10 things you probably didn’t know about South Africa

How well do you think you know South Africa? You may know that it is home to the iconic Table Mountain, Robben Island, rooibos tea, that the only street in the world to house two Nobel Peace prize-winners is in Soweto. There’s a lot you probably already know about this beautiful country, so we put together ten things you might not know, yet.

1. South Africa has the most official languages

While many countries have several spoken languages with one or two of them being recognised as ‘official’, South Africa boasts 11 official languages. English, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, Sepedi, Setswana, Sesotho, Xitsonga, SiSwati and Tshivenda. You’ll find some of the languages more prevalent depending on where you are in the country. And if you want to make sure all your bases are covered when greeting a local, give this a try: Sanibonani (isiZulu), Molo (isiXhosa), Hallo (Afrikaans), Thobela (Sepedi), Dumela (Setswana), Lumela (Sesotho), Abusheni (Xitsonga), Sanibona (SiSwati), Avuwani (Tshivenda), Salibonani (isiNdebele), and Hello (English).

2. The University of South Africa is a pioneer of tertiary distance education and is the largest correspondence university in the world (Unisa)

Founded in 1873 as the University of the Cape of Good Hope, Unisa became the first public university in the world to teach exclusively by means of distance education in 1946. Today, the university has approximately 300,000 students.

3. Deepest Gold Mine in the world.

Dig a bit deeper, more than 4km deeper in fact, and you’ll discover the deepest mine in the world, AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng gold mine near Johannesburg. Expansions should see the mine being operational for at least the next two decades. It takes over an hour to travel from the surface right down to the bottom, and there are at least two gold reefs in its depths. The temperature of the rock so deep down gets very hot and the air in the tunnels is cooled by pumping slurry ice into the depths.

4. South Africa has the second oldest film industry in the world (Set Build)

Only the USA created a film industry before South Africa. In 1898 The Empire Palace of Varieties in Commissioner Street, Johannesburg, first screened films of views of Johannesburg taken from the front of a tram and of the President of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger, leaving his house for the Raadzaal. The favourable exchange rate, good weather conditions, varied locations and world-class production facilities have made South Africa a preferred destination for international film, television and commercial producers.

5. Top 5 Highest commercial bungee jump in the world

Adrenaline junkies will be eager to fling themselves off the world’s highest commercial bridge bungee in the world at Bloukrans Bridge in the Tsitsikamma region between the Eastern and Western Cape.

At a dizzying 216 metres high, the popular jump sees thrill-seekers plunge towards the Bloukrans River below before bouncing to a stop. Bloukrans Bridge Bungy is one of the world’s highest commercial bridge bungy at 216 metres (709 ft) above the Bloukrans River. It is situated at Bloukrans Bridgeon the N2 Highway at the border between the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape in the Tsitsikamma area of South Africa’s Garden Route.

6. South Africa’s Drinking Water Is Rated 3rd Best In The World.

Travelling Africa, the one caution you would always get when you check into your hotel is “don’t drink the water” but when travelling to South Africa, you won’t have to worry about that.

South Africa has the distinction of being one of only 12 countries in the world where it is safe to drink our tap water.  As of 2012, the quality of South African tap water was ranked as third best overall.

7. South Africa is now one of the world’s top ten wine producers

The birth of wine production in South Africa dates back to 1659, when a Dutch settler in South Africa recorded the successful pressing of wine from French Muscadet grapes. Many claim that Route 62, stretching for about 850 kilometers (over 500 miles), is the longest continuous wine route in the world. Whether or not that is true, it is certainly one of the most scenic.

8. South Africa is the only country in the world with three capital cities. 

Contrary to what many think, Pretoria is not the capital of South Africa. In reality, South Africa has three capitals: Pretoria (administrative), Cape Town (legislative), and Bloemfontein (judicial). The only city specified in the Constitution of South Africa is Cape Town, the seat of Parliament. Most foreign embassies are in Pretoria, but many countries also have consulates in the other cities.

9. Archaeologists have discovered some of the oldest hominid remains in South Africa, often called the “Cradle of Humankind.”

The UNESCO Fossil Hominids Sites comprise five separate locations. Archaeological evidence traces human evolution back at least 2.5 million years. South Africa is rich in remains and artifacts of early hominids, proving they used stone tools 2 million years ago and created fire 1.8 million years ago.

10. South Africa has the oldest meteor scar in the world

The Vredefort Dome is a part of a massive meteorite crater. The impact crater’s radius is about 300 kilometers (186 miles). Calculations indicate that the mountain-sized meteorite – between 5 and 10 kilometers (3 to 6 miles) across – was traveling at more than 36,000 kilometers per hour (22,369 miles per hour). In 2005, Vredefort Dome became a World Heritage Site.

South Africa is a great travel destination and we hope these 10 facts about the beautiful country encourage you to consider travelling to South Africa for your next vacation.

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Emmanuel Obuobi Bekoe
Hadithi Africa