South Africa is a diverse and beautiful place that boasts rich culture and a captivating yet turbulent history. Many of us will know that this country has emerged from a dark past to become the widely-loved “Rainbow Nation” that it is today.
On 27 April, South Africa celebrates Freedom Day. This annual holiday commemorates the anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. After decades under apartheid rule, this was a time of great joy and celebration, with Nelson Mandela being sworn in as the first democratically-elected president of the country! Today, Freedom Day is a time to celebrate South Africa’s values of freedom and democracy and admire how far the Rainbow Nation has come!
To celebrate Freedom Day 2022 and to shine a spotlight on our wonderful country, dk villas has put together a list of 12 fascinating facts about South Africa. Even if you’re a local, some of these facts may surprise you!
12 Fascinating Facts About South Africa
1. South Africa is home to 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
From the natural scenery and historic sites to the melting pot of cultures, there is undoubtedly no shortage of incredible destinations and things to experience in South Africa. In fact, the country is home to 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Important landmarks including Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years imprisoned, and the Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa are on the list.
Visit the Cradle of Humankind located northwest of Johannesburg to see fossils dating back nearly 2 million years! The discoveries made in South Africa’s Sterkfontein Caves are some of the earliest evidence of human evolution in the world!
2. There are 11 official languages in South Africa
This is a fact we love because it speaks to the rich diversity of South Africa and its title of the Rainbow Nation. There are 11 official languages in South Africa and you’ll find many people who speak at least 2! The official languages listed in alphabetical order are: Afrikaans, English, isiZulu, isiXhosa, isiNdebele, Northern Sotho, SeSotho, siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.
3. Table Mountain is one of the oldest mountains in the world
Cape Town’s iconic landmark is one of the oldest mountains in the world! Table Mountain is estimated to be around 260 million years old and is home to thousands of different species of animal, bird and plant life. Listed as one of the 7 New Wonders of the World, Table Mountain is one of the most popular attractions in Cape Town and has hundreds of walking and hiking trails that people can use to explore the mountain.
4. Three of the “world’s largest” races take place in this country
Sports enthusiasts, this one's for you! South Africa hosts several exciting races and sporting events annually. Excitingly, it is also host to 3 of the “world’s largest” races. The Cape Town Cycle Tour is the world’s largest individually timed bicycle race with +-35,000 participants traversing the 109 km route. In the Kwa-Zulu Natal province you can lace up your running shoes for the Comrades Marathon. This is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon (the first race took place in 1921!) with the route stretching 89 km between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Finally, the world’s largest open water swim is the Midmar Mile, hosted at Midmar Dam, also in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
5. South Africa has hosted the Rugby, Cricket and Soccer World Cups
South Africa has had the privilege of hosting the Rugby World Cup in 1995, the Cricket World Cup in 2003 and the Soccer World Cup in 2010. The only other country to have this honour is England.
6. It’s home to the world’s highest bungee jump
Looking to get your adrenaline pumping? Head to Tsitsikamma along South Africa’s Garden Route! The 216m high Bloukrans Bridge is home to the world’s highest bungee jump. Strap in and get ready to jump towards the Bloukrans River flowing below. (Don’t worry, you’ll be swinging back up before you reach the water!)
7. South Africa is the only country in the world where two Nobel Prize winners lived on the same street
Vilakazi Street in Soweto has the accolade of being the only street in the world where two Nobel Prize winners have lived! Both the late former President Nelson Mandela and the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu have called Vilakazi Street home. Archbishop Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 while in 1993, Nelson Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former South African President FW de Klerk.
8. The world’s first successful heart transplant took place in Cape Town
Way back in 1967, the world’s first successful heart transplant took place in a surgical theatre in Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. Dr Christiaan Barnard and his team performed the transplant on Louis Washkansky and the ground breaking surgery is still celebrated decades later.
9. The Cape Floral Kingdom is the most biodiverse in the world
Anyone who has visited South Africa will confirm that the natural scenery is truly breathtaking! In no place is this truer than in Cape Town. The Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest of the world’s floral kingdom but is also the most biodiverse! In fact, the diversity of floral species on Table Mountain alone is higher than the diversity of floral species found in the whole of the United Kingdom!
10. It is the only country in the world with three capital cities
South Africa is the only country in the world with not one, not two but three capital cities! They are split to represent the three branches of government. Cape Town is the legislative capital, Bloemfontein is the judicial capital and Pretoria is the administrative capital.
11. South Africa is home to the world’s longest wine route
As if we need more of an excuse to explore and enjoy South Africa’s famous wine routes! South Africa is home to the longest wine route in the world. Route 62 stretches +- 850km from Cape Town in the Western Cape to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, passing through the beautiful regions of Oudtshoorn and the Garden Route along the way!
Nearby to Cape Town you can visit the famous Cape Winelands. Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl are home to award winning vineyards. Be sure to try a glass of Pinotage - South Africa’s signature variety!
12. There is a country-within-a-country in South Africa
The final of our fascinating facts feels a little like Inception! There is a country-within-a-country in South Africa! The Kingdom of Lesotho is fully located within South Africa’s borders; within the stunning Drakensberg Mountain area to be specific. The striking mountains and valleys have earned the country the nickname “Kingdom in the Sky” and it’s a beautifully unique destination!
South Africa is undoubtedly one of the world’s most captivating countries! Whether you are a local or a visitor to these beautiful shores, discovering South Africa is sure to be an unforgettable experience. We hope these fascinating facts have helped you fall even more in love with the Rainbow Nation this Freedom Day!