Top Ten South African Attractions

Top Ten South African Attractions

       The Republic of South Africa is a country in located at the southern tip of Africa. It is divided into nine provinces, with 2,798 km (1,739 mi) of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans. To the north of the country lie the neighboring territories of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; to the east are Mozambique and Swaziland; while Lesotho is an enclave surrounded by South African territory. South Africa is multi-ethnic and has diverse cultures and languages. Eleven official languages are recognized in the constitution. Two of these languages are of European origin: Afrikaans, a language which originated mainly from Dutch that is spoken by the majority of European descendants and South African English. Though English is commonly used in public and commercial life, it is only the 5th most-spoken home language. All ethnic and language groups have political representation in the country’s constitutional democracy comprising a parliamentary republic; unlike most parliamentary republics, the positions of head of state and head of government are merged in a parliament-dependent President. About 79.5% of the South African population is of black African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status.South Africa also contains the largest communities of European, Asian and racially mixed ancestry in Africa. About a quarter of the population is unemployed and lives on less than US $1.25 a day.

  1. Cape Town and Table Mountain

           Cape Town is the 2nd most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality. The city is famous for its harbor as well as its natural setting in the Cape floral kingdom, including such well-known landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point. Cape Town is also Africa’s most popular tourist destination. Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa, India and the Far East. Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival on April 6, 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa. Cape Town quickly outgrew its original purpose as the first European outpost at the Castle of Good Hope, becoming the economic and cultural hub of the Cape Colony. Until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the development of Johannesburg, Cape Town was the largest city in South Africa. Today it is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for immigrants and expatriates to South Africa. As of 2007 the city had an estimated population of 3.5 million. Cape Town’s land area of 2,455 square km (948 sq mi) is larger than other South African cities, resulting in a comparatively lower population density of 1,425 inhabitants per square km (3,690 /sq mi). Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa, and is featured in the flag of Cape Town and other local government insignia. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cableway or hiking to the top. The mountain forms part of the Table Mountain National Park.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten African Cities, Top Ten Mountains, Top Ten African Mountains, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Townhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_Mountain,
  2. Johannesburg

           Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa, by population. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa. The city is one of the 40 largest metropolitan areas in the world, and is also the world’s largest city not situated on a river, lake or coastline. While Johannesburg is not one of South Africa’s three capital cities, it is the seat of the Constitutional Court, which has the final word on interpretation of South Africa’s new post-Apartheid constitution. The city is the source of a large-scale gold and diamond trade, due to its location on the mineral-rich Witwatersrand range of hills. Johannesburg is served by O.R. Tambo International Airport, the largest and busiest airport in Africa and a gateway for international air travel to and from the rest of Southern Africa. According to the 2007 Community Survey, the population of the municipal city was 3,888,180 and the population of the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Area was 7,151,447. Johannesburg includes Soweto, which was a separate city from the late 1970’s until the 1990’s. Originally an acronym for “South-Western Townships,” Soweto originated as a collection of settlements on the outskirts of Johannesburg populated mostly by native African workers in the gold mining industry. Eventually incorporated into Johannesburg, the apartheid regime (in power 1948–1994) separated Soweto from the rest of Johannesburg to make it a completely Black area. The area called Lenasia is now also part of Johannesburg, and is predominantly populated by those of Indian ethnicity since the apartheid era. The Gauteng province as a whole is growing rapidly due to mass urbanization, which is a feature of many developing countries.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten African Cities, Top Ten Fireworks Shows,
  3. Adam’s Calendar and Makomati

           Adam’s Calendar, is an ancient circular monolithic stone calendar site in Mpumalanga, which is believed to be at least 75,000 years old, pre-dating any other structure found to date. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 ancient stone ruins scattered throughout the mountains of southern Africa. Artifacts that have been recovered from these ruins show a long and extended period of settlement that spans to over 200,000 years. Until recently, historians have speculated that these ruins were ‘cattle kraal of little historic importance,’ however after further investigation, these ruins have proven to be much older and much more interesting than previously believed. Adam’s Calendar is the flagship among these ruins because this monolithic calendar can be dated with relative certainty to at least 75,000. Adam’s Calendar also presents the first tangible evidence of consciousness among the earliest humans in the ‘Cradle of humankind.’ Interestingly enough, the site is built along the same longitudinal line as Great Zimbabwe and the Great Pyramid. It was also aligned with the rise of Orion’s belt some 75,000 years ago.
    Links: Top Ten Spiritual Destinations on Earth, Top Ten Stone Calendars, http://adamscalendar.com/,
  4. Cradle of Humankind

    The Cradle of Humankind is a World Heritage Site first named by UNESCO in 1999, about 50 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa in the Gauteng province. This site currently occupies 47,000 hectares (180 sq mi); it contains a complex of limestone caves, including the Sterkfontein Caves, where the 2.3-million year-old fossil Australopithecus africanus (nicknamed “Mrs. Ples”) was found in 1947 by Dr. Robert Broom and John T. Robinson. The find helped corroborate the 1924 discovery of the juvenile Australopithecus africanus skull, “Taung Child,” by Raymond Dart, at Taung in the North West Province of South Africa, where excavations still continue. The name Cradle of Humankind reflects the fact that the site has produced a large number, as well as some of the oldest, hominid fossils ever found, some dating back as far as 3.5 million years ago. Sterkfontein alone has produced more than a third of early hominid fossils ever found.
    Links: Top Ten Scientific Discoveries, Top Ten Scientists, Top Ten Human Skeletons, Top Ten Caves, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle_of_Humankind,
  5. Cape Floristic Region

    The Cape Floristic Region is a floristic region located near the southern tip of South Africa. It is the only floristic region of the South African Cape and includes only one floristic province, known as the Cape Floristic Province. The Cape Floristic Region, the smallest of the six recognized floral kingdoms of the world, is an area of extraordinarily high diversity and endemism, and is home to more than 9,000 vascular plant species, of which 69% are endemic. Much of this diversity is associated with the fynbos biome, a Mediterranean-type, fire-prone shrubland. The economic worth of fynbos biodiversity, based on harvests of fynbos products (e.g. wildflowers) and eco-tourism, is estimated to be in the region of R77 million a year.
    Links: Top 100 Flowers, Top Ten Flower Regions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Floristic_Region,
  6. iSimangaliso Wetland Park

           iSimangaliso Wetland Park is situated on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa about 275 km north of Durban. It is South Africa’s 3rd largest protected area, spanning 280 km of coastline, from the Mozambican border in the north to Mapelane south of the St Lucia estuary, and made up of around 3,280 km² of pristine natural ecosystems, managed by iSimangaliso Authority.
    Links: Top Ten Deadliest Animals, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISimangaliso_Wetland_Park,
  7. Kingdom of Mapungubwe

           The Kingdom of Mapungubwe (1075–1220) was a pre-colonial state in Southern Africa located at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers, south of Great Zimbabwe. The kingdom was the first stage in a development that would culminate in the creation of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe in the 13th century, and with gold trading links to Rhapta and Kilwa Kisiwani on the African east coast.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mapungubwe_Cultural_Landscape,
  8. West Coast National Park

    The West Coast National Park lies 120 km north of Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is 27,500 hectares (106 sq mi) in size. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and the R27 coastal road, and runs from the town of Yzerfontein in the south up to the Langebaan lagoon. The park is particularly well known for its bird life and for the spring flowers which occur in the months from August to October, especially in the Postberg flower reserve section of the park.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten African National Parks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Coast_National_Park,
  9. Richtersveld

           The Richtersveld is a mountainous desert landscape characterized by rugged kloofs and high mountains, situated in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. It is full of changing scenery from flat sandy plains, to craggy sharp mountains of volcanic rock and the lushness of the Orange River, which forms the border with neighboring Namibia. The park ranges in altitude from less than 60 m (200 feet) in its far North, along the Orange River, to 1377 m (4518 feet) at Cornellberg somewhat south of center  Located in South Africa’s northern Namaqualand, this arid area represents a harsh landscape where water is a great scarcity and only the hardiest of life forms survive. Despite this, the Richtersveld is regarded as the only Arid Biodiversity Hotspot on Earth, with an astonishing variety of plant, bird and animal life (much of which is endemic). A favorite among nature travelers to South Africa, the landscape is sometimes described as “Martian.” Though barren and desolate at first glance, closer examination reveals the area to be rich in desert life forms, with an array or unique species specially adapted for survival. Temperatures are extreme, and in summer can reach over 50°C and rain is a very rare event. The northern part of the area was proclaimed as a National Park in 1991 after 18 years of negotiation with the local Nama people, who continue to live and graze their livestock in the area. It has an area of 1,624.45 square km.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richtersveld_Cultural_and_Botanical_Landscape,
  10. Drakensberg

           The Drakensberg “the Dragon Mountains,” is the highest mountain range in Southern Africa, rising to 3,482 m (11,424 ft) in height. In Zulu, it is referred to as uKhahlamba (“barrier of spears”), and in Sesotho as Maluti. Its geological history lends it a distinctive character among the mountain ranges of the world.
    Links: Top Ten Mountains, Top Ten Mountain Ranges, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drakensberg,
  11. Bonus: Robben Island

           Robben Island is an island in Table Bay, 6.9 km west of the coast of Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, South Africa. The name is Dutch for “seal island.” The island is roughly oval in shape, 3.3 km long north-south and 1.9 km wide. It is flat and only a few meters above sea level, as a result of an ancient erosion event. The island is composed of Precambrian metamorphic rocks belonging to the Malmesbury Group. It is of particular note as it was here that past President of South Africa and Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela and past South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, alongside many other political prisoners, spent decades imprisoned during the apartheid era. Among those political prisoners was current South African President Jacob Zuma who was imprisoned there for ten years.
    Links: Top 100 Leaders, Top Ten Founding Fathers, Top Ten Islands, Top Ten Prisons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robben_Island,
  12. Bonus: Vredefort Crater

    Vredefort crater is the largest verified impact crater on Earth. It is located in the Free State Province of South Africa and named after the town of Vredefort, which is situated near its centre. The site is also known as the Vredefort dome or Vredefort impact structure.
    Links: Top Ten Craters, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vredefort_Dome,
  13. Bonus: Voortrekker Monument

           The Voortrekker Monument is a monument in the city of Pretoria, South Africa. The massive granite structure, built to honor the Voortrekkers who left the Cape Colony between 1835 and 1854, was designed by the architect Gerard Moerdijk who had the idea to design a “monument that would stand a thousand years to describe the history and the meaning of the Great Trek to its descendants.” It can be seen from almost any location in the city, as it is seated on a hilltop.
    Links: Top Ten Architectural Works by Gerard Moerdijk, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voortrekker_Monument
  14. Links: Top Ten South African Hotels, Top Ten South African Restaurantshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Africa,