We already love South Africa, but here are a few more reasons to be proud of the country. From medical breakthroughs and ecological wonders to industrial and cultural factoids, here are 25 things you may not have known about our beautiful corner of the globe.

Amazing facts about South Africa

Oldest hominid remains discovered in South Africa

South Africa is rich in remains and artefacts of early hominids. The Cradle of Humankind was declared as a World Heritage site back in 1999. It currently occupies approximately 47 000 hectares of land.

In addition, UNESCO Fossil Hominids Sites list five separate locations and traces archaeological evidence of human evolution back to least 2.5 million years ago. ,

Diverse biomes: We have it all

Some countries have deserts or grasslands, other countries have wetlands or subtropical forests. But that is no match for the country we call home.

South Africa has a diverse range of biomes: from deserts, wetlands, grasslands and bush, to subtropical forests, mountains and escarpments. In addition, our climate is as varied as our biomes, ranging from desert to subtropical weather.

Our flora and fauna are also among the most biologically diverse in the world.

Fun facts about South Africa — Here are 25 things you probably didn't know

South African grasslands at sunset. Images via Adobe stock
Fun facts about South Africa — Here are 25 things you probably didn't know

The Pinnacle rock a very tall quartzite rock in Graskop Mpumalanga South Africa

Medical pioneers

First heart transplant

Dr Chris Barnard famously performed the world's first heart transplant in 1967 on Louis Washkansky, who volunteered for the groundbreaking surgery.

The success of the first heart transplant turned Dr Barnard into somewhat of a celebrity on the international scene, and he performed ten more transplants throughout his career.

First 3D-printed bone transplant

On 3 March 2019, Professor Mashudu Tshifularo became the first person to transplant 3D-printed bones for "reconstructive middle ear implants", at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.

Prof Tshifularo, who is the head of the Department of Ear, Nose, and Throat and Head and Neck Surgery at the Otorhinolaryngology Department of the University of Pretoria, developed the technology during his PhD studies.

Fun facts about South Africa — Here are 25 things you probably didn't know

Prof Mashudu Tshifularo, Head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat studies, ENT) at the University of Pretoria who pioneered the world's first middle ear transplant using 3D printed bones can be seen during the procedure at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, 13 March 2019. Picture: Univiersity of Pretoria/Jacques Nelles

World's first digital laser

The world's first digital laser was invented by doctoral candidate, and CSIR researcher, Dr Sandile Nqcobo, and the former minister of Science and Technology cited it as a "testimony to the calibre of scientists that South Africa has."

The laser is used in the health sector, and its numerous applications could also be used to improve the communication sector.

Full body X-ray scanner

The scanner was created by Lodox Systems, a South African company that created the full-body scanner from technology that was initially designed for the security sector – for the detection of stolen diamonds.

The use of the full-body scanner was written into the storyline of Grey's Anatomy during the show's ninth season when the Grace Mercy West Hospital installed the scanner in their new ER department.

Fun facts about South Africa — Here are 25 things you probably didn't know

Dr. Joyce deJong stands by the new Lodox scanner that was purchased in June and is housed on the medical school's seventh floor.

Biomedical stem cell technology

The CSIR's Gene Expression and Biophysics group designed the first induced pluripotent stem cells in Africa, which opened the door for researchers to investigate various diseases and cures.

Stem cells could be used to restore sight or repair cells affected by heart disease, amongst other things. The possibilities are endless and are still being explored.

SABMiller largest brewing company in the world

We sure do like our booze, that is no secret. One just has to look at the uproar generated by the recent alcohol bans in South Africa amid the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

But did you know that SA's brewery, SABMiller ranks, by volume, as the largest brewing company in the world? Approximately 50% of SAB's production ships off to supply China's beer market.

Dismantling of SA's nuclear weapons programme

Nearly three decades after the Cold War ended, there are still about 23 000 nuclear warheads in the world. South Africa's nuclear weapons programme was established in 1967.

From the late sixties to the late eighties, South Africa researched weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The nuclear weapons programme came to an end in 1989.

However, South Africa is the first and only country in the world to have built nuclear weapons and then voluntarily dismantle its entire nuclear weapons programme.

Fun facts about South Africa — Here are 25 things you probably didn't know

RSA-3 LEO Rocket. SAAF museum, Swartkop, Pretoria. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Largest producer of platinum in the world

According to Statista, South Africa is the "largest producer of platinum in the world by a significant margin, with a production of between 94 and 130 metric tons each year from 2010 to 2019".

In 2014 South Africa produced approximately 110 000kg, which is more than four times the amount of the world's second-biggest producer, Russia. The latter produced between 23 metric tons and 22 metric tons each year between 2010 and 2018.

Discovery of the largest and oldest diamond in the world

On 25 January 1905, the Cullinan diamond was found in the Premier Mine in Pretoria, South Africa. At 603 grams (or 1.33 pounds) it was the largest diamond in the world.

Fun facts about South Africa — Here are 25 things you probably didn't know

A miner holds the Cullinan Diamond shortly after it was found, before it was cut in two and used for the British Crown and Sceptre.

The 3 106-carat stone was later cut into nine large pieces and about 100 smaller ones. The largest of the nine, the Cullinan I or Great Star of Africa, was an impressive 530.2 carats. It is currently in the Queen of England's Sceptre. And the rest?

  1. Cullinan II, or the Second Star of Africa, is a cushion-cut brilliant with 66 facets weighing

  2. Cullinan III, or the Lesser Star of Africa, is pear-cut and weighs 94.4 carats (18.88 g). It sits atop cross pattée of a crown she bought for her coronation.[*]Cullinan IV, also referred to as a Lesser Star of Africa, is square-cut and weighs 63.6 carats (12.72 g).[sup] [/sup]It was embedded at the base of Queen Mary's Crown but was removed in 1914. [*]Cullinan V is an 18.8-carat (3.76 g) heart-shaped diamond set in the centre of a platinum brooch that formed a part of the stomacher made for Queen Mary[*]Cullinan VI is marquise-cut and weighs 11.5 carats (2.30 g). It hangs from the brooch containing Cullinan VIII and forming part of the stomacher of the Delhi Durbar parure. [*]Cullinan VII, another marquise-cut, weighs 8.8 carats (1.76 g) and was originally given by Edward VII to his wife and consort Queen Alexandra. [*]Cullinan VIII is an oblong-cut diamond weighing 6.8 carats (1.36 g) which is set in the centre of a brooch forming part of the stomacher of the Delhi Durbar parure. [*]Cullinan IX, the smallest of the lot, is a pendeloque stone, weighing 4.39 carats (0.878 g). It is set in a platinum ring known as the Cullinan IX Ring.

Fun facts about South Africa — Here are 25 things you probably didn't know

The nine large stones of the Cullinan diamonds

Soccer, Rugby and Cricket World Cup

Until 2019, South Africa was the only country in the world to have hosted the Soccer, Cricket and Rugby World Cup. England joined us in the ranks last year, and is also the only country to have won all three World Cups.

One street, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates

Nowhere else in the world will you find that two Nobel Peace Prize laureates lived on the same street. Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu lived on Vilakazi Street in the Orlando West township in Soweto.

Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his nonviolent opposition to apartheid, followed by Nelson Mandela's shared Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with F.W. de Klerk, for their role in the peaceful end of apartheid.

Oldest mountains in the world

Table Mountain in Cape Town is one of the oldest mountains in the world, just over 260 million years to be exact. It also has more than 2 200 species of plants and approximately 900 different routes to climb or hike.

Let's put that in perspective: Table mountain alone has more plant species than the entire United Kingdom. In addition, the Cape Floral Region represents less than 0.5% of the area of Africa, but is home to 20% of the continent's flora.

Fun facts about South Africa — Here are 25 things you probably didn't know

View of Table Mountain and 12 Apostles from Lion's Head. Cape Town. Western Cape. South Africa. Image via Adobe Stock

Eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Each of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Africa reflects an important aspect of its cultural and natural landscape. The sites include cultural treasures such as hominid fossils, the earliest indigenous kingdom of South Africa, the cave paintings of the San people.

In addition, it also includes the traditional use of the land by the Nama and the prison that housed political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. Other sites protect the natural uniqueness of South Africa – from the Cape Floral Region and the iSimangaliso Wetlands to the Vredefort Dome.

Oldest meteor crater in the world

Speaking of UNESCO World Heritage sites, South Africa is home to the oldest meteor scar in the world – the Vredefort Dome in Parys. A meteor the size of a mountain fell to Earth around 2 030 million years ago.

The 10km-wide meteor left a crater 300km across and is the oldest crater made by either a comet or meteorite. It's also reportedly the site of the largest energy release in history.

Despite a recent Australian discovery, we can still claim the largest visible crater in the world. In 2015, scientists found a bigger crater ― measuring 400km wide — underground in the Australian outback.

Fun facts about South Africa — Here are 25 things you probably didn't know

The darker ring in the center of this image, known as the Vredefort Mountainland, has shallow soils with steep terrain not suitable for farming, so the area remains naturally forested. Along the ridges in the Mountainland you can see white lines: these are the hardest layers of rock, such as quartzite, which resist erosion. The outer part of Mountainland has exposed rocks that are roughly 2.8 billion years old; this is the Central Rand Group, source of more than one-third of all gold mined on Earth. Image via NASA Earth Observatory

KhoiSan dates back to 300AD

The hunter-gather Sans and pastoral Khoi become known as the KhoiSan and lived in what is present-day Western Cape around 300AD. Zulu and Xhosa tribes established large kingdoms in the region during the 15th century.

'Sardine Run': Fish migration visible from space

The South African fish migration is so huge it can be seen from space between May and July every year. Millions of small silver fish travel in vast shoals from the cold waters off South Africa's Cape Point up to the coastlines of the northern Eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal.

This annual event is known as the Sardine Run. The shoals are so big – 15km long, 3.5km wide and up to 40m deep – they can be seen by satellite. In their wake come hundreds of birds, sharks, whales, dolphins, all eager to catch a bite.

We have the best dinosaur fossils

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

Largest correspondence university

The University of South Africa (Unisa) — which was founded in 1873 as the University of the Cape of Good Hope — is the largest correspondence university in the world.

Unisa became the first public university in the world to teach exclusively by means of distance education in 1946. Today, the university has more than 400 000 students from 130 countries.

Longest wine route

South Africa's Cape Winelands is the world's longest wine route, with a meandering road spanning 850 kilometres. Route 62 runs between Cape Town, Constantia to Port Elizabeth, via Oudtshoorn and the Garden Route, passing by 200 cellars and kilometres of vines.

Fun facts about South Africa — Here are 25 things you probably didn't know

Vineyard in Montague, Route 62, South Africa, Image via Adobe Stock

Highest bungee jump bridge in the world

Adrenaline junkies will be eager to fling themselves off the world's highest commercial bridge bungee in the world at Bloukrans Bridge in the Tsitsikamma region between the Eastern and Western Cape.

At a dizzying 216 metres high, the popular jump sees thrill-seekers plunge towards the Bloukrans River below before bouncing to a stop.

First African country to recognise same-sex marriage

In 2006, South Africa became the first African country and the fifth country in the world to recognise same-sex marriage. The prohibiting of discrimination based on sexual orientation is even written into their constitution.

Cape Town is also referred to as the 'Gay Capital of the World'.

Piece of the Berlin Wall in South Africa

A segment of the infamous Berlin Wall, which was torn down in November 1989, was gifted to our late president Nelson Mandela following his visit to Berlin in 1996. Today, this piece of history sits atop the St Georges Mall outside Mandela Rhodes Place.

Fun facts about South Africa — Here are 25 things you probably didn't know

A piece of the Berlin Wall is exhibited outside the Mandela Rhodes Foundation in St George's Mall in Cape Town, South Africa. This piece of the Berlin Wall was given to former South African President Nelson Mandela as a gift in 1996 by the German government. Photo: Nic Bothma

South Africa and the film industry

Not only is South Africa a prime film destination, but we also have the second oldest film industry in the world. The first film studio in South Africa, Killarney Film Studios, was established in 1915 in Johannesburg; Hollywood was founded in 1903.

Some of the most famous Hollywood movies shot in South Africa include Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Safe House, District 9, Blood Diamond, Homeland, Outlander, Resident Evil: The Last Chapter, The Dark Tower, Black Sails, The Maze Runner: The Death Cure and Tomb Raider.

Deepest goldmine

The AngloGold Ashanti's Mponeng gold mine near Johannesburg is the deepest gold mine in the world. It takes more than an hour to travel from the surface right down to the bottom.

The temperature of the rock so deep down gets very hot and the air in the tunnels is cooled by pumping slurry ice into the depths.

3 000 shipwrecks

For centuries, the South African coastline has claimed the lives of thousands of sailors. Today, all shipwrecks are protected under South African law. A list of the shipwrecks along the coast can be viewed here.

Fun facts about South Africa — Here are 25 things you probably didn't know

Shipwreck at Cape Agulhas in South Africa at the southern most tip of Africa where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Most official languages, all with equal status

South Africa has 12 official languages: English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sesotho, Setswana, Sepedi, Xitsonga, siSwati, isiNdebele, Tshivenda, and Sign Language, which was officially recognised as a home language in 2018.

As per the 2011 census, 22.7% of South Africans speak isiZulu as their native language, making it the most commonly spoken language. English is the most common language used in business.

The only other country with more languages than South Africa is India with 18 official languages. However, each language is recognised as the official language of a certain area, and not the country as a whole.

Only country in the world with three capital cities

South Africa is the only country in the world with three capitals, and no, Pretoria is not the capital. Pretoria is the administrative capital while Cape Town is the legislative capital and Bloemfontein the judicial capital.

The only city specified in the Constitution of South Africa is Cape Town, the seat of Parliament. Most foreign embassies are in Pretoria, but many countries also have consulates in the other cities.