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10 Things You Never Knew About South Africa

by Travelbag on 28 January 2019, 09:01AM

Vineyards in South Africa

From its unbeatable safari parks, to the inescapable buzzing vuvuzelas at the 2010 World Cup, South Africa is famous for many things. The Rainbow Nation is a diverse country of contrasts, with slick cities, sprawling beaches and incredible wildlife – and plenty of history to boot. It’s also one of the best-value holiday destinations for 2019. But how much do you actually know about it? If you’re already considering a trip to South Africa, these facts and figures will definitely make you want to go. Read on to discover 10 things you never knew about South Africa.


1. It’s no secret that South Africa knows a thing or two about wine. After all, it’s the seventh-biggest producer of wine on the planet. But did you know that South Africa is also home to the world’s longest wine route? Route 62 winds 850 kilometres from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth – so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop off and sip the country’s famous Chenin Blanc. 


2. South Africa’s animals break a number of records. The country has both the world’s biggest land mammal – the African elephant – and the biggest reptile, the leatherback turtle. South Africa’s ostrich claims the prize for being the largest bird on the planet. If you book a safari trip, you might also see an eland, which is the world’s biggest and slowest kind of antelope. And, of course, South Africa is home to the fastest land mammal on Earth – the cheetah.

Cheetah South Africa

3. It’s not just the wildlife that’s impressive here. South Africa is renowned for its natural beauty, culture and history, and the country boasts nine UNESCO World Heritage sites. Our top pick is Robben Island. Anchored off the shores of Cape Town, this famous prison is a must-visit. You probably know that Nelson Mandela was imprisoned here for 18 years, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Learn all about the island’s history in the museum, or book a place on one of the daily tours.


4. Despite covering an area of more than 1.2 million square kilometres – which is five times bigger than the UK – South Africa is only the ninth-biggest country in Africa. In case you were wondering, Algeria is the largest – it’s nearly double the size of South Africa.


5. Not content with having one capital city, South Africa has three. The executive capital is Pretoria, the judicial capital is Bloemfontein, and Cape Town is the legislative capital. But did you know that Johannesburg is actually the largest city in South Africa? While all four cities have their own appeal, we’d recommend spending at least 48 hours in Cape Town. You can ride the cable car up to Table Mountain, hop between various wine bars, and make the most of the incredible dining scene.

Cape Town South Africa

6. A direct flight from the UK to Johannesburg takes about 11 hours, while flying to Cape Town takes half an hour longer. It might be a long flight, but it’s unique in the fact that you won’t suffer from jet lag. Luckily, the time difference between the UK and South Africa is only two hours. This is particularly good if you’re planning a family holiday to South Africa because, in terms of meal times and sleep patterns, it’s no different from flying to Greece or Egypt.


7. South Africa shares its 4,900-kilometre long border with five countries – Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. And, unusually, it completely surrounds the tiny country of the Kingdom of Lesotho. If you want to make the most of your time in Africa, take a look at our tours. Some, like our 16-day Grand Tour and our 15-day Classic Tour, include a trip across the border to Swaziland.


8. Just like the UK, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa drives on the left – which makes that road trip along the Garden Route so much easier.

Garden Route South Africa

9. The national animal of South Africa is the springbok. You’ll see this gazelle-like creature all over the place on your holiday, from postage stamps to the country’s Coat of Arms. It’s also the nickname for their national rugby team, who are known affectionately as “the Boks”.


10. South Africa has a whopping 11 official languages. Zulu is the most commonly spoken, but you’ll also hear English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Swati, Sesotho, Xitsonga, Sepedi, Ndebele, Setswana and Tshivenda. If you’d like to say ‘hello’ in Zulu, you should say ‘Sawubona’ – which is pronounced exactly how it looks. And ‘thank you’ in Zulu is ‘ngiyabonga’, pronounced ‘gee-a-bunga’.


And that’s not all. Find out why the Rainbow Nation is the ultimate foodie getaway, or take a look at our holidays to South Africa.

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