South Africa has many historical, cultural and natural destinations that merit preservation for future generations. First Car Rental has put together a list of South African heritage sites, some of which have been declared World Heritage Sites for their cultural significance or natural beauty. These destinations are certainly places that every South African must visit at least once in their lifetime.
1. Robben Island, Western Cape
The solitary island of Robben Island situated some 9km offshore from Cape Town has a deep connection with the history of South Africa. It is where South African President Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison and where he formulated the notion of forgiveness and dreamed of a nation free of oppression. Visitors can go on a guided tour to the Robben Island Museum and get first-hand accounts of Nelson Mandela’s life in prison. You can also visit Mandela’s cell, which has been left in its original state.
2. Vredefort Dome, Free State
Over 2 million years ago an asteroid with a diameter of between 5 and 10 km hit the earth at this very spot leaving behind the largest and oldest verified impact crater on Earth, giving it the status of World Heritage Site. The Vredefort Dome stretches over 300 km across and bears witness to the world’s greatest known single energy release event, which had devastating global effects including, according to some scientists, major evolutionary changes.
3. uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, KwaZulu-Natal
This World Heritage Site in KwaZulu-Natal is an open-air mountain museum where more than 30 000 examples of Bushman rock art can be viewed on the walls of caves. The park is a combination of sheer natural beauty and a wealth of biological diversity. It is also one of South Africa’s prime eco-tourist destinations.
4. Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng
The Cradle of Humankind is where the origins of the human race can be traced back to and holds great scientific importance. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. The world-renowned Sterkfontein Caves is home to the oldest and most continuous paleontological dig in the world.
5. Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, Limpopo
South Africa’s fifth World Heritage Site and fifth on our list of must-see heritage destinations is Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape. Mapungubwe is set hard against the northern border of South Africa, joining Zimbabwe and Botswana. The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape demonstrates the rise and fall of the first indigenous kingdom in Southern Africa between 900 and 1,300 AD.
6. iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Kwa-Zulu Natal
Covering about 240,000ha, with a further 84,000ha in, on or under the sea, this sub-tropical paradise stretches 220km along the East Coast from St Lucia to the Mozambique border. iSimangaliso is teeming with life and has a mind-blowing variety of natural eco-systems ranging from dune, swamp and coastal forests to rocky and sandy shores, coral reefs and submarine canyons, mangroves, savannah grassland, thickets, woodlands, and the largest protected wetland in Southern Africa.
7. The Castle of Good Hope, Western Cape
This unique historical site is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. It has been a centre of life at the Cape since its inception in 1666. The Castle of Good Hope was established as a maritime replenishment station at the Cape of Good Hope for the Dutch East India Company
the Castle of Good Hope remains the best preserved monument of its kind.
8. Pilgrims Rest, Mpumalanga
A small town in Mpumalanga, Pilgrim’s Rest is protected as a provincial heritage site. Pilgrim’s Rest is situated on the magnificent Panorama Route in the Kruger Lowveld region of the Mpumalanga. This living museum takes visitors to the day of the Transvaal Gold Rush; the spirit of a bygone era and its people in their quest for gold.
9 . Nelson Mandela Museum, Mthatha, Eastern Cape
Take an inspirational journey through the life of former President and world icon Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha. The Museum officially opened in 2 000, ten years after his release from prison in 1990 and incorporates three sites – Mvezo, near Coffee Bay, where Mandela was born; Qunu, his childhood village; and the Bhunga Building in Mthatha where the story of the life and times of one of South Africa's greatest leaders is depicted.
10. Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape, Northern Cape
The Richtersveld is one of the only one of the few places where one can still see a harmonious interaction between man and nature. The Richtersveld is the pastoral grazing ground for the Nama, the indigenous community who live the transhumance lifestyle - to migrate seasonally with their livestock from mountains to the river and so make sustainable use of the fragile succulent ecosystem.
Hire a car with First Car Rental and take a trip to any of these unique and beautiful heritage sites in South Africa. With 47 car rental branches across South Africa, car hire is easy and quick. For more information visit www.firstcarrental.co.za