15 South African Facts You Need To Know Before Visiting!
South Africa is the southernmost country in the African continent, and it’s a big one, ranking 25th largest in the world in terms of area. Learn some facts about this amazing country right here!
1. 3 Capital Cities
Why have 1, when you can have 3?! South Africa is the only country in the world to have 3 official capitals. Pretoria in the north-east of the country which is the administrative capital, Cape Town on the south-west coast is the legislative capital, and Bloemfontein in the very heart of South Africa is the judicial capital.
2. The Rainbow Nation
Also referred to as the Rainbow Nation since the end of Apartheid and Nelson’s Mandela’s start as the leader of the nation, this is represented by the flag which is the most colourful in the world, involving 6 different colours in its simple design. South Africa adopted this flag only in 1994, but it is nonetheless one of the most recognizable of the world’s flags.
Although beaten by Zimbabwe’s 16 official languages, South Africa boasts a still impressive number of 11. These 11 languages are: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. Fewer than 2% of the population speak any other languages aside from these ones, although the majority of the country speaks more than one language.
4. National Symbols
South Africa like any country has several national symbols, the best known being that of their national animal, the Springbok, the fastest of all the antelope breeds, which is also where the national rugby team claim their name from. Other national symbols include the national flower the king protea, the national tree the real yellowwood, the national bird of the blue crane and finally the national fish(!), the galjoen which can weigh up to 7kg!
5. 9 Provinces
As previously mentioned, South Africa is a big country, and it is divided into 9 provinces. These are made up of: Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Limpopo, North West, Free State, and Western Cape. Gauteng is the most densely populated with over 12million of the 52million population living in this province.
6. G20 Member
South Africa is the only nation from the African continent to be a member of G20, the international forum for governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies. Founded in 1999, South Africa has been a member nation since that time.
Like much of the African continent, South Africa boasts an incredible plethora of wildlife, including Africa’s famed Big 5 which includes: the African lion, the African elephant, the Cape buffalo, the African leopard and the black/white rhinoceros. One of only 12 African nations where you can see all of the 5, South Africa has many reserves and conservation schemes in place to protect their amazing but sadly often endangered wildlife.
8. Marine Life
With a huge coastline of 2,500km stretching from the south-western Atlantic Ocean round the tip of Africa to the Indian Ocean, South Africa also has some amazing sea life. Whales, dolphins, seals, penguins (!) and of course sharks frequent the waters around the cape, as well as a huge variety of other fish, sea creatures and ocean plantation.
South Africa is a great sporting nation with 3 sports vying for number one place in the hearts of the nation. While rugby and cricket are hugely popular with the national teams being major players in the world standings, it is football that is the most popular sport in this country. The national side is known as Bafana Bafana, meaning ‘go the boys!’
10. World Cups
In addition to their beloved sports teams, South Africa is the only country in the world apart from England to have hosted the cricket, football and rugby world cups. Hosting the rugby world cup in 1995 which the national side the Springboks won, the cricket world cup in 2003 and the football world cup in 2010, South Africa is a great nation host.
11. Adams Calendar
Adams Calendar is reputedly the oldest man made structure in the world, and it was discovered in 2003. If correct and it dates back to around 75000BC, it would indeed be the oldest architecture on Earth. As with any discovery it has been hotly disputed, although when you consider cave paintings in South Africa have been dated back to this era too, perhaps it is not such a wild claim after all.
12. The Shoe House of Mpumalanga
Located at the border between the 2 provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, you can find the incredible Shoe House. Constructed in 1990 by artist and hotelier Rob Van Zyl for his wife, this amazing yet bizarre structure in the shape of a boot is now a popular tourist attraction, and includes a small museum of the artist’s work inside.
13. San People
The San People, also known as Bushmen or Basarwa, are a group of indigenous nomadic hunter-gather tribes that roam southern Africa, including in South Africa. Living off the land, they made news in 2012 when it was discovered that a group were using tools nearly identical to those found in in the KwaZulu-Natal province of the country that dated back to 44000BC!
The Witwatersrand Basin not far from Johannesburg is found in South Africa’s north-easterly province of Gauteng, is famed for the gold that can be found there. Having produced over 40,000 metric tons of gold, which is 50% of all gold ever mined on Earth, Witwatersrand is the world’s largest gold reserve.
The national dish of South Africa is called bobotie and due to its Indonesian tastes, is thought to have been introduced to the country by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th Century. Made from spiced minced meat (usually beef or lamb) and then an egg based topping, it’s a popular mildly spicy dish.