We all know that we live in an amazing country with world-famous natural beauty and a rich cultural history. That’s old news to us but the rest of the world is starting to recognise our country’s value as well. This is being proven by our natural and historic areas being added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. The list is reserved for sites that add value to humanity and deserve to be protected for future generations to enjoy. South Africa has 9 World Heritage Sites and many more on the waiting list with the potential of making the cut. Here’s the low down on each site and why you should add them to your bucket list.
The Cradle of Humankind
Just 50km out of Johannesburg, the Cradle of Humankind is a great day trip destination if you’re into human history. The area was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 because of the rich deposit of ancient fossils found in the local limestone caves. There’s even the educational Maropeng visitors centre that will fill you in on all the details that makes this site so important to archeology.
Kingdom of Mapungubwe
The Kingdom of Mapungubwe is located just below the border between South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It’s an archaeological site of the 13th century kingdom that was famous for being rich in gold and ivory. The site is recognised for its cultural significance and archaeologists believe that it was the first example of a modern class-based society in South Africa.
Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape
Located in the corner of South Africa, just under Namibia, is the only arid biodiversity hot spot in the world as well as being the cultural home of the local Nama people. Sitting on the banks of the Orange river, this isn’t your usual game reserve. This is a desert that’s full of incredible views and a great getaway if you want to relax in some wide-open spaces.
Robben Island is notorious for housing the political prisoners that fought against the apartheid government. The most famous of these is Nelson Mandela and his jail cell has become a must-see site for anybody who wants to understand the recent history of South Africa. You can get to the island by catching a day cruise from the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
The Cape Floral Region
The Cape Floral Region is one of our prettiest natural heritage sites because of the incredible amount of plant species found in the area. There are over 9000 plant species which accounts for 20% of the total number of species in the whole of Africa! Not only is the area pretty to look at, but the flower industry produces around R77 million a year by selling flowers, like the iconic Protea, and is vital to the area’s economy. Talk about flower power!
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Found 275 km north of Durban, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is another natural site that is incredibly rich in its natural biodiversity. In one area you can find coral reefs, beaches, coastal dunes, lakes, swamps and wetlands. This area is home to a huge range of animals ranging from Lions on land, to whales and turtles in the ocean! Richards Bay is a great place to stay if you want to visit the park for a day.
The Vredefort Dome
Found in the Free State, the Vredefort Dome has a lot to brag about. It’s not only the largest impact crater on Earth, it’s also one of the oldest and the deepest! Spanning over 300 km wide, it’s hard to know where it even starts. The edges of the crater have long since eroded away but the geological impact made by the 15 km wide asteroid is still found in the crater.
One of our most impressive natural sites is the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. The mountain range was made a heritage site because of its impressive beauty; plant and animal life; diverse habitats and ancient rock paintings in the mountain’s caves.
Head out into the mountains if hiking or trail running is your idea of a good time. If you’re more interested in chilling, there are plenty of day hikes that will get you to the foot of the mountains without too much effort.
Khomani Cultural Landscape
Found on the border between South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, the Khomani Cultural Landscape is preserved to protect the culture and history of the ǂKhomani San people. For thousands of years these people have adapted to living in the most arid places of South Africa and have an expert knowledge of local plants and animals.
Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains
These mountains are some of the oldest examples of volcanic and sedimentary rock on earth. Luckily you don’t have to be a geologist to appreciate the natural beauty of the area. This is the newest addition to the list of World Heritage Sites in South Africa, being added to the list in 2018.
There are plenty more areas that are pending sites to add to the list, so you better see all the current ones before you start falling behind! Have fun travelling and show us your amazing pictures by using #MyCityStay on social media.