82 Interesting Facts About South Africa

Last updated on November 4th, 2016 at 01:07 pm

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa, is the southernmost sovereign state in Africa. South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Every country has specific things about them that makes them very different to other countries in the world, and South Africa is no exception. Following is a list of:

82 interesting facts about South Africa

#1. The longest continuous wine route on earth is found in South Africa.

#2. It is the largest meat producer in Africa.

#3. Table Mountain is one of the oldest mountains on the planet.

#4. South Africa is the only country in the world where right hand drive cars are produced by Mercedes Benz.

#5. The Bloukrans Bridge is the highest bridge for bungee jumping in the world.

#6. The variety of flower species found on Table Mountain number more than those found in the entire United Kingdom.

#7. Rovos Rail is the most lavish train in the world.

An inside view of the luxurious Rovos Rail, South Africa.
Interesting Facts About South Africa – An inside view of the luxurious Rovos Rail. Image credit – Gary Bembridge

#8. South Africa’s lion, wildebeest, cheetah and springbok, are four of the seven fastest mammals on earth.

#9. Boulders Beach, Cape Town, is where you can swim with colonies of Jackass penguins.

#10. With more than 6 million trees in Johannesburg, it is believed to be the site of the largest man-made forest on earth.

#11. The biggest and oldest one-day marathon in the world, the Comrades Marathon, is run between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, in Kwazulu Natal.

#12. Although the Blyde River Canyon is only rated third largest in the world, it is believed to be the biggest “green” one on earth.

Interesting facts about South Africa: Blyde River Canyon
Interesting Facts About South Africa – A beautiful sight of the Blyde River Canyon. Image credit – Ben Haeringer

#13. Rooibos/Redbush tea, is naturally caffeine-free, and is only found in the Cederberg, Western Cape.

#14. Despite skiing and snowboarding not being typical winter sports in the country, it is possible to enjoy them in the Drakensberg Mountains.

#15. Two thirds of Africa’s electricity is generated in South Africa.

#16. As much as 80% of Africa’s rail infrastructure is found in South Africa.

#17. Most of the world’s macadamia nuts come from South Africa.

#18. South Africa is three times bigger than Texas, and five times bigger than Japan. 

#19. The world’s largest bird, the ostrich, is found here.

#20. The African elephant is the largest land mammal in the world. The African bush elephants can weigh up to 11 tons and live up to 70 years!

#21. South Africa is home to the tallest animal in the world, the giraffe.

#22. The Least Dwarf Shrew, the smallest mammal in the world, lives in South Africa.

#23. The world’s largest reptile, the Leatherback Turtle, is found in South African waters.

#24. No less than eight of the world’s heritage sites are found here.

#25. South Africa is home to the largest antelope in the world, the Eland..

#26. The whale shark is found in the ocean waters of South Africa.

#27. South Africa is home to the world’s heaviest flying bird, the Khori Bustard.

#28. About 1/5 of the world’s gold comes from mines in South Africa.

#29. About 900 different types of birds are in South Africa, which is about 10% of the total bird species on earth.

#30. The kingdom of Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa.

#31. South African inventions include the Kreepy Krauly automatic pool cleaner, the CAT Scan, Q20 lubricant, Pratley’s Putty, and the Smartlock Safety Syringe, among others.

#32. South Africa has wetlands, deserts, bush, grasslands, mountains, escarpments, and subtropical forests.

#33. South Africa’s tap water is considered to be the third best and safest water in the world that is ready to drink.

#34. South Africa was only one of two other countries outside of the USA, where the Hummer was manufactured by General Motors.

#35. No other country in the world abandoned its nuclear arms program voluntarily like South Africa did.

#36. The oldest human remains, more than 160,000 years old, were discovered in South Africa.

#37. There are three capital cities in South Africa, namely the Executive Capital of Pretoria, the Judicial Capital of Bloemfontein, and the Legislative Capital of Cape Town.

#38. South Africa is the only country in the world to have played host to the rugby, soccer, and cricket World Cups.

#39. Table Mountain is considered to be one of 12 main energy centers on the planet emitting spiritual, magnetic, and electric energies.

#40. SABMiller is considered to be the largest beer brewing company by volume, in the world.

#41. According to the UK’s National Physical Laboratory, Cape Town is the fifth in line for having the best blue sky on earth.

View from Chapmans Peak of Hout Bay harbour
A beautiful view from Chapmans Peak of Hout Bay harbour, South Africa. 🙂 Image credit – Ben Crouch

#42. There are only 6 floral kingdoms on the planet, and South Africa is home to one of them, namely Fynbos.

#43. With 11 official languages, South Africa has the most in the world.

#44. The Western Deep Level mines, at almost 4 km, are the deepest in the world

#45. One in five adults in South Africa attends a gym or health club at least once a month.

7 Facts about Apartheid

#46. When it all started — way back in 1913, three years after gaining its independence, the notorious Land Act was passed in South Africa before apartheid, forcing black South Africans to live only in certain areas.

#47. Apartheid is made a law of the country –  with apartheid becoming a law around 1950, marriage and sexual acts between whites and people of other races were banned by the government. People were classified by color, and pass laws were brought into being, requiring people other than whites, to carry documents giving them permission to be in restricted areas.

#48. Separate Development is added to the apartheid policy — in 1958, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, the then president of South Africa, included “separate development” to the apartheid policy. Black South Africans were separated from each other into 10 homelands referred to as Bantustans, which only added to the poverty in Africa.This allowed the government to verify their claim that there was no black majority in the country.

#49. Apartheid is opposed — people of other races began resisting the policy of apartheid by striking, protesting, having peaceful demonstrations, political actions, and ultimately, armed conflict. A mass meeting was arranged between the ANC and the South Indian National Congress in 1952, where attendees burned their pass books.

#50. The meeting was broken up by the government, and 150 people were arrested for treason. Most resistance leaders were either arrested or executed by 1961, and in 1963, Nelson Mandela, co-founder of Umkhonto we Siswe/Spear of the Nation, the military wing of the ANC, was imprisoned from 1963 until 1990. It was his imprisonment that drew the attention and help for the anti-apartheid cause from the international community.

#51. The end of apartheid — in 1976 in Soweto, a black township outside of Johannesburg, thousands of black children protested against the requirement of Afrikaans in schools, causing further government restrictions, and a country-wide recession. This resulted in the international community being convinced even further, that apartheid was not bringing prosperity and peace to the nation, and the policy was denounced by the United Nations General Assembly in 1973. The president of South Africa at the time, Piet Botha, attempted to bring about certain reforms to the country’s policies, but these fell short, and he was pressurized to step down as leader of the country.

#52. W. de Klerk became the new president of South Africa, and it was under his leadership that a new constitution was formed in 1994. Apartheid ended officially that year, when elections were held that resulted in a government with a non-white majority.

About South African History

#53. Two Nobel prize winners, namely Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both lived on Vilakazi Street in Soweto.

#54. Some of the oldest and most diverse dinosaur fossils were discovered here.

#55. South Africa is the second largest producer of fruit on the planet.

#56. The smallest (less than 1 mm) and largest succulents (the Baobab tree) in the world are found in South Africa.

#57. It is the first country in the world to succeed in turning coal into oil.

#58. More than 2000 shipwrecks lie under the waters off the coastline of South Africa.

#59. Professor Chris Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant.

#60. Palace of the Lost City, one of the largest themed hotels in the world, is found in South Africa.

#61. Scientists have discovered that the region is an important center of human evolution.

#62. South Africa has an abundance of mines in the country, with diamonds first being discovered on the banks of the Orange River between 1866 and 1867, and the first gold in the Transvaal, in late 19Th Century.

South Africa Map
South Africa Map

About South African culture

#63. Art — art has always been a part of the South African culture, with many South African artists receiving recognition for their work all over the world.

#64. Architecture — the enormous ethnic and cultural diversity can be seen in architecture all over the country. One of the most famous architects, Sir Herbert Baker, was the designer of Rhodes Memorial and St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, St John’s College in Johannesburg, and the world famous Union Buildings, in Pretoria.

The Palace of the Lost City, Sun City, North West, South Africa
The Palace of the Lost City, Sun City, North West, South Africa. Image credit – South African Tourism

#65. Literature — South Africa has produced some world famous authors, including among many others, Alan Paton, Breyten Bretenbach, Olive Schreiner, Nadine Gordimer, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Andre Brink.

#66. Movies — just a few of the well-known movies to come out of South Africa include The God’s must be Crazy, Funny People, District 9, and Tsotsi.

#67. Music — Brenda Fassie, Ladysmith Black Mambaso, the Soweto String Quartet, Hugh Masekela, and Miriam Makeba, are some of the many talented black musicians to have come from South Africa. Jonathan Butler, Johnny Clegg, Just Jinger, and Seether, are a few more of the notable South African singers and bands.

#68. Food — cuisine is just as diverse as the people in African culture. Meat is the main ingredient in the majority of meals throughout the country. Some dishes unique to the country are bunny chows, koeksusters, melktert, and of course the braai, South Africa’s equivalent of the barbecue in some other countries.

#69. Wine — Wines have been produced here since 1659, and South Africa is now one of the topmost wine producers in the world.

#70. Infant care — mothers, older sisters, and grandmothers, are traditionally responsible for infant care in the colored and black communities.

#71. Sexual orientation — it became legal in 2006 for same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. However, even though this is now a constitutional right, it is not readily accepted socially, especially in rural areas.

#72. Science and technology — several important science and technology achievements were born in South Africa, including the Yellow Fever vaccine, molecular biology, and the biggest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere.

South Africa facts for Kids

#73. The Tugela Falls are the second-highest in the world.

#74. Part of the border between South Africa and Namibia is formed by the Orange River, the longest river in the country.

#75. Many human remains, tools, and artifacts from more than 100,000 years ago were found in South Africa, earning it the name of “The Cradle of Humankind”.

#76. Just as in Australia and the United Kingdom, South Africans also drive on the left side of the road.

#77. The Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet at Cape Point, the southernmost tip of the Cape Peninsula.

#78. Cape Agulhas, which lies about 75 miles/120 km from Cape Town, is the southernmost point of South Africa.

#79. Although conservation is considered an important issue, overpopulation and deforestation are causing the loss of many natural habitats.

#80. Cave paintings dating back 75,000 years have been discovered here.

#81. South Africa is teeming with wildlife including animals such as a variety of monkey species, snakes, elephants, and lions, to name but a few.

#82. South African coastlines are full of marine life such as sharks and dolphins, with more than 2000 different species visiting the area at some stage during the year.

Interesting facts about South Africa: V&A Waterfront - Cape Town
Interesting Facts About South Africa – V&A Waterfront – Cape Town. Image credit – South African Tourism

Quick/fast facts about South Africa

Capital CityPretoria (executive)
Bloemfontein (judicial)
Cape Town (legislative)
Largest CityJohannesburg
Total area1,219,090 sq km
Population53,675,563 (2015)
Official LanguageAfrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
BordersBotswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe and it surrounds the small Kingdom of Lesotho.
CurrencySouth African rand (ZAR)
ReligionChristianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.
Life expectancy62.34 Years (2012)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life.
Climatemostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights
Terrainvast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain
Natural resourcesgold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, rare earth elements, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
Agricultural land79.4%
Birth rate20.75 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Death rate9.91 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Sex ratio0.98 male(s)/female (2015 est.)
National symbolspringbok (antelope), king protea flower; national colors: red, green, blue, yellow, black, white
National anthem"National Anthem of South Africa"
Industriesmining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair
Exports$85.14 billion (2015 est.)
gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment
Imports$86.81 billion (2015 est.)
machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, foodstuffs
GDP - per capita (PPP)$13,200 (2015 est.)
Time ZoneSAST (UTC+2)
Internet country code.za
Internet users27.868 million
percent of population: 51.9% (July 2015 est.)
Calling Code+27
Drives on theLeft