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8 Unesco World Heritage Sites in South Africa worth adding to your Bucket List

  • Tuesday, 09 January 2018
  • Linda Chivell

Since 1999 South Africa had successfully managed to ensure that the World Heritage community recognizes the outstanding universal values of eight areas of distinction within its borders. These included the natural wonder of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the culturally significant sites of Robben Island and the Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa.
Here follow a list of South Africa's  8 Unesco World Heritage Sites of which  4 are cultural, 3 natural and one mixed (cultural and natural) heritage sites.

1. Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng

Unesco Cradle

The Cradle of Humankind is the only World Heritage Site in Gauteng, only around an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria. Believed to be the birthplace of humankind where the first hominid, Australopithecus, was found in 1924 The Cradle of Humankind has various fossil sites which contain traces of human evolution dating as far back as 3.3 million years. Take a tour of the Sterkfontein Caves, visit the excavation sites, or visit the world-class Maropeng Centre. Contact: +27 (0)14 577 9000.

2. Mapungubwe National Park, Limpopo

Unesco Mapungubwe

Famed as South Africa’s first kingdom, Mapungubwe, dates all the way back to the Iron Age. The Mapungubwe National Park is rich in biodiversity and captivating landscapes and offers a wealth of activities for tourists. Marvel at the scenery on a treetop walk, picnic at the banks of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers, or discover the treasures on the Route of the Lost Kingdom.The Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre is worth a visit if you want to know more. But you do not have to be active to just admire the mystifying fauna and flora, including elephant, giraffe, white rhino, eland, gemsbok, lion, leopard, hyena, and over 400 species of birds. Contact: +27 (0)15 534 7923/4.

3. Vredefort Dome, Free State

Unesco Vredefort Dome

The Vredefort Dome is the world’s largest verified impact crater, measuring 300km in diameter. This World Heritage Site was formed after a meteorite, the size of Table Mountain( 10km in diameter) hit the earth more than 2 billion years ago. Although the crater itself has eroded away, the remaining geological structure is known as the Vredefort Dome; consisting of a ring of hills measuring 70km in diameter. A mystic place with earthy named rock formation like breccia, shattercones and pseudotachylite where the mysteries of Africa are to be found in and on rocks scattered all over the Dome Contact: +27 (0)56 818 1814.

4. Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape, Northern Cape

Unesco Richtersveld

The Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape is a mountainous desert landscape covering anincredible160 000 hectares of some of the most dramatic landscapes on earth.The Richtersveld is renowned for being the only arid biodiversity hotspot on earth despite its parched setting where numerous animal, bird, and plant life have adapted to its harsh conditions. The region is inhabited by the Nama people who own and manage the Richtersveld National Park in conjunction with South African National Parks (SANParks). They are also entirely responsible for management of the World Heritage Site. Contact Richtersveld Tours: +27 (0)83 928 3571.

5. Robben Island, Western Cape

Unesco Robben Island

Robben Island is located in Table Bay, Cape Town. The 580 hectare oval-shaped Island is a favourite attraction for every tourist to Cape Town. Housing the maximum security prison where Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president, spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment, Robben Island is preserved as a National Monument and a World Heritage Site in his memory. Scheduled boat trips leave from the V&A Waterfront. Tours include an island bus tour, viewing of the prison cells (including Mandela’s), lime quarry, and Robert Sobukwe’s prison house, a chance to talk to ex-political prisoners, and more. Contact: +27 (0)21 409 5100.

6. Cape Floral Kingdom, Western Cape

Unesco Floral Kingdom

The Cape Floral Kingdom has 8 protected areas that are amongst the richest in plant life, home to more than 9000 vascular plant species, of which 69% are endemic. The Cape Floral Kingdom incorporates Table Mountain National Park, Cederberg Wilderness Area, Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area, Boland Mountain Complex, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Boosmansbos Wilderness Area, Swartberg Complex, and Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve. This tint floral kingdom takes up only 0.04% of the world’s land area but contains roughly 3% of its plant species, making it one of the world’s 18 biodiversity hotspots.

7. iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal

Unesco iSimalingo

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is South Africa’s 3rd largest protected area and the country’s only marine world heritage site. The region features 3280km² of 8 independent natural ecosystems, from spectacular dune forests and coral reefs to extensive savannahs and wetlands. The park is world famous for its exceptional biodiversity, with more than 521recorded bird species, hatching turtles & whales ( in season) and the importance of a protected open-air research centre.

8. Maloti-Drakensberg Park, KwaZulu-Natal

Unesco maloti

The famous Maloti-Drakensberg Park stretch over parts of South Africa and Lesotho, and include both the Royal Natal National Park and Drakensberg National Park, Africa’s highest mountain range south of Kilimanjaro and the largest concentration of rock art paintings on the continent. Numerous endemic birds, plant and animal species, bestow on this 2428km² natural and culturally important area world acknowledged significance.

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