South Africa has a total of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites: four cultural, three natural and one mixed (cultural and natural).
Location: 12 Km from Cape Town, Western Cape Province. Date of Inscription: 1999
Robben Island was used at various times between the 17th and 20th centuries as a prison, a hospital for socially unacceptable groups and a military base. From the 1960s it became infamous as a jail for political prisoners under apartheid, including Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president of South Africa, who was imprisoned on the island for some twenty years. Robben Island has since become a symbol of the triumph of democracy and freedom over oppression.
Cradle of Humankind
Location: Gauteng, Limpopo and North-west provinces. Date of Inscription: 1999
The Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs are part of what is called the Cradle of Humankind. The site has one of the world's richest concentrations of hominid fossils, evidence of human evolution dating back some 3.3 million years.
Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape
Northern Province. Date of Inscription: 2003
The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape demonstrates the rise and fall of the first indigenous kingdom in Southern Africa between 900 and 1,300 AD. What survives are the almost untouched remains of the palace sites and also the entire settlement area dependent upon them, as well as two earlier capital sites, the whole presenting an unrivalled picture of the development of social and political structures over some 400 years.
Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape
Location: Northern Cape. Date of Inscription: 2007
The Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape covers 160 000 hectares of dramatic mountainous desert in the north-west part of South Africa. It sustains the semi-nomadic pastoral livelihood of the Nama people. The Nama are descendants of the Khoi-Khoi, considered (along with the San) as the original indigenous inhabitants of southern Africa and thus custodians of ancient cultures.
It is the only area where the Nama still construct portable rush-mat houses (haru om) and includes seasonal migrations and grazing grounds, together with stock posts.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Location: KwaZulu-Natal. Date of Inscription: 1999
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park (formerly the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park) has both one of the largest estuary systems in Africa and the continent's southernmost coral reefs.
The park has been noted for its exceptional biodiversity. Wildlife includes the spectacle of large numbers of nesting turtles on the beaches and dolphins, whales and whale sharks off-shore. Finally, the huge numbers of waterfowl and large breeding colonies of pelicans, storks, herons and terns are impressive and add life to the wild natural landscape of the area.
Cape Floral Region Protected Areas
Location: Western Cape. Date of Inscription: 2004
The Cape Floral Region has been recognized as one of the most special places for plants - in terms of diversity, density and number of endemic species - in the world. Covering less than 0.5% of the area of Africa but home to nearly 20% of the continent’s flora, this extraordinary assemblage of plant life and its associated fauna is represented by a series of eight protected areas - Table Mountain National Park, Boland Mountain Complex, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Boosmansbos Wilderness Area, Swartberg Complex, Baviaannskloof Nature Reserve, Cederberg Wilderness Area and Groot Winterhoek - covering an area of 553,000 ha.
Location: North-west and Free State provinces. Date of Inscription: 2005
Some 2-billion years ago a meteorite with a radius of 190 km hit the earth about 120 km south-west of Johannesburg, creating an enormous impact crater. It is the oldest and largest known meteorite impact structure on earth. This area, near the town of Vredefort in the Free State, is known as the Vredefort Dome.
uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park
Location: KwaZulu-Natal. Date of Inscription: 2000
The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park has outstanding natural beauty and South Africa's highest mountain range. The site’s diversity of habitats protects a high level of endemic and globally threatened species, especially birds and plants. The Park also has the largest and most concentrated series of rock art paintings in Africa made by the San people over a period of 4,000 years - making it a World Heritage site of both natural and cultural significance.