Want a view over Cape Town but don’t actually want to walk to get it? Then Signal Hill has everything you need! For non locals, to reach this landmark flat-topped hill next to Lion’s Head and Table Mountain, take the fun little drive up Kloof Nek Road, swing to the right when you get to the top of the road (do not go left unless you actually wanted to reach the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway station), follow the road past all the eager hikers going up and coming down Lion’s Head, shoot past the eye-catching white and green-domed Mohamed Hassen Ghaibie kramat, and then take the final bend, coming to rest in the handy (but tiny) parking lot right on top of the hill.
In the days before radio signals (i.e. this no longer applies), Signal Hill served as the vantage point from which signal flags were used to communicate weather warnings and anchoring instructions down to visiting ships in order to ensure that they were adequately prepared for the typical stormy weather that accompanies mooring in Table Bay. Similarly, ships could communicate back if in need of assistance or other instructions. Moving on, as the local time signal system, Signal Hill is also known for its very special Noon Gun (jointly operated by the South African Navy and South African Astronomical Observatory) which, although now very unnecessary, to this day still happily gives all local pigeons a hearty fright with its booming midday announcement.
As mentioned earlier, the winding road up to the summit runs past a couple of features, like the Appleton Scout Campsite (operatd by Scouts South Africa), several tombs (or kramats) of Muslim missionaries and religious leaders, and of course the entrance to the super popular hike up Lion’s Head. The flat topped Signal Hill itself comes with magnificent views over Cape Town city centre and the Atlantic Seaboard, and also serves as a jump off point for local paragliders, including that of the famous Tandem Paragliding experience which has since become a popular event for both locals and tourists alike. In terms of ecology, Signal Hill also just so happens to be one of the only places in the world where the critically endangered Peninsula Shale Renosterveld vegetation can be found. Endemic to Cape Town, the Peninsula Shale Renosterveld used to be the dominant ecosystem of the Cape Town City Bowl, but thanks to urban development, only a tiny patch on Devil’s Peak and Signal Hill itself remain as the surviving sample of this type of vegetation.
This particularly little visit to the top with Chantelle and the girls came after first a lovely walk along the Sea Point promenade, followed by some picture snapping in the colourful Bo-Kaap. In other words proper Cape Town tourist stuff, which is exactly then why directly following our waltz about in the wind above Cape Town, we shot down to the V&A Waterfront and made it our mission to make it through to the Lindt Studio before it closed for the day. (We succeeded, but only just!)
Signal Hill is always worth the drive up, especially if you don’t have the time to, or perhaps just physically can’t do the more strenuous activity of walking up Lion’s Head or Table Mountain itself. Plus, it does make for a pretty nice picnic spot with a view.