All Countries around the world have amazing stories and facts to share, often these facts are quite gobsmacking, to use an English expression. Well, down here in South Africa, that is that big chunk of land right at the bottom of the African Continent, we have facts that many will not believe! You may well find yourself checking these facts twice on Wikipedia…
#1 Table Mountain Flora.
There are more than 1,500 plant species on Table Mountain which is slap bang in the middle of our home city of Cape Town. More floral species than the entire United Kingdom.
#2 Unique and Amazing Animals.
SA is home to the largest bird (Ostrich), largest land mammal (African Elephant), tallest animal (Giraffe), heaviest flying bird (Khori Bustard), largest fish (Whale Shark), largest antelope (Eland), largest tree (Baobab), fastest land mammal (Cheetah), largest reptile (Leatherback Turtle). Not to mention Hippo, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Great White Shark, Python, Southern Right Whale (annual spawning visitor to our bays) and so much more.
#3 One Street ~ Two Nobel Peace Prize Winners.
Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu both had homes on Vilikazi Street in Soweto at one time. We very much doubt that can be topped.
#3 Home to 8 World Heritage Sites.
#4 Medical Innovation.
Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant in Cape Town all those years ago before man walked on the moon, however, since then several more medical solutions have been offered to the world and are now used.
#5 Lesotho ~ Highest Average Altitude Country.
Totally landlocked and surrounded by South Africa. This little country boasts stunning scenery with wide open mountain landscapes, only briefly interrupted by high altitude plains. A few of our tours enjoy the incredible mountain roads found in the “Roof of Africa”.
#5 Automatic Pool Cleaner.
That sucking cleaning device which lives in many swimming pools worldwide, well it was invented right here in South Africa. The original being the Kreepy Krauly (a patented design).
#7 Oldest Mountain
Table Mountain is generally acknowledged to be the oldest Mountain on the planet. We are currently privileged to have an amazing view from our apartment over Table Bay of this iconic geographical feature. The picture accompanying this blog post was taken from the apartment only a week ago, the picture is unaltered and untouched.
#8 Precious Metals & Diamonds.
South Africa has approx. one fifth of the planet’s gold and 90% of the platinum reserves. Uranium is more available than gold and mined as a by-product of gold mining.
The De Beer family is world famous for their relationship with international diamond mining and trading. The largest diamond, called the ‘Cullinan Diamond’ weighed 1.33 pounds and was discovered near Pretoria in 1905. Cut into 9 large stones and about 100 smaller stones. The largest being “The Star of Africa” at 530 carats. This is housed in the tower of London and set into the Sceptre of the Crown Jewels.
#9 Highest Commercial Bungee Jump
The Bloukrans Bridge, found on the Garden Route, offers a 216-meter freefall opportunity for those so inclined. We do ride over this bridge on a few of our tours and time allowing we’ll watch.
#10 Herbal Tea
Rooibos Tea, not really a tea at all, has become the world’s favourite hot and cold herbal drink, particularly in Germany and China. It grows primarily in a relatively small area of the Cedarberg Mountains not far from Cape Town. Much of the produce is exported. In South Africa it will be pretty much impossible not to find it on even the smallest supermarkets shelf. Every hotel and guesthouse we visit will have it in the rooms along with the usual tea and coffee complimentary drinks.
Our coastline has in excess of 2,000 shipwrecks around it. In part due to the occasional rough conditions experienced around the Cape. Not called “Cape of Storms” or “Cape of Good Hope” for no reason. But also due to the long history of many ships passing around the Cape’s Atlantic and Indian Oceans over centuries.
#12 Avian Species.
900 different avian species representing 10% of the planets bird life.
#13 Most Diverse Biomes.
South Africa has a diverse range of biomes: from deserts, wetlands, grasslands and bush, to subtropical forests, mountains and escarpments. In addition, the climate is as varied as are the biomes. In a single ride you can quite easily move from a decidedly balmy Medetteranean climactic condition and into the rugid semi-desert of the Karoo and a day later find yourself plunging down into lush humid sub-tropical foliage on the Wild Coast and as we travel into Zululand.
#14 Largest Brewing Company.
SAB Miller is the largest brewing company today. Approximately 50% of SAB’s production ships off to supply China’s beer market. We do keep some here though. A favourite beer here is not under the SAB Miller umbrella but rather is manufactured in Namibia using the “Reinhards Gebot“ (German purity law of 1516) manufactured with only hops barley and water, Windhoek Lager.
#15 Nuclear Weapons ~ Dismantled.
Nearly three decades after the Cold War ended, there are still about 23 000 nuclear warheads in the world. South Africas nuclear weapons capability was ended in 1989. South Africa is the first, and only country in the world, to have built nuclear weapons and then voluntarily dismantled its entire nuclear weapons programme.
#16 Earliest Sothern African Inhabitants.
The hunter-gather Sans and pastoral Khoi became known as the KhoiSan and lived in what is present-day Western Cape around 300AD. Small KhoiSan communities are still found today, particularly in the Northen Cape Kalahari.
#17 Largest Fish Migration.
The sardine run is the largest annual migration of fish. so huge it can be seen from space. Between May and July every year. Millions of small silver fish travel in vast shoals from the cold waters off South Africa’s Cape Point up to the coastlines of the northern Eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal. A feeding frenzy follows this event as many animal species (including humans) have a massive chow-down.
#18 Dinosaur Fossils.
The Karoo region in the Cape hinterland is home to some of the best fossils of early dinosaurs. In fact, it is estimated that some 80% of the mammalian fossils found to date were found in the Karoo.
#19 Largest Correspondence University.
The University of South Africa (Unisa), founded in 1873 as the University of the Cape of Good Hope, is the largest correspondence university in the world. Unisa became the first public university in the world to teach exclusively by means of distance education in 1946. Today, the university has more than 400 000 students registered from 130 countries.
#20 World’s Longest Wine Route
The Cape Winelands route is the world’s longest, a meandering road spanning 850 kilometres. Route 62 runs between Constantia in Cape Town to Port Elizabeth via Oudtshoorn and the Garden Route, the route passes by over 200 cellars and many several thousand hectares under irrigation. We knew that would get your attention!
#21 Most Official Languages.
South Africa with 9 Provinces and 11 official languages (English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sesotho, Setswana, Sepedi, Xitsonga, siSwati, isiNdebele, Tshivenda), Sign Language also officially recognised. Not to worry though, English is the primary language used by almost everyone.
Pretty impressive for that little bit at the bottom of Africa… who’d have thought?!
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