Thibault. The gable is generally considered to be one of the earliest usages in the Cape of a rectangular pediment. The cost of building this house must have ruined Teubes, for he declared bankruptcy in 1799, and after a series of owners, the property was purchased by Petrus Eksteen in 1802. In 1883 the farm with its buildings was acquired by the colonial government who, for a time, used it as a reformatory. It underwent extensive restoration in the 1960s, and was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 8 September 1961.

The Arboretum was laid out in 1885 by Joseph Storr Lister, Conservator of Forests of the western conservancy of the Cape Colony, thus marking the beginnings of a forestry industry in South Africa. The rationale was to test which trees from other parts of the world would grow well in this location. Hundreds of species are represented here, some of the individual trees being very old. The Arboretum is well known amongst botanists, horticulturalists and sylviculturalists, on account of the large variety of indigenous trees also grown here. It was declared a National Monument under old National Monuments Council legislation on 9 August 1985.


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Tokai Forest & Groot Constantia (below Vlakkenberg), Constantia Corner & Devils Peak.


Ex-colleague Kobus enjoying the walk as much as I did.


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A further note on wikipedia refers to Constantiaberg,a large, whalebacked mountain that forms part of the mountainous spine of the Cape Peninsula in Table Mountain National Park. It lies about 7 km south of Table Mountain, on the southern side of Constantia Nek. The mountain is 927 m high and was probably first climbed in prehistoric times by the Bushmen. It is not known who first ascended the peak in modern times.

Constantiaberg, Devil's Peak and Table Mountain are the highest mountains in the range that stretches from Table Mountain all the way to Cape Point. The range, made up of resistant sandstones of the Table Mountain Group, dominates the southern suburbs of the city on the verge of the Cape Flats.

The lower eastern slopes of Constantiaberg are covered by the commercial pine and gum plantations of Tokai forest, and are crisscrossed with hiking trails and gravel roads that are used for harvesting the trees. The forest is popular for walking, running and mountain biking.
The western slopes of the mountain overlook the magnificent scenery of Hout Bay.

A tarred road leads to the summit of Constantiaberg, where an important VHF mast is located 3403′17.78″S 1823′10.77″E. The mast is about 100 m high and is visible for perhaps 80 kilometers in any direction. It was constructed in the 1960s and is used to transmit signals for many local television and radio channels, and also to support cellular networks. The South African Weather Bureau has a radar installation at the summit.

Constantiaberg is home to a variety of bird and plant species. The mountain is covered mainly by fynbos, a botanical biome native to the Western Cape. The specific vegetation type of the mountain is Peninsula Sandstone Fynbos, an endangered vegetation type that is endemic to the city of Cape Town - occurring nowhere else in the world.


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Views from the final approach to Elephants Eye, looking across towards Silvermine Reserve - the fire prevention lookout can be seen to the left.


Tokai Forest and Silvermine are home to numerous activities of a sporting or recreational nature, not least mountain biking. I have on occasions ridden some of the routes, though mountain bikers were originally not permitted to use the facility. Unfortunately, rather than adhering to designated routes, some bikers violate the rules at will. We were almost run over by a group of cyclists making their way down the Elephant's Eye path, a route strictly out of bounds to this activity, with no apology offered. Kobus and I explored the cave, upon reaching Elephant's Eye. Contrary to remarks regarding the cave itself from the tour guide who had led a small group of Scandanavian hikers to this cavern, it turned out to be clean and devoid of any litter, I had brought along a flask of tea and if ever there was a setting suitable for enjoying a relaxing moment and a cuppa, this was it! We had both brought along some rusks.

At this point I digress!

In India, Pakistan and South Africa, rusk is a traditional dried bread (also "Khasta" in Hindi, and beskuit in Afrikaans) that is eaten after having been dipped in coffee, tea, or rooibos tea. Historically, rusks evolved (along with biltong) during the latter country's early pioneering days as a way to preserve bread in the dry climate. Traditionally baked at home using a favourite bread recipe that is then dried under low heat, there are now several mass-market versions available, the most famous probably being Ouma Rusks ("aunt's rusks"). Many bakeries, delis and home industries sell them, often using more exotic ingredients than their mass-market counterparts. In addition to plain and buttermilk flavours, there are aniseed, wholewheat, condensed milk, muesli, and lemon poppyseed versions.



A Blou Koggelmander

The Lister’s Place tea room is located in the Tokai Arboretum in the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) and falls under the authority of South African National Parks (SANParks). We retraced our steps down the same route we had earlier ascended. Upon our return to the Arboretum car park, Kobus kindly suggested that we indulge ourselves with a large slice of cake, the choice of which being the hardest decision to make. We discussed work opportunities in South Africa, former colleagues and mutual acquaintances and made a valiant yet unresolved attempt at how we might strive for an early retirement. to allow time to enjoy more of the kind of activity we had just indulged in that day.


Views within Elephants Eye cave.


[Home Page]

Table Mountain Walk Dec Plateau 2011 [1] [2]

Table Mountain Walk Tokai Dec 2011

Table Mountain Walk Hout Bay Jan 2012 [1] [2]

[South African adventures]

Table Mountain Walks - webpage

Tokai Forest Birding - Southern African Birding website

Tokai Forest and Arboretum - Open Green Map webpage


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