Unusual facts about South Africa

  • 26 June 2015 | Sarah Came
The cheetah is the world's fastest land mammal. Image courtesy of Martin Heigan

We all know South Africa is a wild, weird and wonderful place, and we want our visitors to know this too, so why not tell them some of these interesting South African facts?

South Africa is famed for its nature and wildlife, and has plenty of reasons to be:

  • The Cape Floral Kingdom is the only one of Earth’s six floral kingdoms entirely contained within one country
  • About a quarter of the Earth’s mammal species are found in Africa
  • South Africa was the first country in the world to protect the great white shark (in 1991)
  • Our list of largest, tallest, smallest and fasted fauna and flora is impressive:
    • Largest land mammal – elephant
    • Fastest land mammal – cheetah
    • Largest reptile – leatherback turtle
    • Smallest mammal – least dwarf shrew
    • Largest bird – ostrich
    • Heaviest flying bird – kori bustard
    • Largest fish – whale shark
    • Tallest animal – giraffe
    • Largest antelope – eland
    • Largest tree – baobab

South Africans are good at digging holes:

  • At more than 4km deep, the Mponeng gold mine in the North West province is the deepest mine in the world
  • The Big Hole in Kimberley is the deepest man-made hole in the world
  • The Jagersfontein mine is the biggest hand-dug hole in the world

The Big Hole in Kimberley is the deepest man-made hole in the world. Image courtesy of David Brossard

Our people aren’t only good at digging, it seems we are smart as well:

  • The first heart transplant in the world was done by Dr Christiaan Barnard at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town
  • The automated pool cleaner (Kreepy Krauly®), Pratley’s Putty®, Q20® lubricant, the CAT scan, Smartlock Safety Syringe®, and breakwater dolosse were all invented in South Africa
  • South Africa was also the first country in the world to develop coal-to-oil technology

We also have a lot of old things:

  • Some of the oldest evidence of life on Earth has been discovered in South Africa – a blue-green algae that is 3.5-billion years old
  • The Vredefort Dome UNESCO World Heritage Site is the oldest meteor scar in the world
  • We have more than 2 000 shipwrecks dotted around our perilous coast, most of which are over 500 years old
  • The Sudwala Caves, besides being beautiful, are one of the oldest cave systems on Earth

The Sudwala Caves are one of the oldest cave systems on Earth. Image courtesy of Andreas Karsten

And if your guest wants entertainment, these top spots should suffice:

  • Route 62 is said to be the longest wine route in the world, at about 1 000km
  • Bloukrans Bridge on the Garden Route is the location of the world’s highest commercial bungee jump, at 216m