The heritage of South Africa represents the country's rich historical past which dates back to the earliest human settlements in the world. Historical evidences like the fossilized footprints near Cape Town and rock paintings in KwaZulu-Natal's Drakensberg Mountains bear testimony to the origin of mankind in this ancient country. The heritage of South Africa is well preserved and provides an interesting insight into the country's traditional cultures.
According to the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO, South Africa constitutes seven of the world's official heritage sites. These heritage sites are:
- Robben Island
- Greater St Lucia Wetland Park
- Cape Floral Region
- Cradle of Humankind
- Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park
- Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape
- Vredefort Dome
Located at a distance of 11 km off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island is one of the world heritage sites in South Africa. Between the 17 th and 20 th centuries, Robben Island was used as a prison for the political activists during the apartheid era.
Robben Island is essentially renowned as the place where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Ever since, this island has come to symbolize the triumph of democracy over domination. Today the island is famous for the Robben Island Museum which attracts visitors interested in South Africa's history and heritage.
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park is positioned on the central Zululand coast of KwaZulu-Natal and is noted for its remarkable biodiversity. The total size of Greater St Lucia is 2, 34,566 hectares and constitutes 13 adjacent protected areas.
The park's landscape offers habitat to a variety of marine, wetland and savannah species including about 521 bird species. The varied St Lucia landscape incorporates wide submarine canyons, forested dune cordon and a montage of wetlands, sandy beaches, forests, grasslands, lakes, savannah and coral reefs.
Cape Floral Region
Cape Floral Region consists of 3% of the world's plant species, with a total size of 553 000-hectares and comprises of eight protected areas. The region is also one of the world's biodiversity hotspots and offers habitat to 11,000 species of marine animal, which includes 142 reptile species.
The Cape Floral Region is the world's richest area for plants and of the 9,600 species of vascular plants found here, about 70% is endemic.
Cradle of Humankind
The Cradle of Humankind has the richest concentration of hominid fossils in the world with evidences of the origins of mankind over 3 million years. This world heritage site constitutes the areas of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and environs.
The Cradle of Humankind covers a total area of 47,000 hectares and is found in the Gauteng and North West provinces.
Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park
Located in the west of KwaZulu-Natal on the Lesotho border, Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is the highest mountain range of South Africa. The park is a marvelous natural beauty, with the richest concentration of rock art paintings in the country.
Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape
Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape is situated at the confluence of Limpopo and Shashe Rivers in the Limpopo province. The site was South Africa's first kingdom and was abandoned in the 14 th century.
Sited around 120km south west of Johannesburg, Vredefort Dome is a part of a larger meteorite impact structure. The Vredefort Dome is the world's oldest and biggest observable meteorite impact site.