facts about south africa
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55 Fun and Unusual Facts about South Africa (2023 Edition)

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South Africa is a truly fascinating and magnificent country packed with incredible wildlife, the most breathtaking landscapes, and a complex history. 

Home to a multi-ethnic society encompassing a wide variety of languages, cultures and religions, it is aptly named the ‘Rainbow Nation’, and is famous for its popular tourist destinations and warm hospitality.

Officially called the Republic of South Africa (RSA), South Africa is the southernmost country of the African continent, sharing land borders with six other countries including Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and two tiny landlocked countries: Swaziland, and Lesotho – the latter being an enclave country – meaning it’s situated entirely within South Africa.

In this post, I’ve compiled together 55 of the coolest, weird, and most fascinating facts about South Africa, along with useful information and general knowledge.

Scroll on to read 55 Fun and Unusual Facts about South Africa (2023 Edition)

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South Africa Map

15 General Facts about South Africa

We’ll kick off with 15 general yet fascinating facts about South Africa:

#1. The only country in the world where 2 Nobel Peace Prize winners lived on the same street

Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu had houses on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, Johannesburg.

#2. The Cape Floral Kingdom is one of the world’s 6 floral kingdoms 


And it’s the only one that is 100% contained within a single country.

#3. South Africa has incredibly rich and diverse environments

Some countries have deserts and some have subtropical forests right? South Africa is one of the few countries on the planet that consists of deserts, wetlands, grasslands, bush, subtropical forests, mountains and escarpments!

#4. The only country to voluntarily abandon its nuclear weapons programme

South Africa is the only country one earth to build and then decide to dismantle its entire nuclear weapons programme. Former president Frederik Willem de Klerk said South Africa had built six crude atomic bombs and had started a seventh during a 15-year clandestine project, before deciding to voluntarily dismantle its arsenal in 1989.

#5. Home of the world’s most luxurious train


The South African Rovos Rail is considered the most luxurious trail service in the world. A train journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town taking 17 hours costs more than a flight between the two cities that takes just two hours!

#6. South Africa has 10% of the total birds species on earth

About 900 different types of birds can be found all over the country, from ostriches to peacocks, and vultures to penguins.

#7. The world’s oldest human remains were found in South Africa

The discoveries are believed to be well over 160,000 years old – making them the oldest known human remains.

#8. Home to some of the best dinosaur fossils

The Karoo region in Western Cape is home to some of the best fossils of early dinosaurs. In fact, it’s estimated some 80% of the mammalian fossils found to date were found in the Karoo.

#9. Johannesburg has the world’s largest man-made forest

There are a whopping 6 million trees in Johannesburg alone, and it’s believed to be the site of the largest man-made forest on earth.

#10. You can swim with penguins in South Africa


Another awesome fact is that you can actually swim with colonies of Jackass penguins  here! They are located at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town near Cape Town, as well as further down the coast in Betty’s Bay.

Watch Penguins at Boulders Beach

#11. An entire country is located entirely inside South Africa

The Kingdom of Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa. There are only three enclave states in the world, the other two being San Marino and The Vatican (both surrounded by Italy).

#12. Cape Town is 5th in line for having the best blue sky on earth

That’s according to the UK’s National Physical Laboratory.

Related Post >> 18 Best Things to Do in Cape Town

#13. The Orange River forms part of the border between South Africa and Namibia

Its source is situated in the Drakensberg Mountains in Lesotho, and it flows all the way across the country to the Atlantic in the west, making it the longest river in the country.

#14. South Africa has an abundance of diamond mines

Diamonds were first discovered on the banks of the Orange River between 1866 and 1867, and the first gold in the Transvaal, in the late 19th Century.

#15. The Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of South Africa


Cape Agulhas, situated 75 miles (120km) from Cape Town, is the place where the official dividing line between the two oceans pass. This is where the warm-water Agulhas current of the Indian Ocean meets with the cold-water Benguela current of the Atlantic Ocean and turns back on itself.

9 Facts about South African Culture & People

And now, here’s 9 awesome and surprising facts about South Africa peoples and South Africa culture facts:

#16. KwaZulu-Natal Province has its own monarchy

Despite the country’s status as a democratic republic, there is a monarchy in KZN (KwaZulu-Natal) Province specially provided for by the Constitution. Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu is the King of the Zulu Nation, has 27 kids and 6 wives, and lives quite literally like a king!

Update: Goodwill Zwelithini has since passed away and has been replaced by his son, the current king, Misuzulu ka Zwelithini, who was coronated in September 2022.

#17. Home to world-famous writers

South Africa is known for it’s literature and has produced some world-famous authors including, among others, J.R.R. Tolkien, Alan Paton, Breyten Bretenbach, Nadine Gordimer, Andre Brink, and Olive Schreiner.

#18. The aboriginal people of South Africa are the San and the Khoi


The hunter-gatherer Sans and the pastoral Khoi peoples became known as the KhoiSan and lived in modern day Western Cape around 300AD. Zulu and Xhosa tribes established large kingdoms in the region during the 15th Century.

#19. South Africa has the most official languages of any country

There are 11 official languages and they re: isiZulu (the sot commonly spoken), Afrikaans, isiXhosa (second most common), siSwati, Sesotho, Xitsonga, Sepedi, isiNdebele, Setswana, Tshivenda, and English, which is the language of business, politics and media. There is also a large number of other non-official languages. Most Africans speak more than one language.

#20. Land of famous sports stars

Famous sports stars from South Africa include cricketers AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn, rugby player Francois Pienaar, athletes Caster Semenya and Oscar Pistorius, Princess Charlene of Monaco (Olympic swimmer), and Kevin Pietersen who played cricket for England.

#21. World famous celebrities from South Africa

Other famous celebrities born in South Africa include the world’s richest man Elon Musk, movie stars Charlize Theron, Sid James and Basil Rathbone, and US TV host Trevor Noah.

#22. South African Revolutionaries and Activists


Nelson Mandela is regarded as perhaps the most famous political activist in the world, but did you know there are numerous other activities and freedom fighters that played a crucial role in the fight against apartheid and inspired many oppressed people around the world. They include Desmond Tutu, Oliver Tambo, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Miriam Makeba, and Steve Biko, an important civil-rights activist who was brutally murdered by police in custody.

#23. South Africa celebrates its annual Heritage Day on 24 September

On this day, the people of South Africa get together to celebrate their diverse cultures, traditions and beliefs. You’ll most likely find people dressed in traditional attire and enjoying a braai (barbecue).

#24. In 2006, South Africa became the 1st African country & the 5th country in the world to recognise same-sex marriage

South Africa is a world leader in LGBTQ+ rights, despite homophobia being extremely rife on the African continent. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation became illegal in 1996, and Gays have served openly in the military since 1998. Same-sex couples can marry, adopt children, and have equal access to IVF and surrogacy. That being said, LGBTQ+ people still face discrimination and personal attacks in rural areas.

10 Facts about South African food & drink

We move on to 10 little known facts about South Africa cuisine, the most popular food and drinks, global food exports and more.

#25. Bobotie is the national dish of South Africa

Originally brought over to the Cape region by Asian settlers, the delicious dish is cooked in many homes and restaurants. Minced meat is simmered with spices (usually curry powder) as well as herbs, dried fruit and grated coconut, topped with a mixture of egg, and then baked until set.

#26. South Africa is the second largest producer of fruit on the planet

#27. South African cuisine is as diverse as the people in South African culture


Meat forms the main ingredient of meals throughout South Africa. Dishes unique to the country include bunny chows, koeksusters, Melkert, and of course the braai, South Africa’s equivalent to the BBQ in other countries.

#28. South Africa is the largest meat producer in Africa

Get a taste of South Africa with the food tours below

#29. Wine has been produced in South Africa since the 17th Century

The country first corked wine way back in 1659 and is now one of the world’s largest producers of wine.

#30. The world’s longest continuous wine route is found in South Africa

It’s situated in the famous Cape Winelands region in the Western Cape.

#31. South Africa’s Cape Winelands consists of around 560 wineries and 4,400 primary producers


Route 62 runs through the region and is considered the longest win route in the world. This alone is a good reason to visit South Africa if you haven’t yet been!

#32. Rooibos (Red bush) Tea is grown exclusively in South Africa

The reddish tea is naturally free from caffeine and tannins and is anti-oxidant-rich, making it a superb health drink. It is only found in the Cederberg, Western Cape.

#33. Most of the world’s macadamia nuts come from South Africa

#34. SABMiller is the world’s second biggest brewery

South African brewery SABMiller ranks as the largest brewing company in the world, by volume. Whilst Saffers love their beer, the real reason why the brewery is so huge is because SABMiller supplies up to 50% of China’s beer.

Enjoy wine in South Africa with the tours below

11 Mind-blowing facts about South Africa

Next, we have some of the most surprising facts about South Africa that you probably never knew.

#35. The Table Mountain is one of the world’s oldest mountains


The iconic Table Mountain in Cape Town is believed to be one of the oldest mountains in the world, at 260 million years old. Not only that, it is one of the world’s 7 New Natural Wonders, and is also one of the planet’s 12 main energy centres, radiating magnetic, electric and spiritual energy.

Explore The Table Mountain

#36. The Powerhouse of the African Continent 

A whopping Two-thirds of Africa’s electricity is generated in South Africa!

#37. Approximately 80% of all of Africa’s rail infrastructure is found in South Africa alone!

#38. South Africa is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of mining and minerals

The country is extremely rich with an abundance of various precious metals and resources, it’s considered the world’s leader, holding nearly 90% of all platinum metals on earth and around 41% of all the world’s gold.

>> Bonus Fact: the town of Matroosberg in the Western Cape is the coldest place in South Africa! Winter temperatures drop as low as -15C! <<

#39. The world’s oldest crater lies near Johannesburg


One of my favorite South Africa geography facts – the country is home to the oldest meteor scar in the world – the Vredefort Dome in a town called Parys. Situated southwest of Johannesburg, the crater is so huge it can be seen from space. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

#40. There are more flower species on the Table Mountain than there are in the UK

There are a whopping 8,200 species of flowers found on Table Mountain in Cape Town – which is more than those found in the entire United Kingdom! They include Yellow Everlastings, Ericas, and Cape Daisies.

#41. The world’s first successful heart surgery was in a Cape Town hospital

On 3rd December 1967 South African Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.
The groundbreaking surgery was carried out on Louis Washkansky and Dr. Barnard was assisted by a large and exceptional team of surgeons, nurses and technicians. One of the assistants was Hamilton Naki, a black laboratory assistant who had assisted Dr. Barnard with research leading to the transplant.
During the Apartheid era, Naki had no access to higher education due to his race, and despite this, he learned from and assisted university researchers and went on to do amazing work.

#42. Tugela Falls is the world’s tallest waterfall


Situated in the Drakensberg Mountains close to the border of Lesotho, Tugela Falls is the world’s highest waterfalls, not only by total height from sea-level, but recent debates by experts believe it to be taller than Angel Falls in Venezuela!

#43. South Africa is the first country in the world to successfully turn coal into oil

#44. You can do the world’s highest bungee jump in South Africa

Take a trip to Tsitsikamma, on the Garden Route at the border between Western Cape and Eastern Cape to see the world’s highest commercial bungee jump! Those brave enough can take the 216 metre leap off Bloukrans Bridge and plunge towards the Bloukrans River below. An absolute must for thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies!