25 Interesting Facts about South Africa

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Want to know more about South Africa? Here are 25 Interesting Facts about South Africa that you probably didn’t know before reading this!

To make this even more fun, I want to challenge you as well. How many of these South Africa facts did you know before reading this? Share your result in the comment section!

1. There are 11 official languages

South Africa is home to a wide range of ethnic group and it’s sometimes nicknamed the rainbow nation because of its multicultural society. It’s unique in the way that 11 languages have official status, and many more are spoken on a daily basis.

The official languages are Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, English, Northern Sotho, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Tsonga, Swazi, Venda, Southern Ndebele. 

2. The Braai

You can’t go to South Africa without experiences a traditional Braai, or a barbecue. Everything can go on the Braai, and it will include a nice fire that the food is being grilled over. 

The braai

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3. There are 3 capitals in South Africa

While most countries in the world have 1 capital, this isn’t the case here, and there are in fact 3 official state capitals. These are Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (executive), and Bloemfontein (judicial). 

4. The world’s largest diamond was found here

In 1905, the 25 January, the world’s largest diamond was found in the Premier Mine in Pretoria. It had a weight of 1,33 pound and was a 3106 carat.

5. Home to the world’s longest wine route

You can drive for 850 kilometers through the Cape Winelands and experience 350 years of winemaking, and miles and miles of vineyards. If you enjoy wine, this might be one of the best road trips you can make.

Cape Wine route

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6. Apartheid ruled for nearly 50 years

Apartheid was a system of segregation based on rases that ruled from 1948 until the early 1990s. This racial system was luckily banished in 1994 and was characterized by white supremacy even though the majority of the population were either Black African or Asian.

Still today you can see the results of apartheid and there are still groups within the society that supports the Apartheid and in recent years the opposite way around. 

7. Home to the Big Five

All of the Big Five animals can be found in the national parks of South Africa, and many international tourists come here to see them in the wild. The Big Five are lion, cheetah, elephant, cape buffalo, and rhinoceros. 

The big five

Photo: Shutterstock

8. South Africa is part of BRICS

BRICS is an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Almost half of the world’s population is represented by the BRICS countries, and they account for a large amount of the world economy as well.

9. Durban is the largest port in Africa

The Durban harbor handles more than 80 million tons of cargo each year. 

There are more than 58 berths, and over 50,000 people are employed by the port and related businesses. Around 60% of all imports and exports in the country pass through the port of Durban.

Durban

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10. More than 3000 shipwrecks can be found around the coastline

Many historical ships have been destroyed along the South African coasts, especially near the Cape of Storms. Some of these belonged to explorers while others were used in the slave trade. 

There are also some more recent shipwrecks to discover along the coast, and in total it is estimated that there are more than 3000 shipwrecks. 

11. There are 10 Unesco World Heritage Sites

South Africa is a land that has been inhabited for thousands and thousands of year. Some would even say that it’s a part of the cradle of modern day humans, and evidence of civilizations goes far back in time. 

In addition to humans, the natural resources and abundance of wildlife make it a unique place, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the country has several World Heritage Sites. As of 2018, there are now 10 Unesco World Heritage Sites in South Africa. 

  • Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa
  • Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape
  • Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape
  • Robben Island
  • Khomani Cultural Landscape
  • Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains
  • Cape Floral Region Protected Areas
  • iSimangaliso Wetland Park
  • Vredefort Dome
  • Maloti-Drakensberg Park
iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Photo: Shutterstock

12. South Africans have one of the highest rates of HIV in the world

Nearly 1 in 5 is carrying the virus, which means that more than 10 million South Africans carry HIV. Hopefully, scientists will discover a cure within the near future.

13. There are beaches with penguins

Boulders beach has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, and while the beach is beautiful, it is rather its inhabitants that are luring visitors. 

The Penguins settled here in 1982, and they can only be found on the coastlines of Southern Africa. It is believed that around 3000 penguins are living here in the area.

Boulders Beach

Photo: Shutterstock

14. It’s the only country to voluntarily abandon its nuclear weapons program

The former president Frederik Willem de Klerk built six crude atomic bombs and had started building its seventh when they decided to voluntarily dismantle its nuclear weapons and cancel the programme in 1989.

One of the most admirable facts about South Africa in a world where more and more countries increase their defense and weapon arsenal. 

15. It is the birth country of Nelson Mandela

One of the greatest heroes of all times, Nelson Mandela. He was an anti-apartheid revolutionary, a political leader who became president from 1994 to 1999 and thus became the first black head of state. 

He served 27 years in prison after being imprisoned in 1962 and accused to overthrow the state. He later received the Nobel Peace Prize, and more than 250 honors, and is often described as the Father of the Nation.

Nelson Mandela

Photo: Alessia Pierdomenico / Shutterstock.com

5 x Fun Facts about South Africa

  • There are more cellphones than radio, tv, and computers together
  • The Rovos Rail is one of the most luxurious trains
  • South Africa is home to the highest commercial bungee jump in the world at 710 feet
  • The Rooibos tea is exclusive to South Africa and can only be found in Cederberg
  • Fried mopane worm is an indigenous delicacy
Mopane worm

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5 x South Africa Facts for Kids

  • The springbok is the national animal
  • There are more than 10 million trees in Johannesburg
  • First ever heart transplant in the world was performed here in 1967
  • The King Protea is the national flower 
  • Football, Cricket, and Rugby are the most popular sports
Springbok

Photo: Shutterstock

General Facts about South Africa

Below are some general info such as total population, land area, biggest lake, highest mountain and other general facts about South Africa that might be interesting to know.

  • Total Population: 57,7 million people
  • Demonym: South African
  • Capital: Pretoria, Cape Town, and Bloemfontein
  • Largest city: Johannesburg
  • Life expectancy: 62,77 years
  • Highest Mountain: Mafadi Mountain (3451 meters above the sea)
  • Land area: 1,221,037 km2 (471,445 sq mi)
  • Largest Lake: Lake Victoria
  • National Day: 27 April
  • Government: Unitary dominant-party parliamentary constitutional republic
  • President: Cyril Ramaphosa
  • Currency: South African Rand (ZAR)
  • Official language: Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, English, Northern Sotho, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Tsonga, Swazi, Venda, Southern Ndebele
  • Religion: The majority of the population are Christian or non-religious
  • National song: “National anthem of South Africa”
  • Time zone: UTC+2 (SAST)
  • Country Number/Prefix: +27
  • Country Code: ZA

The Biggest Cities in South Africa

If you’re looking for facts about South Africa, it might also be interesting to know which are the biggest cities.

JohannesburgNelson Mandela Bay
Cape TownBuffalo City
EthekwiniManguang
EkurhuleniEmfuleni
TshwanePolokwane

Flag of South Africa

south africa flag

Map of South Africa

Below, you can see the country’s territory marked in yellow. It has borders to Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland (Eswatini), Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho, where the latter is completely landlocked. 

Map of South Africa

Photo: Shutterstock

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How many of these South Africa Facts did you know beforehand? Share your result in the comment section below!

April 8th, 2019|

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Swedish Nomad

Hello! I’m Alex Waltner — A Swedish Travel Blogger & Photographer.

My vision with this blog is to inspire people to travel more and better by sharing useful travel guides and tips from my adventures around the world.

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