Thornton is a tiny residential area adjacent to Maitland in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town. The GrandWest Casino & Entertainment Centre is just east of this area in Goodwood. It's roughly 10km along the N1 National Highway to the City centre where you will find a host of attractions and activities.
When to go
For beach and sightseeing holidays the summer months are best from October to April, however, in both April and October the weather is variable and unpredictable. Winters are mild with temperatures in a range of 8ºC to 17ºC but it’s the rainy season. Winter is also whale-watching season. December/January is the time most South Africans take their annual holiday and the summer break for school children, so booking is often essential.
Cape Town has a Mediterranean-style climate with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. The average summer temperatures are 24ºC, with January and February averaging 26ºC.
Cape Town’s climate is a collection of micro-climates of which the Northern Suburbs has more than one. Apart from air pressure, wind and temperatures, the cold current, mountains and built-environment are additional factors that influence the local weather. Check with the forecasts for the daily weather.
The front view of Table Mountain is famous for its tablecloth, the south-east wind blows cool air off the sea which is forced up over the mountain, this air condenses into clouds which ‘spill’ over the front. The tablecloth is a good indicator that the southeaster (the prevailing summer wind) is blowing and that the beaches along the Atlantic Seaboard are a better bet than those in False Bay.
The Northern Suburbs are built-up residential areas of Cape Town. Large mammals are no longer abundant in these regions but small interesting and often endemic animals such as tortoises, snakes, lizards, frogs and toads can be observed especially in the nature reserves.
Look out for the bright blue-headed Southern Rock Agama, the prehistoric looking Black Girdled Lizard and the Cape Skink.
There are some interesting endemic and endangered Amphibians, the Table Mountain Ghost Frog is a special find, but look out for the Cape Chirping Frog, Cape River Frog, the endangered Leopard toad and the tiny Arum Lily Frog.
Two species of Tortoises are common, the Angulate Tortoise and the Parrot-beaked Tortoise.
There are 22 snake species, ten of which are non-venomous, although they can still deliver a nasty bite if provoked. Some of the venomous species include the Cape Cobra, the Puff Adder, Boomslang, Rinkhals and Berg Adder. The good news is it they are mostly shy and will avoid human contact. The one most likely to encounter is the Puff Adder which enjoys nice warm spots, such as rocks and pathways (best to keep out of its way).
Insects play an integral role in the fynbos ecosystem either by directly pollinating plants or as a vital source of nutrient for birds and animals. Some are especially adapted to pollinate specific plants. Look out for butterflies such as the Mountain Pride Butterfly that is the exclusive pollinator of a variety of red plants such as the red disa, and the red crassula.
The many niches and habitats that exist (ocean, shoreline, cliff-face, rocky highland, fynbos, forest and suburbia) contributes to a large species count, as does the geographical positioning at a continent's corner, many vagrants and seasonal visitors can be spotted.
For a full bird list or birding checklist see the SANparks website or for further information on birding in the Cape Peninsula, contact: The Cape Bird Club on 021 559 0726 or www.capebirdclub.org
On the Mountain and in the reserve the Western Cape’s famous fynbos is the predominant vegetation type. Table Mountain fynbos is such a diverse ecosystem, it changes from place to place. The endangered Renosterveld (rhinoceros field) a type of vegetation can be found on the slopes of Signal Hill.
Renosterveld is a small-leaved, evergreen shrubland dominated by the renosterbos. It is extremely rich in species and bulbs which produce magnificent flower displays in spring (September and October). Many of these are endemic. Typical Renosterveld include members of the daisy, lily, iris and oxalis families.
Fynbos comprises four major plant groups:
● Proteas: large shrubs with broad leaves
● Ericas: heath-like, low-growing shrubs
● Restios: reed-like plants; are the only group that are found in all fynbos habitats
● Geophytes: bulbs; these include watsonias and disas both of which occur mainly in wetland areas and are prominent after fires.
Fynbos is a fire-dependent vegetation that needs to burn around every 15 years to stimulate new growth and ensure that plant and animal communities remain healthy. If it doesn’t burn in about 20 – 30 years it stops producing seeds which could cause the extinction of some species. If fire is too frequent due to human intervention seed banks are depleted which can change the diversity of plant species in the area.
Travelling around the Northern Suburbs
Cape Town’s bus system is called MyCiti. See their Website for Routes, Timetables, Fares and Retailers for cards and top-ups. There is a mobile app TCT (Transport Cape Town) which is available for the following smartphones: Windows Phone, iPhone, Android and Blackberry and under the name ‘TCT’ (look for the red logo).
Everyone over four years needs a myconnect card to travel. Get one from MyCiTi station kiosks or participating retailers. You have two options to load money onto your card. Load money as Standard and pay the Standard fare, or load money as points with a Mover package and save 30% on fares. Mover packages are only available from MyCiTi station kiosks.
There are plenty of good, safe and reliable taxi firms in Cape Town, but you cannot hail a taxi in the street, a telephone call is required.
Mini-bus Taxis are shared taxis can be hailed in the street on busy routes. There is a lot of bad press about minibus taxis, to be safe stick to the busy routes during the day.
Uber operates in Cape Town.
Scooters, bicycles and Motorbikes can be hired.
Metrorail operates short distance commuter trains to Simon’s Town through the southern suburbs, to the Northern Suburbs and outlying towns of Paarl, Wellington, Malmesbury and Worcester. For the map of the lines see Metrorail.
● The Northern Line covers the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town and extends to Stellenbosch, Wellington and Strand. This schedule includes the Monte Vista line.
Cape Town has all the major car hire companies operating from the Airport and the City Centre. There are also smaller local companies.
- GrandWest Casino & Entertainment Centre (Ice-rink, Casino, Restaurants, Ten-pin Bowling and more)
- Ratanga Junction and Canal Walk Shopping Centre are just north of this area in Century City
- V&A Waterfront is just 16km from Thornton - enjoy superb restaurants, family entertainment, boat and catamaran cruises and more
- Roughly the same distance to Table Mountain, the Cableway and many adventure activities along the mountain chain