World Heritage Sites of South Africa
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES OF SOUTH AFRICA
San Rock Art, Drakensberg
©South African Tourism
South Africa's 8 World Heritage Sites are
fascinating and exquisite places of natural or cultural inspiration
that merit preservation for future generations. UNESCO, the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization have an
international World Heritage Programme to preserve exceptional areas of importance to humanity.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is chosen for its
cultural significance or natural beauty and could be a coral reef,
mountain range, wetland, desert, architectural development, city or
even a cultivated landscape. Some of the most famous World Heritage
Sites are the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls, the Pyramids of
Giza, the Statue of Liberty, the Tower of London, India’s Taj Mahal,
the Great Wall of China, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Serengeti
Plains of Tanzania and South Africa’s Robben Island.
Each World Heritage Site belongs to the country in which it is
located, but it is conserved for the benefit of the global community
and future generations. South Africa has seven World Heritage Sites,
three of which have been selected for their cultural significance, three for their natural importance and one for a combination of both.
South Africa's World Heritage Sites
Cradle of Humankind is a place of major significance for it was here
that we first became human. Apparently it was here that we first stood
upright on our own two, rather oddly shaped, feet, explored the uses to
which we could put our usefully opposed thumbs, and experimented with
more and more sophisticated grunts as we tried to make sense of our
famous little windswept island has captured hearts and minds around the
globe in recent history. Most well known as the place where Nelson
Mandela spent 27 years in prison, Robben Island is a symbol of the
triumph of love over hate, forgiveness over revenge and of justice over
oppression. It was here that Nelson Mandela formulated his notions of
fascinating remains of the ancient city state of Mapungubwe in the
Limpopo Province show sophisticated metal working, the earliest known
confirmation of social stratification, and also evidence of trade with
Arabia and Asia...
in the dramatic Drakensberg mountains are beautiful archaeological
treasures on cave walls and rock shelters - hundreds of exquisite rock
art paintings that tell the story of the San, an ancient
hunter-gatherer society that lived there until more recent time...
Cape Floral Region is one of the hottest spots for global plant
diversity. More than 8 500 plant species thrive in this narrow coastal
strip, the smallest and richest of the world’s six floral regions...
sub-tropical paradise of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park is a
mind-blowing range of natural systems, varying from dune, swamp and
coastal forests to rocky and sandy shores, coral reefs and submarine
canyons, mangroves, savanna grassland, thickets, woodlands, and is the
largest protected wetland in southern Africa, it is also a culturally
fascinating area and - more importantly - has immense fun potential...
Vredefort Dome is the
site of the largest and most ancient visible meteorite impact, the
scars of which are still discernable in the spectacular, rather rugged
The sun baked, dramatic, mountainous landscape of the Richtersveld in the Northern Cape has become South Africa's newest World Heritage Site.
A Heritage Site is selected on the merit of at least one of ten selection criteria.
The first six criteria objectives are cultural and the last four
objectives are natural. A Heritage Site may satisfy both natural
and cultural criteria as in the case of the uKhahlamba /
UNESCO World Heritage Selection Criteria:
- (i). To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius.
- (ii). To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a
span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in
architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape
- (iii). To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a
cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has
- (iv). To be an outstanding example of a type of building,
architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates
(a) significant stage(s) in human history.
- (v). To be an outstanding example of a traditional human
settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture
(or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially
when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.
- (vi). To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living
traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary
works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers
that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other
- (vii). To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
- (viii). To be outstanding examples representing major stages of
earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going
geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant
geomorphic or physiographic features.
- (ix). To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going
ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of
terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities
of plants and animals.
- (x). To contain the most important and significant natural habitats
for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those
containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the
point of view of science or conservation.
Since 1992 significant interactions between people and the natural environment have been acknowledged and established as cultural landscapes