South African Heritage Sites At A Glance
Are you looking for a reason to visit South Africa, other than to experience the perfect combination of cultural diversity, unique history, world-class food and adventure tourism? Do you want to tick the UNESCO Heritage Sites of South Africa off your bucket list? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Carry on reading to find out more about each of these breathtaking heritage sites.
Heritage Sites in South Africa
UNESCO has created three different categories of heritage sites: cultural, natural and mixed. Mixed heritage sites have properties that are both culturally and naturally significant. In total, there are more than 1000 heritage sites in the world, eight of which are situated in South Africa. These important locations attract local and international tourists alike.
isiMangaliso Wetland Park
Situated in Kwa-Zulu Natal, this heritage site is famed for more than one reason. Firstly, it contains South Africa’s southern-most coral reefs, such as those that can be seen at Sodwana Bay. It is also one of South Africa’s largest estuaries and includes lake St Lucia, which is home to wildlife such as hippos, crocodiles and flamingos.
There are a number of activities that can keep you entertained when visiting the isiMangaliso Wetland Park area which includes:
- Visiting the nearby crocodile farm
- Whale watching
- Snorkelling and scuba diving
- Horseback riding and safaris
- Midnight turtle tours during October and November
Visit the official website here.
Cape Floral Region
Despite its relatively small size, the Cape Floral Region contains roughly 3% of the plant species on earth, making it one of the top 18 most bio-diverse sites in the world. It is home to about a fifth of Africa’s vegetation. It consists of a few protected areas in the western and eastern cape, including:
Read more about the Cape Floral Region here. Book Car Hire in Cape Town
The Vredefort Dome is a massive crater that was formed around 2 billion years ago after a meteor struck the surface of the earth about 100km out of Johannesburg. It meets the criteria for a UNESCO heritage site because it is the largest known impact crater in the world.
You can take meteorite trails that will expose you to the dramatic changes in ecosystem characteristic of this area, as well as San rock art and Boer memorials. The trail is roughly 60km, with self-catering accommodation available along the way. It is not suitable for children under the age of 12.
Richtersveld Cultural And Botanical Landscape
This 160,000-hectare expanse in the north-western region of the country is an arid biodiversity hot-spot; one of a few in the world. It is of cultural significance because it is managed by the Nama people (the largest of the Khoisan clans) who migrate seasonally and live off the land.
Some of the main activities that lure tourists to this vast area are hiking through the dramatic landscape and fly- fishing. Most visitors spend hours driving across the rugged terrain and observing the beautiful scenery. Read more here.
Mapungubwe National Park
Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo was the first kingdom to be established in South Africa. It evolved into the country’s biggest realm which lasted for 400 years. It is situated at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers. Mapungubwe means “place of the stone of wisdom”. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003.
What can you do here? The possibilities are varied:
- Stay in a Venda-style camp
- Stroll along the Treetop walkway
- Visit the viewing decks that allow you to see the meeting of the two rivers
- See the fossilized termite mounds
- Go on a game drive to view the wildlife
Cradle of Humankind
About 40% of the worlds oldest human fossils have been found at the Cradle Of Humankind, a heritage site located about 90 minutes drive from Johannesburg. Fossils found here include the famous Mrs Ples. Some of the fossils date back 3.5 million years.
Visitors can explore the ancient history of the site, have lunch, participate in a number of adrenaline-filled activities or host a function here. One of the main features is the Maropeng Visitor Centre where you can view the fossils and artefacts, or take an underground boat cruise. Other activities in the area include hot air balloon rides, exploring Lesedi Cultural Village and Wonder Cave.
Book cheap flights to Johannesburg here and book Car Hire in Johannesburg here.
This world-famous island earned its place in South Africa’s history book as the home of Nelson Mandela for 18 of the 27 years he spent in prison. It is situated in Table Bay in the Western Cape. You can find it off the western coastline of South Africa and is easy to spot from Blouberg and Melkbosstrand. Most people are unaware of the fact that it has been a place of exile for more than 400 years, with the first successful escape by Autshumao (a Khoi Khoi leader) in 1659 who had been banished there by Jan Van Riebeek.
You can book a ticket for a boat ride and tour of the island three times a day seven days a week. Tours last about 4 hours, including a 30-minute boat ride to and from the island. Boats depart from the V & A Waterfront. Once you arrive on the island, you will board a bus and visit the main historical sites on the island. You can find out more here and book Robin Island Tour tickets here.
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Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park
Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is part of a mountain range that is the second highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro. It also contains the largest number of rock paintings in Africa (more than 500 sites), with pictures depicting some of the same animals that can be seen there today, such as eland. The park is the only ‘mixed’ heritage site in the country. The area was inhabited thousands of years ago by the San people.
Visitors to the Ukhahlamba National Park can expect to swim in the rivers, hike, rock climb and/or visit the San Rock Art. Hikes vary in length, with one of the most popular being the 5-day Giant’s Cup hike. Horse-riding, mountain biking and fly-fishing are also available in some areas.
Book cheap flights to Durban and book a hire car to drive to the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park
Book flights to Heritage Sites in South Africa
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