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SOUTH AFRICA TO SHOWCASE ITS WORLD HERITAGE

South Africa is blessed with a lot of natural beauty. Among our many tourist attractions, are eight World Heritage Sites. September is Tourism and Heritage month and our tourism officials are preparing to welcome the world to these sites.

It is less than a year before South Africa hosts the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Thousands of soccer fans are expected to visit our country for this major event. September has been chosen to promote the country's World Heritage Sites ahead of the tournament.

The national and provincial departments of tourism, arts and culture are working with tourism organisations and the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee's Legacy Project. They will start various programmes to promote both the soccer tournament and our World Heritage Sites.

Protected areas

The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has declared eight sites in South Africa as World Heritage Sites.

They are protected areas because of their environmental, cultural, natural, historical and heritage importance to the world. They are also important tourist attractions. This means communities living near them will benefit because more tourism creates more jobs.

The eight sites are:

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is South Africa's first World Heritage Site. It was declared in 1999 for its exceptional plants and animals, including about 521 kinds of birds. Formerly known as the    Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, it was renamed iSimangaliso (meaning 'wonder' in isiZulu) in 2007.
Robben Island lies 11 km offshore from Cape Town. It is most famous as the place where former President Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. It was declared a World Heritage site of cultural significance in 1999.
The Cradle of Humankind includes the Sterkfontein Caves and covers the Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai area. First declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, it is situated in Gauteng and the North West province.
The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park lies in the west of KwaZulu-Natal Midlands on the Lesotho border. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000.
The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape is also known as the "place of the stone of wisdom." It is situated in the Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo and was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003 for its cultural importance.
The Cape Floral Region, situated in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004. It is one of the richest areas for plants in the world.
The Vredefort Dome was declared a World Heritage Site in 2005. It is two billion years old and was formed when a meteorite 10 km in diameter hit the earth creating a huge crater.
The Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape in the Northern Cape covers 160 000 hectares of mountainous desert. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 2007 for its unusual plant life.
 

- Mbulelo Baloyi