Giraffes in Kruger National Park, South Africa

5 Facts About South Africa That May Surprise You

South Africa is known for its abundance of exotic wildlife, stunning scenery, and delicious wines, but there is more to the country than you might think. Here are 5 facts about beautiful South Africa that may surprise you:

Caves of Cradle of Humankind Johannesburg South Africa
Caves of Cradle of Humankind, Johannesburg

Archeological Haven
Did you know that some of the oldest archeological and human fossils in the world have been found in South Africa? Anthropologists found some of the oldest hominid fossil remains in a series of caves 50 km northwest of Johannesburg. Nicknamed “the cradle of humankind”, the caves sheltered fossils dating back as far as 3.5 million years ago. UNESCO declared the site to be a World Heritage Site in 1999. The site consists of 180 square miles of complex limestone caves, where early human remains were found by scientists. The superb Maropeng Visitor Centre is truly an exciting, world class exhibition, focusing on the development of humans and our early ancestors over the past few million years.

Family Friendly
South Africa can be a very family friendly destination. In fact it’s the most child friendly country in Africa. Children over 12 are welcome at most private game reserves, giving little ones an unforgettable wildlife experience. The kids will flip over the chance to see dolphins, seals, and penguins at uShaka Marine World, one of the southern hemisphere’s best aquariums. Over at the Thanda Private Game Reserve near Durban, children can join Thanda’s Junior Rangers, a wonderful way to learn the ways of the wild and see the animals in action. The Rocktail Beach Camp which is situated on a delightful stretch of tropical coast, faces an ocean sanctuary that is home to dolphins, whales, and many species of colourful fish. All this, and hotel and restaurant discounts for children, add up to a fantastic South Africa vacation with the kids!

Suggested Itinerary:
South Africa Family Adventure: Cape Town, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve & More

Kids on Safari with Cameras at Thanda Safari Game Reserve, South Africa
Young photographers on Safari at Thanda Safari Private Game Reserve

Perfect For Self-Drives
South Africa is a wonderful destination for self drive tours, ideal for the traveller who likes to explore at their own pace. Whether you choose a sporty four wheel drive vehicle, or opt for a fully equipped motorhome on wheels, there are a wealth of options for self-driving tours throughout the country. South Africa has over 29,000 miles of paved roads that lead you to explore this diverse country without hassle. A variety of planned driving routes are available that guide you to various lodges and game reserves, as well as interesting stops along the way, like Umhlanga, a shopping and entertainment paradise with first class restaurants, featuring local produce and wines.

Related Article:
Do a Self-Drive in South Africa

Umhlanga Coast, South Africa
Umhlanga coast

Three Capital Cities
Did you know that South Africa has not one, but three capital cities? The legislative capital is Cape Town, located in the southwest near the Cape of Good Hope. In 1652, Cape Town became the first European settlement in South Africa, and now features enchanting architecture, blue flag beaches, and first class dining. A number of award-winning wineries surround the city, as well as opportunities for active adventure including hiking, cycling, rock climbing, and watersports like kayaking, snorkeling and diving.

Pretoria, in the north, is the executive and administrative capital. The city is nicknamed the “Jacaranda City” for the thousands of stunning Jacaranda trees which create a vision in purple when in bloom. Visit the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, and don’t miss visiting the majestic cheetahs in the Cheetah Research and Breeding Centre.

Union Building with Jacaranda Trees in Bloom, Pretoria, South Africa
Union Building with jacaranda trees in bloom, Pretoria

The third capital is the judicial capital of Bloemfontein. Situated in the heart of the country, the city is more than just a stopping point between Johannesburg and Cape Town. The history buff will enjoy the many monuments in the city, and Lord of the Rings fans will be fascinated to know that J.R.R. Tolkien was born here in 1892. Bloemfontein has a lovely waterfront and a city zoo that displays a stuffed “Liger” – a cross between a lion and a tiger, that was bred at the zoo in the 1930s. This 798kg animal holds the world record for being the largest ever living cat!

Suggested Itinerary:
3-Day Rovos Rail – Cape Town to Pretoria (or v.v.)

Panoramic Cape Town, South Africa
Aerial view of Cape Town

700+ Game Reserves
South Africa is home to 700 publicly-owned game reserves, 200 private reserves, and no less than 19 national parks! The Motherland’s plentiful parks and reserves are a dream come true for animal lovers who yearn to see wild animals such as hippopotamus, giraffes, wildebeest, zebras, lions, leopards, and cheetahs, all in their natural habitat.

At over 20,000 square kilometres, Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in the country and home to an amazing diversity of wildlife, including the Big Five – lions, elephants, giraffes, leopards, and rhinos. All totalled, there are 507 bird species, 147 species of mammals, and 114 reptile species to be found in the park. The Madikwe Game Reserve in northwestern South Africa is relatively new on the safari scene. Established in 1991, the park is now home to all the major game animals and offers opportunities for viewing 10,000 animals and 350 species of bird life living in this protected reserve. Accommodation is available in or near the game reserves, and ranges from five star luxury resorts to more rustic lodges – something to suit everyone’s taste and budget.

Suggested Itineraries:
11-Day Ultimate Africa: Masai Mara, Livingstone, Cape Town & More

Lion Family in Kruger National Park, South Africa
Lion family in Kruger National Park

Browse our collection of South Africa tours on our website at

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Kirsty Perring
Kirsty Perring

Africa Experts Product Manager – Although British born and now Toronto based, Kirsty grew up in South Africa and is completely passionate about all things Africa. She finds it hard to choose a favourite destination, but lists Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana as some of the most special places she has visited, and feels it’s not just about where you go and what you see, but who you get to experience it with. Kirsty is always up for an adventure and will try anything once. As such, she has para-glided in South Africa, zip lined in Mauritius, dived the Red Sea, hot air ballooned in Egypt, and even swam in the Okavango Delta. Next on Kirsty’s bucket list is to climb Kilimanjaro!

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