Table Mountain: a symbol of South Africa’s heritage and an intrinsic part of Capetonian identity. An exciting excursion for locals and tourists alike, but an inaccessible one for many of Cape Town’s disadvantaged communities. Wilderness Foundation Africa, however, has sought to change this narrative through its Pride of Table Mountain programme.
Every other weekend groups of school children and young adults from the outlying areas of Cape Town are taken on a trail through Kirstenbosch National Bot Gardens and up to the contour path on Table Mountain National Park, where they are given the opportunity to learn and connect to nature - which for many has never been a reality.
The volunteer trails guides themselves were once in the position of the new learners, each of them with fascinating stories to tell about their journey through the Pride of Table Mountain programme. The trail combines environmental education with wellbeing education, with the small groups fostering an environment which is conducive to personal development and growth under the guidance of the experienced trail guides. The importance of education is evidenced here, as the trail guides are able to pass on their invaluable knowledge and passion for nature to the next generation in a way which is relatable and empathetic.
The young students are exposed to a variety of topics along the trail, from the relationship between wildfires and fynbos to the restorative properties of meditating in nature. Pride of Table Mountain truly provides these young students with an appreciation for natural and wild spaces and insight into a world which many would have limited access to, despite it being on their doorstep. For many, the trail is a welcomed respite and a stark contrast to their usual environment; and the feeling of anticipation for the new opportunities to learn and connect through nature to their inner beings and to each other is tangible.
Wilderness Foundation Africa recognises that the sustainability of South Africa’s natural spaces and wilderness is dependent on its social and economic sustainability. The Pride of Table Mountain Project helps to instil pride and responsibility among South Africa’s disadvantaged youth with regards to their natural heritage. This would not be possible without our funder Woolworths who, through the sale of spring water, has supported this project since its inception in 1996. We are grateful that through their support we have been able to take approximately 1500 students through the programme each year, and despite COVID protocols lowering this number, the Pride of Table Mountain programme will continue to positively impact the lives of disadvantaged young people across Cape Town. In the words of the programme coordinator, Sharon McCallum, ‘I want them to open their hearts and their minds to nature’ - it is clear to see exactly why.