Top 10 Amazing Facts About South Africa

Continuing our grand tour of the world, we’re journeying back to the southern hemisphere to explore the highly suggested, South Africa! From breathtaking waterfalls and majestic wildlife, to being home to some of the most intriguing shipwrecks to have ever been found, we'll take a look at 10 Amazing facts about South Africa!

10. Fame of South Africa
Often confused for Morgan Freeman by some individuals, Nelson Mandela was one of South Africa’s most notable celebrities, known for being an anti-apartheid revolutionary politician, philanthropist, and even served as President to his home country for 5 years. Other South Africans include actress and model Charlize Theron, Lord of the Rings author J R R Tolkien, singer/songwriter Dave Matthews, Sharlto Copley and Neill Blomkamp. Cricket enthusiasts may recognize Dale Steyn, Joshua Pieters, and Ab Devilliers while Siphewe Tshabalala and Bryan Habana will strike soccer and rugby fans. He may not be as recognized, but Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu also needs a well deserved mention. In YouTube land, be sure to check out morecaspar, Kruger Sightings, Cobus Potgieter or!

9. South African Innovations
From life-saving devices to fascinating and unexpected contributions to science, South Africa has put forth some worthwhile creations. Among them was the concept of transverse axial scanning, a technique partially attributed to Allan McLeod Cormack, that eventually led to the common CAT scan. Not quite as medically necessary but impressive none-the-less was also George Pratley’s, Pratley Putty. The adhesive was used in the Apollo XI moon landing to keep the Eagle landing craft from falling apart. Other notable creations include dolos, or the geometric concrete blocks that protect harbor walls, thin solar cells, the speed gun used for most ball-based sports, and a cybertracker that allowed for the tracking of animals via a GPS-like device.

8. South African Cuisine
Get your recipe notepads ready, because it’s time to dive into some South African cuisine! The sweeter side of local cuisine comes in the form of koeksisters, or sweet deep-fried pastries, but before you get to dessert, you’ll need to eat your biltong, bobotie, potjiekos, or frikkadelle. Though known for its indigenous flavors, South Africa has also adopted many means of cooking from the many colonies that passed through, including German, French, Italian, British, and Greek. If you find yourself traveling to Cape Town, be sure to check out the Gold Restaurant! Before you start your traditional lentil dhal with roasted butternut, be entertained by an interactive Djembe drumming session followed by a customary hand-washing ceremony.

7. Tourist Attractions
Travelers to South Africa have chosen a country rich with nature and plenty to see and do. From Kruger National Park to uShaka Marine World and West Coast Fossil Park, travelers that want to get close to South Africa’s more natural side have two great outlets. Beach lovers will want to flock to Cape Town while those wanting to get a look at the country’s history will want to see the District Six Museum, the Cradle of Humankind, and the South African National Museum of Military History. There’s nothing more fascinating than the massive hole in Kimberley, South Africa, which was once the site of a massive diamond rush. The 214-meter or 702-foot deep cavern hosts one of the country’s most intriguing tourist attractions.

6. South African Wildlife
Among South Africa’s most common wildlife are what’s considered the “Big Five” – elephants, buffalo, lions, rhinos, and leopards. Beyond these majestic, albeit common folk is a country brimming with life, including 230 mammal species, of which 13 fall within endangered and critically endangered. Among some of the flourishing wildlife are the cape grysbok, cape horseshoe bat, geometric tortoise, southern adder, cape legless skink, blue crane, mountain zebra, sei whale, and blue whale. What may be a bit surprising is the colony of penguins located at Boulders Beach, who are celebrated each October with “Penguin Awareness Day”.

5. Increase in Education
While parts of the world seem to be suffering from a visible decline in quality of education – South Africa has been experiencing quite the opposite shift. In 2011, there was a near 4% increase of people age 20 or older who obtained some type of higher education, bringing the number from 8.4% to 12.1%. To coincide with this change, the percentage of people who had absolutely no schooling dropped considerably from 17.9% to 8.6%, which may also help to explain the drop in illiteracy rates, which went from 31.5% in 2001 to 19.1% a decade later.

4. South African Nature Attractions
Great sites to visit, eclectic cuisine, majestic wildlife – South Africa seems to have it all, and that’s not even considering the impressive geography and environment that encapsulates the impressive wonder of this Southern Hemisphere country. The Makhonjwa Mountains along the border of Mpumalanga and Swaziland are estimated to be approximately 3.6 billion years old, making its rock some of the oldest ever recorder. South Africa is also said to house the 2nd tallest waterfall in the world, Tugela Falls. The falls come in at 948 meters or 3,110 feet high, falling just 30 meters or 100 feet short of Venezuela’s Angel Falls. As if that duo weren’t enough, there’s also Blyde River Canyon, possibly the 3rd largest in the world and largest green canyon.

3. Nuts over Mining and Minerals
Diamonds aren’t the only thing that South Africa is known for mining. In fact, it’s recognized for having one of the greatest remaining reserves estimating a worth of around $2.5 trillion. As a world leader in mining, South Africa accounts for 80% of manganese mining, 73% of chrome, 45% of vanadium, and 41% of the world’s gold supply. 20% of the country’s GDP comes from mining, generating an estimated $34 billion annually. If minerals don’t tickle your fancy, maybe macadamia nuts will do the trick – according to exports, South Africa is one of the leading exports of the tiny morsel. In fact, in 2014, South Africa produced roughly 25% of the entire world's supply of macadamia nuts, and the number is expected to rise year after year.

2. A Land of Shipwrecks
We talked about the beautiful beaches of Cape Town, but there’s something far more interesting about South Africa’s coast. For over 500 years, the Cape of Good Hope has been an unfortunate site to some 3,000 ships. The Sacramento, the Grosvenor, the Waratah, and the Arniston are among the many, many notable vessels that call the cape their final resting place. From as early as the 1500s, ships have been succumbing to dangerous reefs and poor visibility, leading to the construction of lighthouses up and down the coast. Many even claim to have seen the ghostly Flying Dutchman scouting the deadly shore.

1. The Cradle of Mankind
Tracing the history of man is an extensive endeavor, but a good portion of it could be done right in South Africa. Over 2.5 million years of human history can be traced to an area of South Africa known as The Cradle of Humankind. It’s in this area that over 40% of all human ancestor fossils have been discovered, including the 1947 discovery of an Australopithecus africanus, the earliest ape-form species classified as a hominin. The caves offer a look at early ecosystems, even long before the hominid presence, making South Africa one of the world’s most prehistorically important countries.

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