South Africa's 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

South Africa’s 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

South Africa boasts 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 4 cultural sites, 3 natural and one both cultural and natural.

  • Isimangaliso Wetland Park (Kwa-Zulu Natal) “South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999 in recognition of its superlative natural beauty and unique global values.”  The 358 534 hectare Park contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, 700 year old fishing traditions, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuarine system, 530 bird species and 25,000 year-old coastal dunes – among the highest in the world. The name iSimangaliso means miracle and wonder, which aptly describes this unique place.  (UNESCO)
  • Robben Island (Western Cape): Robben Island is a complex, sensitive eco-system intertwined into our history it’s role in 17th and 20th centuries as a prison, a hospital for socially unacceptable groups and a military base. Its buildings, particularly those of the late 20th century such as the maximum security prison for political prisoners, witness the triumph of democracy and freedom over oppression and racism. – UNESCO
  • Cradle of Humankind (Gauteng): renowned as the place where humankind originated. It is here that the first hominid, Australopithecus, was found in 1924 (UNESCO)
  • uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park – (KwaZulu-Natal) The Maloti-Drakensberg Park is a transboundary site composed of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg National Park in South Africa and the Sehlathebe National Park in Lesotho. The site has exceptional natural beauty in its soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks, and golden sandstone ramparts as well as visually spectacular sculptured arches, caves, cliffs, pillars and rock pools. The site’s diversity of habitats protects a high level of endemic and globally important plants. The site harbors endangered species such as the Cape vulture (Gyps coprotheres) and the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus). Lesotho’s Sehlabathebe National Park also harbors the Maloti minnow (Pseudobarbus quathlambae), a critically endangered fish species only found in this park. This spectacular natural site contains many caves and rock-shelters with the largest and most concentrated group of paintings in Africa south of the Sahara. They represent the spiritual life of the San people, who lived in this area over a period of 4,000 years.
  • Mapungubwe National Park – (Limpopo) Mapungubwe developed into the largest kingdom in the sub-continent before it was abandoned in the 14th century. What survives are the almost untouched remains of the palace sites and also the entire settlement area dependent upon them, as well as two earlier capital sites, the whole presenting an unrivalled picture of the development of social and political structures over some 400 years. (UNESCO)
  • Cape Floral Region – (Western Cape) The Cape Floral Region takes up only 0.04% of the world’s land area, yet contains an astonishing 3% percent of its plant species. This makes it one of the richest areas for plants in the world and one of the globe’s 18 biodiversity hot spots.
  • Vredefort Dome – (Free State) Vredefort Dome, approximately 120 km south-west of Johannesburg, is a representative part of a larger meteorite impact structure, or astrobleme. Dating back 2,023 million years, it is the oldest astrobleme yet found on Earth.  (UNESCO)
  • Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape – (Northern Cape) The Richtersveld Community Conservancy is also the last refuge of Nama people living what is known as the transhumane lifestyle – to migrate seasonally with their livestock from mountains to the river and so make sustainable use of the fragile succulent ecosystem.  (UNESCO)