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South Africa’s 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

  1. iSimangaliso Wetland Park
  2. Robben Island
  3. Cradle of Humankind
  4. uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park
  5. Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape
  6. Cape Floral Kingdom
  7. Vredefort Dome
  8. Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape
  1. iSimangaliso (Formerly Greater St Lucia) Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal:

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park has a rich biodiversity and boasts more species than the Kruger National Park. These include SA’s the largest concentration of hippopotamus, sea turtles, elephants, humpback whales and over 521 bird species.

The St Lucia Estuary is the largest on the African continent.

It boasts the world’s largest forested sand dunes (up to 180m)

The Park has 5 individual ecosystems - the marine system, eastern shores, lake system, Mkuze and Umfolozi swamps and the western shores

The Park comprises: St Lucia Game Reserve, False Bay Park, St Lucia Marine Reserve, Sodwana Bay National Park, Maputoland Marine Reserve, Cape Vidal, Ozabeni, Mfabeni, Tewate Wilderness Area and Mkuze Game Reserve.

  1. Robben Island, Western Cape:

Robben Island, world renowned location of the political prison where Nelson Mandela and many other Freedom Fighters spent years incarcerated, is situated about 12 kilometres off the coast of Cape Town.

A popular tourist destination, Robben Island was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999. It can be reached via ferry from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Daily tours are conducted former prisoners. Call ahead to book your visit to Robben Island as there are sometimes problems with the ferry service. Weather can also affect tours.

  1. Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng:

Home to more than 3 dozen limestone caves containing fossils, and the 2.3 million year old ‘Mrs Ples’ fossil found in the Sterkfontein Cave, The Cradle of Humankind (located 50km northwest of Johannesburg) is 183 square miles contains some of the earliest hominid fossils ever discovered. Most recently, in early 2010 a school child (son of paleoanthropologist Prof. Lee Berger) discovered the ‘Karabo’ skull belonging to a young male hominid dating back almost 2 million years at this site.

  1. uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, KwaZulu-Natal:

Just two hours’ drive from Durban, the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a slice of heaven here on earth. It boasts Africa’s highest mountain range south of Kilimanjaro. With endless, rolling grasslands, river valleys and gorges, and a wealth of flora and fauna the site is perfect for nature lovers. History and geology buffs are also drawn to this World Heritage Site for the ancient San rock paintings that decorate the walls of caves in the park. Bird watchers can look out for some of the 300-plus species of birds that live in this Eden, while game seekers can keep an eye open for the many buck species, the baboons, porcupines and hyrax.

  1. Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, Limpopo:

Mapungubwe (Place of the Stone of Wisdom) was South Africa’s first kingdom. It is located on the northern border of South Africa, adjoining Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Although it was discovered back in 1932, this Iron Age site was kept secret from the public until as recently as 1993, (just prior to South Africa's first democratic elections) because it contained strong evidence of a highly advanced indigenous society existing centuries before European colonialism spread across Africa – and that ran contrary to the racist ideology of apartheid.

  1. The Cape Floral Kingdom, Western Cape - Eastern Cape:

Stretching from the Cape Peninsula to the Eastern Cape, the Cape Floral Kingdom consists of eight protected areas:

Table Mountain National Park

Cedarburg Wilderness Area

Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

Boland Mountain Complex

De Hoop Nature Reserve

Bosmansbos Nature Reserve

Swartberg Complex

Baviaanskloof (this one is the only area that crosses into the Eastern Cape)

The Cape Floral Kingdom consists mostly (80%) of Fynbos, a plant indigenous to South Africa. The Peninsula alone is home to more than 2 285 species of flora, 90 of which are endemic. Apart from Fynbos, the Cape Floral Kingdom also includes Renosterveld, Succulent Karoo, Sub-tropical Thicket and Afromontane.

  1. Vredefort Dome, Free State:

The Vredefort Dome forms part of a larger meteorite impact structure and dates back 2,023 million years. It is the oldest, largest and most deeply eroded astrobleme found on earth so far.

According to scientists, the Vredefort Dome (which has a radius of 190km) resulted in devastating global change, as well as major evolutionary changes. It is older than the Chixculub structure in Mexico (65 million years old), which is said to be the site of the impact that led to the extinction of Dinosaurs.

  1. Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape, Northern Cape:

The most recently added site to the list of South Africa’s 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape is a dramatic mountainous desert in the Northern Cape Province, owned and managed by the Nama community who are direct descendants of the Khoi Khoi who once lived here.

The Richtersveld boasts extreme landscapes comprising rugged kloofs, high mountains and a harsh climate. Photographers and artists will find plenty of inspiration here.

Visit one of the 3 small Nama villages in the region - Kuboes, Lekkersing and Eksteenfontein – to learn more about the Nama people and history. Take time to discover just some of the 650 plus species of plant life that thrive in this dry, barren-looking park. Animal lovers may be lucky enough to spot buck, monkeys, baboons, zebra and even the leopard – although this last is extremely elusive.