South Africa beautiful rolling hills and scenic coastline come together to create magnificent World Heritage Sites.
The Barberton-Makhonjwa Mountains, in Mpumalanga, were officially declared as South Africa’s 10th World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational‚ Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
The site comprises 40 percent of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, one of the world’s oldest geological structures, and represents the best-preserved succession of volcanic and sedimentary rock dating back 3.6 to 3.25 billion years, when the first continents were starting to form on primitive Earth.
The mountain lands are also believed to contain the oldest signs of life‚ with a micro fossil of bacteria discovered there that is estimated to be 3.1 billion years old.
Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa, said in a statement that World Heritage Sites are recognised as having global historical or environmental significance.
“To be accepted onto the list‚ a country must meet stringent criteria and show how the site will be conserved. The recognition allows the country to access funds for conservation from the World Heritage Fund and may increase tourism to the area,” said Mthethwa.
Mthethwa added that it is hoped that Mpumalanga’s first World Heritage Site will provide a global marketing boost for tourism that can reach beyond that of its established national parks.
The site also has a the Barberton-Makhonjawa Geotrail developed to preserve Barberton’s geological heritage, by building awareness and interest among local stakeholders, as well as local and international tourists.
The geotrail consists of striking and informative roadside panels that have been installed along the 40 km tarred road between Barberton and the Swaziland border post at Josefsdal Bulembu.
The geotrail provides visitors of all ages with an enjoyable and educational outdoor experience, guaranteed to provide new and fascinating insights into how life on Earth began.
The site also incorporates one of Mpumalanga’s hidden gems, the Songimvelo Nature Reserve, one of South Africa’s largest provincial reserves situated among magnificent rolling hills and steep mountains with the Komati River winding through it.
South Africans should also take pride in living in a country that is home to other World Heritage sites, which are:
Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa - Known in South Africa as the Cradle of Humankind, the region of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and environs has one of the world's richest concentrations of hominid fossils, evidence of human evolution over the last 3.5-million years. These fossil sites are found in the provinces of Gauteng Limpopo and North West.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park- iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a protected area along the KwaZulu-Natal coast. The park boasts the scenic Lake St. Lucia which is home to hippos, crocodiles, pelicans and flamingos.
Robben Island- The Island was declared a World Heritage Site for bearing buildings that are a testimony to history, and at the same time symbolise the triumph of the human spirit, of freedom, and of democracy over oppression.
Maluti-Drakensberg Park * - This has the famous Amphitheatre in the Royal Natal National Park and the southern Drakensberg. This park is home to black eagle, bearded vulture and herds of eland as well as many other indigenous plants and animals.
Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape- This was South Africa's first kingdom, and developed into the subcontinent's largest realm, lasting for 400 years before it was abandoned in the 14th century. It is situated in the Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo.
Cape Floral Region Protected Areas - The Cape Floral Region takes up only 0.04 percent of the world's land area, yet contains three percent of its plant species. This makes it one of the richest areas for plants in the world and one of the globe's 18 biodiversity hot spots.
Vredefort Dome - The area displays exceptional beauty and is rich in biodiversity with animal and plant populations. The Vredefort Dome has exceptional tourism potential, is situated about 100 km from Johannesburg.
Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape - The Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape is located in South Africa’s northern Namaqualand. The area comprises 160 000 hectares of desert scenery, which vary from flat sandy plains, to craggy sharp mountains of volcanic rock, to the lush flood plains of the Orange River. This river forms the border between South Africa and neighbouring Namibia
Khomani Cultural Landscape - The area in the Southern Kalahari, bordered in the east by Botswana and the west by Namibia, is where you will find a small group of the Khomani San, who were the first people who inhabited the Kalahari.