Interesting facts and trivia about South Africa:
South Africa is a weird and wonderful place, and has spawned some truly gifted pioneers and inventors, as well as possessing some unique and marvellous, biological and geological attributes.
Below is a big-fat-list of some interesting facts about South Africa, if you know any others please let me know so I can add them.
1. South Africa has the oldest meteor scar in the world, just across the Vaal River near Parys, called the Vredefort Dome. The meteor plummeted to Earth nearly two billion years ago (Earth is said to be 4,5 billion years old), pre-dating the heady days of oxygen and multi-celled life.
2. The rocks around Barberton in Mpumalanga are some of the most ancient in the world – over three billion years old. Because they are also the most accessible such formations, NASA scientists come here to gain an idea of how life might form on distant planets.
3. The Tugela Falls is the second highest waterfall in the world, where the water tumbles down 850 metres. First place goes to the Angel Falls in Venezuela at 979 metres.
4. There are 18 000 indigenous vascular plant species in South Africa of which 80% are uniquely South African.
5. Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world – and the largest green one. The Grand Canyon in the US is the biggest, and the Fish River Canyon in Namibia the second, but both are dry as bones.
6. South African grasslands have 30 species per square kilometre, greater than the biodiversity of rainforests.
7. Can mountains be folded? Yes they can, and you can see such wonders in the Western Cape at the Cederberg and the Swartberg mountains.
8. South Africa and its neighbours are some of the most generously endowed geographic solar hotspots in the world, soaking up just over half of the world’s highest category of solar wattage per square metre of land.
9. Therapsids are the true ancestors of mammals, and lived over 200 million years ago, long before the upstart dinosaurs of the Jurassic Age (which ended abruptly 65 million years ago). Most of the world’s proto-mammalian fossils are found in the Karoo – along with a 280 million year old fossilized shark.
10. South Africa is home to the world’s smallest succulent plants (less than 10 mm) and the largest (the baobab).
11. According to recent studies, the star-watching town of Sutherland in the Northern Cape is one of the most geologically stable places on Earth, yet it has a 66-million year old volcano, not yet officially extinct.
12. Kimberley may have the biggest man-made hole in the world, but did you know that the southern Free State town of Jagersfontein has the deepest vertical man-made hole (and that a pair of Verreaux’s Eagles breed in it?
13. Lake Fundudzi in Venda is possibly the world’s only inland freshwater lake formed by a landslide.
14. The only street in the world to house two Nobel Peace prize winners is in Soweto. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both have houses in Vilakazi Street in Soweto.
15. Walt Disney serves South African wine exclusively at its 73-acre Animal Kingdom Lodge in the United States.
16. South Africa has the longest wine route in the world, the R62 wine route
17. South Africa is the world’s largest producer of macadamia nuts and the nuts and oils are exported to countries across the world.
18. South Africa is the only country in the world where you can order something called monkey gland steak at a restaurant without the risk of a real internal organ being placed before you. It was invented many decades ago by overseas chefs as a pointed insult, aimed at the brash inhabitants of Johannesburg who poured Worcestershire and tomato sauce over everything.
19. No other country eats as much kingklip as South Africans do (also known as Congrio, Ling and Rockling in other parts of the southern hemisphere).
20. The world’s first heart transplant was done in South Africa in 1967 by South African Dr Chris Barnard.
21. South Africa’s Dr Percy Amolis invented the Retinal Cryoprobe used successfully on former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to repair a detached retina. He also removed a cataract from Nelson Mandela’s eye that enabled the former president to, for the first time, read a speech without glasses.
22. Where else is an entirely new species being recreated from scratch? The Quagga vanished in a frenzy of hunting in the 1800s, but after finding that the DNA is almost identical to the common Burchell’s zebra; the species is being brought back from beyond the brink by careful breeding of stripe-challenged zebras.
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23. There are only 12 countries in the world that supply tap water that is fit to drink, and South Africa is one of them. Our tap water quality is third best overall in the world.
24. South Africa also has the world’s most progressive and admired water legislation, and it is making a real difference on the ground. Since 1998 when the so-called “Blue Revolution” began, four million more poor people have access to clean water.
25. South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are tearing down fences between the countries’ game parks to create a 35 000km2 game park which will become the largest conservation area in the world. It will be bigger than Switzerland, Belgium or Taiwan.
26. South Africa is ranked number one in the world for its floral kingdom
27. South Africa’s Coastal Management policy is one of the best in the world with the country being the first outside Europe to gain Blue Flag status for its coastal management.
28. South Africa is the sole producer of the Mercedes Benz, C Class, right hand drive vehicles
29. General Motors South Africa will be the only manufacturing site outside of the United States to build the Hummer H3 vehicle.
30. South Africans are natural inventors, giving the world those breakwater dolosse and the automatic pool cleaner.
31. We also came up with the first, largest and most viable oil-from-coal refinery (which supplies 40% of our petrol). And did you know that a South African physicist co-developed the CAT-scan, that South Africa makes the seats for Concorde, and also designs and creates flight control technology for Britain’s fighter jets
32. The Population is 45million.
33. Gauteng has the most advanced infrastructure in Africa.
34. South Africa has the third highest level of biodiversity in the world.
35. South Africa is the second largest exporter of fruit in the world.
36. There are only 12 countries in the world that supply tap water that is fit to drink, and South Africa is one of them. Our tap water quality is third best overall in the world.
37. South Africa is 5 times the size of Japan and three times the size of Texas.
38. South Africa was the world’s best performing tourist destination in 2002.
39. The Lost City Resort Hotel at Sun City is the largest theme resort hotel in the world.
40. South Africa is the only country in the world to voluntarily abandon its nuclear weapons programme.
41. South Africa is the top ranked gold producing country and has 80% of the world’s platinum reserves.
42. South Africa has 11 official languages, from A-Z: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
43. South Africa has deserts, mountains, escarpments, plateaus, grasslands, bush, wetlands and subtropical forests.
44. There are 18 000 indigenous vascular plant species in South Africa of which 80% are uniquely South African.
45. South Africa’s hotels, game lodges and restaurants are frequent winners of top global awards, for example, “Best Hotel in the World” by Conde Naste Traveller.
46. South Africa has the only street in the world to house two Nobel Peace Prize winners – Vilakazi Street in Soweto has houses owned by Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
47. South Africa offers approximately 1700 conference venues that range from large city conference venues catering for up to 5000 delegates, to small-meeting venues at resorts.
48. South Africa has the oldest meteor scar in the world. The meteor plummeted to Earth nearly two billion years ago, predating the heady days of oxygen and multi-celled life. The Vredefort Dome was recently declared a World Heritage Site.
49. South Africa also has the world’s most progressive and admired water legislation, and it is making a real difference on the ground. Since 1998 when the so-called “Blue Revolution” began, four million more poor people have access to clean water.
50. South Africa’s Dr Percy Amolis invented the Retinal Cryoprobe used successfully on former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to repair a detached retina. He also removed a cataract from Nelson Mandela’s eye that enabled the former president to, for the first time, read a speech without glasses.
51. The Quagga vanished in a frenzy of hunting in the 1800s, but after finding that the DNA is almost identical to the common Burchell’s zebra, the species is being brought back from beyond the brink by careful breeding of stripe-challenged zebras.
52. The highest quality cars in Europe are made in South Africa: BMW’s Rosslyn plant was awarded the highly prestigious European Gold Plant Quality Award ranking it first among European plants in quality.
53. The Transfrontier Park set in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe is a world first. The 38 600 square kilometre park will be bigger than the Yellowstone National Park in the US, and bigger than Switzerland, Belgium or Taiwan.
54. The rocks around Barberton in Mpumalanga are some of the most ancient in the world – over three billion years old.
55. The Tugela Falls is the second highest waterfall in the world, where the water tumbles down 850 metres. [First place goes to the Angel Falls in Venezuela at 979 metres].
56. Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world (and the largest ‘green canyon’). The Grand Canyon in the US is the biggest, and second place goes to the Fish River Canyon in Namibia.
57. Most of the world’s proto-mammalian fossils are found in the Karoo region – along with a 280 million year old fossilized shark.
58. If you are pining for waves, warm sands and palm trees, Transvaal Park is the place to go. This massive indoor water park, where the temperature is kept at a toasty 30 degrees Celsius year-round, lets you visit the tropics without ever leaving the city limits. Named after the former Boer Republic, the only problem you might encounter is that it is located in Moscow, Russia!
59. In November, 1967, a specimen of the African Giant Earthworm Microchaetus rappi measuring 30 cm in length and 0,54 metres when naturally extended was found on the road between Alice and King William’s Town, South Africa. The average length of this species, however, is 8 to 15 cm in length, and 15 to 18 cm when naturally extended.
60. When Graça Machel married Nelson Mandela on 18 July 1998, she became the first woman in the world to have married the heads of state of two different countries. She was previously married to Samora Machel, the first president of Moçambique who was killed in a plane crash in 1986.
61. The largest known butterfly is Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing from New Guinea which has a wingspan of approximately 280 mm; the smallest butterfly, the Dwarf Blue from Africa has a wingspan of only 13 mm.
62. Dr. Christiaan Barnard, at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, performed the first human heart transplant in the world in 1967. He was also the first to do a “piggyback” transplant in 1971, and the first to do a heart-lung transplant.
63. About one-third of the population of South Africa has illegal immigrant status – they’re mostly from other African states.
64. African Black-footed Penguins, although they cannot fly, can swim up to 40 km per hour which is faster than the Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin, which can attain speeds of 29 – 37 kph.
65. Four of the five fastest land animals live in Africa – the cheetah (100 km per hour), wildebeest, lion, and Thomson’s gazelle (all about 80 kph).
66. The largest defeat ever suffered by a modern army at the hands of ‘native’ troops was Isandlwana in Southern Africa in the year 1879. The British army was fighting the Zulu empire and, during a battle between 1,400 British colonial forces armed with cannon and rifles and 30,000 Zulus armed with spears, the British lost. Deaths on the British side were estimated to be approximately 1,000 soldiers mainly from the 24th Regiment (Foot) and 300 native allies. Zulu losses were thought to be about 3,000.
67. Scientific studies from South Africa and Japan corroborate findings of potent antioxidants in an indigenous herb tea from the Southwestern Cape region of South Africa. Called Rooibos (roy-boss), this red tea is the only other tea in the world which undergoes a fermentation process like black tea. Fermentation turns the leaves of Rooibos from green to a deep red colour and gives it a slightly sweet note with a deep body. Rooibos, unlike black and green tea is completely caffeine-free.
68. More than 50% of the Paragliding world records have been set in South Africa.
69. There are about 280 000 windmills on farms across South Africa, second in number only to Australia.
70. Germiston in the East Rand of Gauteng is South Africa’s sixth largest city with 70% of the western world’s gold passing through its gold refinery. It has South Africa’s biggest railway junction and the busiest civil airport, Rand Airport.
71. The world’s largest diamond was the Cullinan, found in South Africa in 1905. It weighed 3,106.75 carats uncut. It was cut into the Great Star of Africa, weighing 530.2 carats, the Lesser Star of Africa, which weighs 317.40 carats, and 104 other diamonds of nearly flawless colour and clarity. They now form part of the British crown jewels.