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South Africa facts you probably don’t know about

south africa facts
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There is no doubt, South Africa is an amazing country. Tourists flock here by the thousands every year, but there is so much more to this country than it being a premium vacation destination. Here is a huge list of South Africa facts you probably didn’t know.

48 South Africa facts that may surprise you!

  1. South Africa’s drinking water in the urban areas is rated as some of the best in the world in terms of safety and being ready to drink.
  2. The world’s first heart transplant was performed by Dr. Christiaan Barnard at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa—3 December 1967.
  3. South Africa is home to Rovos Rail, considered the most luxurious train in the world.
  4. South Africa is the only country in the world that has voluntarily abandoned its nuclear weapons program.
  5. South Africa is home to Bloukrans Bridge (in the Western Cape). It is one of the world’s longest bungee jumps 708 feet / 216 meters.
things to do in cape town
  1. In terms of nature, South Africa is very diverse. The country is blessed with beautiful beaches, deserts,  grasslands, wetlands, bushes, subtropical forests, escarpments, and mountains.
  2. The country’s coastline stretches over 1553 miles / 2500 km in length.
  3. South Africa is like the world in one country. Here you can have a beach holiday or go on an authentic safari—South Africa is rich in wildlife and has many game reserves. You can also explore a vast wine country, drive through breathtakingly beautiful mountains, explore dusty, desert regions, visit cosmopolitan cities, or take in the quiet, quaint seaside towns.
  4. South Africa’s coastline is home to African penguins, great white sharks, dolphins, whales, and more.
  5. With approximately 3000 shipwrecks off the coast, the South African coastline has been claiming victims for centuries. Fortunately, South African law protects all shipwrecks.
south africa culture
  1. South Africa is fondly described as the “Rainbow Nation” because of the colorful mix of people and culture.
  2. There are 11 official languages in South Africa—each with equal status. English is the business language. It is therefore widely spoken.
  3. South Africa is the only country in the world with three capital cities:Pretoria (Administrative), Cape Town (Legislative), and Bloemfontein (Judicial).
  4. South African has nine provinces: Western Cape (Cape Town is here), Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal ( Durban), Northern Cape, Free State, North West, Gauteng (Johannesburg), Mpumalanga (Kruger National Park), and Limpopo. Each province has its own government.
  5. South Africa has a dark past. The apartheid (racist) policy was the law of the land from 1948 to 1994. Under apartheid, the white minority ruled. People of color were forced to resettle in black homelands. Activists were imprisoned (like Nelson Mandela), murdered (like Steve Biko), or sent into exile.
  6. The V-shape on the South African flag symbolizes the coming together of the South African society and moving ahead in unity.
  7. Johannesburg (Gauteng province) is South Africa’s chief industrial and financial metropolis, but Cape Town (Western Cape province) is the biggest travel destination of choice for South African cities. Other major cities in South Africa include Soweto (Gauteng province) and Durban (Kwazulu Natal province).
  8. Almost 80% of the South African population is Christian. The remaining 20% are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or other religions.
  9. South Africa is the fifth country in the world and the first African country to recognize same-sex marriage. Sexual discrimination became illegal in 1996. Gay people serve openly in the military. Same-sex couples can adopt, and they have equal access to IVF treatments and surrogacy. Having said that, LGBT people still face discrimination and personal attacks in rural communities.
  1. South Africa shares its border with Namibia, Zimbabwe Botswana, Swaziland, and Mozambique.Lesotho, which is an independent country, is inside South Africa.
  2. Although South Africa is a democratic republic, the Province of KwaZulu-Natal has a monarchy. This provision is provided by the Constitution.
  3. South Africa was both a Dutch and a British colony. This is why Afrikaans (similar to Dutch) and English are common languages in South Africa. Both nations fought viciously for control over the country.
  4. The Orange River is the longest river in South Africa. It also forms part of the border between Namibia from South Africa.
  5. Tugela Falls, which is the second-highest waterfall in the world, is in South Africa.
  1. The South African Cape Winelands has approximately 560 wineries and 4 400 primary producers.
  2. Route 62 in the Cape Winelands region is considered the longest wine route in the world. The road is a meandering 528 miles /850km of vines, green mountains, and Cape-Dutch homesteads. It stretches from Cape Town to Constantia, to Port Elizabeth, through Oudtshoorn and the Garden Route.
lion parks johannesburg safari
  1. South Africa covers only 1% of the earth’s land surface. Even so, it is home to an abundance of birds, animals, and marine life!
  2. South Africa has  6% of the world’s mammal and reptile species, and 10% of the world’s bird, fish, and plant species. There are no lions or elephants roaming the streets, but depending on where you go, you may see monkeys swinging through tree-lined streets, baboons around Cape Point, seals at the Hout Bay harbor, etc.
  3. From July to November, the town of Hermanus (off of Cape Town) is busy. This is when whale watchers flock to the town to watch the annual whale migration.
  4. South African fish migration is enormous—you can see it from space. From May and July, (South Africa’s cold months), millions of fish travel from the cold waters off Cape Point to the coastlines of the North Eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal.
  5. South Africa is home to several record-breaking animals: the largest land mammal (elephant), the largest antelope (eland), the largest bird (ostrich), the fastest land mammal (cheetah), the largest reptile (leatherback turtle), the tallest animal (giraffe), the largest fish (whale shark).
table mountain - South Africa tourist attractions
  1. Table Mountain (in Cape Town) is believed to be one of the oldest mountains in the world—it is approximately 260 million years old.
  2. You can hike Table Mountain and see the city once you reach the summit.
  3. Table Mountain boasts more than 2,200 species of plants, 70% of which are unique to the Cape Floral Region.
south africa facts cape floral kingdom
  1. The Cape Floral Kingdom is the only floral kingdom that is wholly contained in a single country. It is a protected area and one of the world’s six floral kingdoms.
  2. The Karoo region (Western Cape) is home to some of the best early dinosaur fossils. It is estimated that approximately 80% of the mammalian fossils found to date were found in the Karoo.
  3. South Africa has the oldest meteor scar in the world. It is called the Vredefort Dome. It is approximately 74 miles / 120 km southwest of Johannesburg. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  4. South Africa is home to the Cradle of Humankind—the birthplace of humankind. In other words, modern humans originated in Africa. This is also a World Heritage site.
  5. At the time of this writing, (2021), South Africa boasts 10 World Heritage sites with 5 more pending.
  1. South Africa is rich in mining and minerals. The country is considered to be the world’s leader with approximately 41% of all the world’s gold and nearly 90% of all the platinum metals on earth.
  2. South Africa is the largest producer of platinum in the world. In 2014 it produced 110,000kg, more than four times the amount of Russia—the next biggest producer.
  3. The world’s largest diamond was found in Pretoria, South Africa on 25 January 1905. It was a 3,106-carat stone and weighed 1.33 pounds.
  4. South Africa’s diamond mines account for 9.10% of the world’s diamonds.
Nobel square cape town south africa
Nobel Square, Cape Town
  1. Although a small country, South Africa is home to 4 Nobel Peace Prize Winners. Another amazing fact is that two of the South African Nobel prize winners lived on the same street—Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both lived on Vilakazi Street in Soweto.
  2. To date, South Africa has the world’s largest themed resort hotel— The Palace of the Lost City (North West Province). Surrounding the Palace you will find a 25-hectare, manmade botanical jungle. It has almost 2 million trees, plants, and shrubs.
  3. South Africa has hosted the Soccer, Rugby, and Cricket Rugby World Cup! Other than England, it is the only country in the world to have done so.
  1. The statue of Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings in Pretoria is 29.5 feet / 9 meters tall.
  2. South Africa is home to the world’s largest individually timed cycle race. The Cape Town Cycle Tour has as many as 35 000 cyclists competing.

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Hi! We’re the Cheltens’. We visit South Africa 1-2 times per year. We want to share our experiences with you so that you may make educated decisions when you plan your next trip to the rainbow nation.

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