South Africa is a wonderfully diverse country. It has a lot to offer to visitors. You can experience its incredible wild life, breath-taking scenery or simply immerse yourself into the history and tradition of this multi-faceted nation.
Whatever your reasons for visiting South Africa, here’s a list of facts and figures about this country that may hold many surprises for you:
1. Archaeology and Palaeontology: South Africa is steeped in pre-history. The oldest human remains, over 100,000 years old, were found in the Klasies River Cave in Eastern Pretoria. In addition, the Karoo region has wonderful fossil dinosaur remains.
2. Biodiversity: South Africa can boast the world’s third highest biodiversity level. Each square kilometre of savannah exceeds 30 species, greater than even tropical rainforests. In South Africa you can find both the smallest and largest succulent plants in the world.
3. Mining and Minerals: With almost 90% of the world’s platinum, 80% of the world’s manganese and 41% of the world’s gold, South Africa is rich in minerals. The world’s largest diamond, the Cullinan Stone, 3,106.75 carats uncut, was discovered in South Africa.
4. Solar Geography: South Africa is well endowed with solar radiation. The country soaks up over half the world’s highest category of solar radiation for every square metre.
5. Animal Life: A huge variety of animal species live in South Africa. Of the five fastest land animals in the world, three are found in South Africa, the cheetah, the lion and the wildebeest.
6. Bird Life: South Africa has around 900 species of birds, around 10% of the world’s total. These include a thriving penguin colony on the west coast near the Cape.
7. Wine: The South African climate is ideal for wine producing and the country has the oldest wine industry apart from the Mediterranean region and Europe.
8. Medical Pioneer: The first-ever heart transplant was performed in Cape Town in 1967 by Dr. Christiaan Barnard at Groote Schuur hospital. The same surgeon also performed the first heart-lung transplant.
9. Coastline: With over 2,500 km of coastline, stretching from the St. Lucia estuary in the east to Kalahari in the north-west, it is not surprising that there are a large number of shipwrecks along this coast. Over 2,000 wrecks have been identified, some around 500 years old.
10. Rail Travel: Within South Africa there are 19,004 miles of railway lines, around 80% of the total African rail infrastructure. With such a vast network, it comes as no surprise that South Africa has the world’s most luxurious train, the Rovos Rail.