19 interesting facts about South Africa
South Africa…where do we start? Home to natural beauty, diverse cultures and epic landmarks (the wine’s not bad either), it’s one of our fave travel destinations in the world. You could explore this spellbinding country for weeks and only scratch the surface, so read on to find out 19 incredible facts about South Africa!
1. Language galore
You can’t explore the most interesting facts about South Africa without thinking linguistically. Because when you journey here, you’ll soon realise that more than one language is spoken in these parts. The country’s extreme linguistic diversity is due to a heady mix of culture, politics and empire – and you’ll find 11+ languages spoken across the country. On average, South African citizens can speak 2.84 languages – the most widely spoken being IsiZulu and isiXhosa. There’s a reason it’s called rainbow nation.
2. Table Mountain
Overlooking Cape Town and located in a National Park of the same name, Table Mountain is a popular landmark to visit in South Africa! One of the world’s oldest mountains, this 240-million year old monolith is home to more than 2000 species of endemic plants. You can also spot epic wildlife here, like the rock hyrax, a mammal related to the elephant (but looks more like a guinea pig!).
If you want to take a visit here, jump on a cable car overseeing the Atlantic Ocean and the city of Cape Town. Get incredible pics of the sea or climb to the mountain’s peak, Maclear’s beacon, for a stunning sunrise or sunset!
Image source:Thomas Bennie -Unsplash
3. The 2010 world cup
One of the most interesting facts about South Africa is that, when, in 2010, it hosted the Fifa World cup, it was the first African Nation to do so. To prepare for the global event the country invested around R30-Billion (1.4 Million pounds), building 10 stadiums to host each game. The opening and final games were hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city.
4. Wine and dine
Did you know about South Africa’s Cape winelands? Get ready to be immersed in the world’s most scenic vineyards, flanked by striking mountains, cobalt seas, and lush green valleys. Cape Winelands’ Dutch farmsteads have unique soil conditions directly affecting the quality of the grapes leading to distinct flavours – no wonder South Africa is one of the fastest growing destinations for wine tourism!
Image source:Werner Du plessis – Unsplash
5. Not one, not two but three!
Did you know South Africa has three capital cities instead of one: Cape Town, Pretoria, and Bloemfontein. And they all serve different purposes. Cape Town is the legislative capital and also holds the country’s Parliament; Bloemfontein is the judicial capital where the Supreme Court of Appeal is located; Pretoria is the administrative/ Executive capital, which hosts Union Buildings and Public services.
The springbok antelope found in South Africa is their national animal! That’s why it’s worn as an emblem for their rugby team, otherwise known as the springboks!
Image source:Simon Hurry – Unsplash
7. Medical history
In 1967, South Africa was the first country to host a successful heart transplant. Christiaan Barnard and his team performed the procedure in Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, which soon became the most widely reported medical event in history. Additionally, the first CAT was developed by another South African, physicist Allan Cormack and his British colleague Godfrey Hounsfield. In 1979 they both won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine.
8. Its time to hop on two wheels
Heard of the Cape Town cycle tour? Incredibly, it has up to 35,000 participants cycling along rocky coastal roads. For 45 years this bike tour has paid millions for charitable causes. You can even join Extreme Ride 4 Hunger Cycle Tour whose aim is to raise awareness of the poor in underprivileged communities, laser-focused on creating a hunger-free society in South Africa.
Image source:Sharaan Muruvan – Unsplash
9. Meteorite scar
Did you know a meteor the size of a mountain once fell down to earth? You’d think it was fiction right? More than 2,030 million years ago, it left a crater named the Vredefort impact structure, one of the largest in the world! The interesting facts about South Africa just keep coming…
10. Bungee Jumping!
Calling all adrenaline junkies! Make your way to The Bloukrans Bridge located in the western Cape region of South Africa.
This iconic landmark is known to have be highest commercial bungee jump in the world! At an impressive 216m (709ft), it’ll get your pulse racing in no time.
Image source:Anoof Junaid – Unsplash
11. Transported through time
One of my favourite facts about South Africa is that in 1936 archaeologists discovered the world’s oldest fossilised bones from ancient humans (known as hominids). These bones are said to date as far back as 2.5 to 4.5 million years ago. They were discovered in the Sterkfontein Caves, northwest of Johannesburg, which has more Australopithecus fossils than anywhere else in the world.
This region was nicknamed the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Africa. Since then, cave sites here have provided critical info on human and environmental evolution.
The biggest Diamond in the world, the Cullinan Diamond, was discovered in the Premier Mine by Cullinan Diamond. Over 750 stones that greater than 100 carats have been discovered in these mines!
Image source:Edgar Soto – Unsplash
13. Hunter Gatherers
Did you know South Africa still has indigenous hunter-gatherers known as the San and Khoi or Khoisan? And they’ve been around for over 11,000 years!
The San people have passed down ancient skills through generations, including following antelope migrations and knowing which plants to source to cure illnesses. The Khoi people tend to herd cattle and stay on the move to ensure the land a they inhabit has a chance to regrow and redevelop.
14. Kruger National Park
South Africa is home to one of the best national parks in the world, where you can spot the big 5 (elephants, rhinos, buffalos, leopards and lions). Kruger National park was created in 1898 by the President of the Transvaal, Paul Kruger, in 1898 as a way of protecting the animals which were often hunted and sold for money.
Not only can you experience amazing animal tours to South Africa but also experience a beautiful night’s sky. This park has minimal light pollution which is ideal for seeing the milky way and the rings of Saturn!
16. You can see fish from space!
Between the months of May and July South Africa has a massive fish migration. So big, in fact, you can see it from space! The sardine fish migrate from South Africa’s Atlantic coast to the KwaZulu-Natal coastline, attracted to the cool temperature to lay eggs . The width of the shoals range from 15km long, 3.5km wide and up to 40m deep – so big enough to be spotted by satellites.
15. Nelson Mandela
In 1948 the National Party created the abhorrent apartheid, to separate the development of the different racial groups in South Africa. Nelson Mandela, along the head of the anti-apartheid African National Congress, revolted, and as a result he was jailed for 27 years. In 1994 Mandela was released and elected president of South Africa, as the apartheid was finally abolished thanks to his tireless persistence and intellect.
Image source:Ashim D’Silva – Unsplash
17. Same-Sex marriage
Same-sex marriage became legal in South Africa in 2006, and it was the first African country to do so. SA has revolutionised equality in many industries, and has allowed openly gay people to serve in the military since 1998.
18. It has it all
South Africa has a wide variety in climate and topography. In fact it has subtropical forests, mountains, deserts, wetlands, and much, much more. You can literally enjoy every season in one country!
Image source:Lina Loos – Unsplash
19. Set sail on the treacherous seas
South Africa’s seas are not easy to sail across. In fact, up to 3,000 shipwrecks have been discovered along the years. Bad for sailors, but great for divers: so if you’re up for some scuba, try to dive down to the ships there, including the BOS 400.