World Heritage Sites in South Africa
- Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park
- uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park
- Cradle of Humankind
- Robben Island
- Cape Floral Kingdom
- Vredefort Dome
Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage is both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America and of course those sites in South Africa that make up our world’s heritage.
What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.
UNESCO's World Heritage mission is to:
- encourage countries to sign the World Heritage Convention and to ensure the protection of their natural and cultural heritage;
- encourage States Parties to the Convention to nominate sites within their national territory for inclusion on the World Heritage List;
- encourage States Parties to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of conservation of their World Heritage sites;
- help States Parties safeguard World Heritage properties by providing technical assistance and professional training;
- provide emergency assistance for World Heritage sites in immediate danger;
- support States Parties' public awareness-building activities for World Heritage conservation;
- encourage participation of the local population in the preservation of their cultural and natural heritage;
- encourage international cooperation in the conservation of our world's cultural and natural heritage.
Inscription on the World Heritage List is but the first step in the World Heritage mission. Coordinated through the World Heritage Centre, the international community, from States Parties, to NGOs, corporations, and local populations, are active across the globe in support of the goals of the World Heritage Convention. Every year thousands of projects, valued from cents to millions of dollars, are underway in support of World Heritage.
From emergency assistance to safeguard properties in danger, to long-term conservation, management planning, technical assistance, professional training, public and youth education, and awareness building, the World Heritage Centre is at the forefront of the international community’s efforts to protect and preserve.
Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park:
A very special slice of Africa, the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park offers eco-tourists some of the most diverse wildlife and outdoor experiences imaginable. Besides Lake St Lucia - a unique, 38 000 ha expanse of lake, islands and estuary - the park incorporates an astonishing variety of habitats ranging from the Ubombo mountains to grasslands, forests, wetlands, mangroves and vegetated dunes, with magnificent beaches and coral reefs.
The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park stretches along the Zululand coast from Mapelane in the south to Sodwana in the north. This diversity gives rise to a multiplicity of fauna and flora, unrivalled anywhere in South Africa. It supports an abundance of Nile crocodile and hippo, as well as rhino (both black and white), elephant, buffalo, giraffe, waterbuck, kudu, nyala, impala, duiker and reedbuck, amongst a host of other species.
While swimming in the lake is prohibited due to the presence of crocodile, recreational options abound. You can dive on coral reefs or walk for miles along golden beaches; explore great dunes and wander through magical coastal forests; or roam across grassy plains as the wind carries the whistling calls of reedbuck on the alert. You can try your hand at canoeing while enjoying a wilderness trail, and if snorkelling, angling or boating take your fancy, this is the place to indulge yourself.
Migrant whales cavorting along the coast, leatherback and loggerhead turtles, nesting on the beaches at night in summer, add to the park's special attractions.
From Mapelane the park stretches northwards, incorporating St Lucia Game and Marine Reserves, False Bay Park, Cape Vidal, Sodwana Bay, Mkuzi Game Reserve and the Maputaland Marine Reserve. The 260 000 ha park is internationally recognised, with two parts of it registered as Wetlands of International Significance under the Ramsar Convention. (The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 152 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1609 wetland sites, totalling 145.8 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance).
The ongoing fluvial, marine and aeolian processes in the site have produced a variety of landforms, including coral reefs, long sandy beaches, coastal dunes, lake systems, swamps, and extensive reed and papyrus wetlands. The interplay of the park's environmental heterogeneity with major floods and coastal storms and a transitional geographic location between subtropical and tropical Africa has resulted in exceptional species diversity and ongoing speciation. The mosaic of landforms and habitat types creates breathtaking scenic vistas. The site contains critical habitats for a range of species from Africa's marine, wetland and savannah environments.
Justification for Inscription
The St Lucia site consists of thirteen contiguous protected areas with a total size of 234,566 hectares. The site is the largest estuarine system in Africa and includes the southernmost extension of coral reefs on the continent. The site contains a combination of on-going fluvial, marine and aeolian processes that have resulted in a variety of landforms and ecosystems. Features include wide submarine canyons, sandy beaches, forested dune cordon and a mosaic of wetlands, grasslands, forests, lakes and savannah. The variety of morphology as well as major flood and storm events contribute to ongoing evolutionary processes in the area. Natural phenomena include: shifts from low to hyper-saline states in the Park’s lakes; large numbers of nesting turtles on the beaches; the migration of whales, dolphins and whale-sharks off-shore; and huge numbers of waterfowl including large breeding colonies of pelicans, storks, herons and terns. The Park’s location between sub-tropical and tropical Africa as well as its coastal setting has resulted in exceptional biodiversity including some 521-bird species.
Recognised by the ancient mystics of our land as breathing new life into the human spirit, the inescapable allure of this 200- kilometre- long wonderland owes much to its intense relationship with people...the million-plus years of Stone Age occupation in particular. This culminated in the tragic disappearance, during the late 19th century, of the San hunter-gatherers colloquially referred to as Bushmen. Migrating chiefdoms from the Great Lakes of Central Africa had in the 13th century been humbled by the sheer magnitude of this uKhahlamba - Barrier of Spears - destined to become the western extreme of their Zulu Kingdom. The ox-wagons of Boer settlers negotiated its precipitous passes in 1837 on the Great Trek from British dominion in the Cape Colony to a 'Promised Land'. The name Drakensberg was coined forty years later when a Boer father and son reported seeing a dragon - a giant lizard with wings and a tail - flying high above the cloud-shrouded mountain peaks.
From the massive basalt cliffs of its northern reaches to the soaring sandstone buttresses in the south, the Berg - as it's popularly known - offers a myriad delights to anyone of any age who needs to 'get away from it all'. Peace and quiet is the catchphrase amid this unsurpassed grandeur where the world's second- highest waterfall tumbles down a series of breathtaking cascades.
The uKhahlamba – Drakensberg Park has exceptional natural beauty in its soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks, and golden sandstone ramparts. Rolling high altitude grasslands, the pristine steep-sided river valleys and rocky gorges also contribute to the beauty of the site. The site's diversity of habitats protects a high level of endemic and globally threatened species, especially birds and plants. This spectacular natural site also contains many caves and rock-shelters with the largest and most concentrated group of paintings in Africa south of the Sahara, made by the San people over a period of 4,000 years. The rock paintings are outstanding in quality and diversity of subject and in their depiction of animals and human beings. They represent the spiritual life of the San people who no longer live in this region.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (i) The rock art of the Drakensberg is the largest and most concentrated group of rock paintings in Africa south of the Sahara and is outstanding both in quality and diversity of subject.
Criterion (iii) The San people lived in the mountainous Drakensberg area for more than four millennia, leaving behind them a corpus of outstanding rock art which throws much light on their way of life and their beliefs.
Cradle of Humankind:
The Taung Skull Fossil Site, part of the extension, is the place where in 1924 the celebrated Taung Skull - a specimen of the species Australopithecus africanus - was found. Makapan Valley, also in the site, features in its many archaeological caves traces of human occupation and evolution dating back some 3.3 million years. The area contains essential elements that define the origin and evolution of humankind. Fossils found there have enabled the identification of several specimens of early hominids, more particularly specimens of Paranthropus, dating back between 4.5 million and 2.5 million years as well as evidence of the domestication of fire 1.8 million to 1 million years ago. It is an extension to the site inscribed in 1999.
The Site lies mainly in the Gauteng province with a small extension into the neighbouring North-West province, and covers 47 000 hectares of land mostly privately owned.
The Cradle of Humankind Site comprises a strip of a dozen dolomitic limestone caves containing the fossillised remains of ancient forms of animals, plants and most importantly, hominids. The dolomite, in which the caves formed, started out as coral reefs growing in a worm shallow sea about 2.3 billion years ago.
As the reefs died off they were transformed into limestone that some time later was converted into dolomite. Millions of years later after the sea had receded, slightly acidic groundwater began to dissolve out calcium carbonate from the dolomite to form underground caverns. Over time the water table dropped and the underground caverns were exposed to the air. The percolation of acidic water through the dolomite also dissolved calcium carbonates out of the rock into the caverns, which formed stalactites, stalagmites and other crystalline structures. Continued erosion on the earth's surface and dissolution of the dolomite eventually resulted in shafts or avens forming between the surface of the earth and the caverns below. Bones, stones and plants washed down these shafts into the caves; and animals and hominids fell into the caves, became trapped and died. The bone and plant remains became fossilized and along with various stones and pebbles became cemented in a hard mixture called breccia.
At least seven of the twelve sites have yielded hominid remains. In fact, together these cave sites have produced over 850 hominid fossil remains, so that to date they represent one of the world's richest concentrations of fossil hominid bearing sites. The scientific value of this area lies in the fact that these sites provide us with a window into the past, to a time when our earliest ancestors were evolving and changing. Scientists have long accepted that all humans had their origins in Africa.
Through the use of biochemical evidence they have argued that the split of the human lineage (Hominidae) from that of the African apes took place around 5-6 million years ago. The study of hominid fossils from sites in Africa thus enables scientists to understand how these hominids have changed and diversified since then.
The Cradle of Humankind site is made up of, among others:
This is the hub of the cradle site, the anchor of the whole site, the cultural and corporate event site for the area. Mohale's Gate is situated some eight kilometres beyond the Sterkfontein cave. On the approach to the site, seven impressive 20m tall concrete monoliths become visible. Looking up the hill, visitors will notice ancient rocky outcrops, setting the scene for a huge burial mound, referred to as a "tumulus", a partly disguised grassy mound 20m in height and 35m in diameter, in a teardrop shape.
Sketches of the tumulus
Although the tumulus is grassed it is clearly discernible as a man-made structure, on an axis with the entrance to the site. It is constructed of steel, glass and concrete. The significance of the tumulus is to pay homage to the "spirituality of burial" of past societies in the area. Once visitors have parked, they enter the tumulus through a kiosk, shops and stalls, set in "circular square" or pre-space.
The tumulus consists of four storeys with the basement level consisting of an underground lake, which visitors can explore by means of explorers' boats on a delineated path, moving through a time line. The centre of the lake will be the "spiritual heart" of the whole space, consisting of a misty epicentre, with eight double columns rising up into the other levels. From the underground lake visitors will enter a square tube cave, moving out from the teardrop structure, gently curved around, taking a 150m long walk through another time line.
Here the piece de resistance will be displayed - the original Mrs Ples fossil. Other "stars of the show", original hominid fossils, will be on display, with a cast of Little Foot also available for viewing sometime in the future.
On exiting the cave, visitors can take in the spectacular view of the Magaliesberg. Picnic spots are created, and food baskets can be purchased at a food outlet.
The cave is designed to resemble a spine, with vertebrae protruding above ground, becoming the focus of the walk back to the building. The rest of the building consists of a conference centre, offices, a 5-star restaurant and observation deck, affording visitors views of the surrounding site. West of the tumulus is a 5-star hotel in the form of explorers' tents, consisting of 24 units. Southeast of the tumulus is an amphitheatre with a capacity for 5000 people. The building will offer interesting views, some only visible from certain angles or levels, some looking down into the building, others into the distance. Once this area has been explored, visitors will move on to the Sterkfontein site. Future plans are to build several satellite sites around the larger cradle interpretation centre area.
The Sterkfontein Caves are located within the Isaac Edwin Stegmann Reserve about 10km from Krugersdorp. The Stegmann family donated these caves to the University of Witwatersrand. A section of the caves are open to the public, and there is a gravel platform from which the public can view the excavation site. Other facilities include a tearoom and small museum in which information about significant findings are on display.
Right from the start the caves proved rich in hominids. In 1936 the Sterkfontein Caves produced the first adult australopithecine. In 1947 the almost complete skull of an adult female Australopithecus africanus was found. Initially named Plesianthropus transvaalensis ("near-man" of the Transvaal), which inspired the nickname 'Mrs.Ples'.
'Mrs Ples' is estimated to be between 2.8 and 2.6 million years old and ranks high on the long list of australopithecine discoveries for which Sterkfontein is now famous. The world's longest sustained excavation ever carried out at an ancient hominid site was started in 1966 and continues today. A further 500 hominid specimens have been recovered, making Sterkfonteln the world's richest hominid site. The site is also renowned for studies carried out on fossilised fauna, wood and stone tools that were made, used and discarded by hominids in the past.
The fossil remains from Broom’s excavations are housed In the Transvaal Museum (Northern Flagship Institution), Pretoria, while the remains from 1966 onwards are housed at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
Swartkrans is located about 1.5km northwest of the Sterkfontein Caves and is owned by the University of the Witwatersrand. Drs Broom and Robinson carried out the first scientific excavations at Swartkrans towards the end of 1948. To date, more than 200 hominid specimens, mostly attributable to Paranthropus (Australopithecus) robustus, numerous animal remains and stone and bone tools have been recovered from this site. Apart from these robust hominids, however, Swartkrans was also the first site in Africa to yield remains of Homo ergaster. Homo sapiens, in Africa, are thought to be responsible for the stone tools and possibly for the use of controlled fire at Swartkrans. Deposits at Swartkrans date between 1.8 and 1 million years ago. Hominid and faunal specimens from Swartkrans are housed at the Transvaal Museum (Northern Flagship Institution).
This site is located about 1 .1 km to the northwest of the Kromdraai store on a steep hillside overlooking the Bloubankspruit. No recent excavations, have been carried out, however there is a possibility that hominid remains may be found if excavations are resumed.
Plover's Lake is located northeast of the Sterkfontein Caves, about 2.5km from the Kromdraai -Broederstroom road. Excavations have been carried out by Dr Francis Thackeray of the Transvaal Museum (Northern Flagship Institution) in association with scientists from Washington University. The ancient cave roof has disintegrated as a result of erosion leaving exposed calcified sediments rich with fossils. The site has yielded abundant faunal remains including antelope, extinct zebra and a leopard lair.
The site is located 1.6 km to the west of the Wonder Cave. It is one of the most recent fossil hominid sites to be discovered, and is already the 3rd richest fossil hominid site. 75 specimens of Paranthropus (Australopithecus) robustus and 5 specimens of Homo sapiens have been unearthed together with a substantial faunal sample.
The site, Kromdraai, is situated about 1 .5 km north of the Sterkfontein caves. Kromdraai is known for the first discovery of Paranthropus robustus, a more robust line of hominid that existed between 2-1 million years ago in South Africa. Current excavations are being carried out in the open by the Transvaal Museum (Northern Flagship Institution) and the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Harvard.
Bolt's Farm consists of a series of lime quarries some 2.5-km southwest of Sterkfontein Caves. Fauna discovered from this site include fossil elephant, pig, antelope, sabre-toothed cat and rodents. The fossils indicate a range of different dates. Certain fossil rodents, for example, dating to about 4.5 million years, make these the oldest deposits in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Other species have been dated to between 3.4 -2.9 million years old.
Coopers B is situated about 1.25 km from Sterkfontein Caves. It became the third South African cave deposit to yield a hominid fossil when a molar tooth was found. Apart from a significant sample of faunal remains the site has yielded part of the face of a Paranthropus (Austra/opithecus) robustus and some isolated teeth.
Gladysvale is located 14km northeast of Sterkfontein in the John Nash Nature Reserve and includes three underground caves and a considerable volume of breccia. Gladysvale preserves one of the most extensive time sequences of any cave in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site with sediments dating from over 3.0 million years to around 250 years ago. Apart from a few hominid specimens, including two ape-man teeth, the site has yielded the skeleton of a wolf, the skull of a giant hyena and some plant remains.
Haasgat is situated about 5 km from the Hartbeeshoek-Broederstroom road. Early lime mining removed a basal flowstone from the cave, causing part of the roof to collapse. The collapsed blocks of breccia have yielded a significant faunal sample, although the bone concentration is not particularly high. No hominids have been found thus far. Discoveries in this site include early forest-dwelling monkeys, which indicates that the deposits may be around 1.3 million years old.
Gondolin is located 3.2 km southwest of Broederstroom village. Unlike all the above- mentioned sites, which are located in the Gauteng Province, Gondolin falls within the North West Province. Identified fossils from this site suggest an age of about 1.2- 1.3 million years ago.
The Wonder Cave Is located about 2.5 km from the Kromdraai. The enormous cave chamber is believed to be 2.2 million years old. This cave has the best example in the region of a relatively young talus cone (a few thousand years old) that helps us understand how the older caves in the area were filled in. Wonder Cave contains drip stone formations as beautiful as those in the Cango Caves. It also has a resident bat population. Hourly tours are conducted by on well-lit pathways where no crawling is necessary.
Tours: Full Day and Half Day
While visiting Johannesburg, why not spend a half or full day with us on an exciting and unique adventure into our own distant past? We offer groups the rare opportunity to tour some of the world's most important and richest pre-human fossil sites in the "Cradle of Humankind" World Heritage Site. These include the world-famous sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans and Drimolen!
Since 1936, some of the most exciting fossils of our human ancestors have been found, only 45 minutes from Johannesburg, South Africa at sites in the Sterkfontein Valley. Come tour these sites with our staff of Palaeo-anthropologists, and gain a glimpse into the world of our ancestors.
These tours will provide you with an experience completely different from any you have ever had, an experience that you will not soon forget, an experience that very few countries in the world are able to offer you.
1. Full Day Tour. (Includes Drimolen, (and Swartkrans or Sterkfontein) and lunch).
09:00 – Pick-up from your overnight accommodation. Enjoy a detailed chat about human evolution en route to the sites.
10h00 - Arrive at the Rhino and Lion Park. Enjoy a short game drive on the way to the fossil site of Drimolen.
10h30 - Arrive at Drimolen. Tea/Coffee and refreshments served at a secluded picnic spot. While enjoying your morning tea, a short fossil cast demonstration and talk on human evolution is presented.
11h30 - A guided tour of the actual fossilferous deposit of Drimolen is conducted. As Drimolen is a working site, one has the rare privilege to see two million year old fossil unearthed for the first time.
12h30 - Enjoy a lovely catered, picnic lunch under the trees.
14h00 - Depart Drimolen for either Swartkrans or Sterkfontein.
14h30 - Arrive at chosen site for a guided tour. At Sterkfontein, enjoy a brief tour of the undergound caves. At Swartkrans, a guided tour of the fossiliferous deposits is conducted.
15h30 - Depart for Johannesburg, Pretoria or Magaliesburg.
16h30 - Arrive at departure point.
2. HALF - DAY TOUR - Drimolen with Snack
10h00 or 13h00 - Arrive at the Rhino and Lion Park. Enjoy a short game drive on the way to the fossil site of Drimolen.
10h30 or 13h30 - Arrive at Drimolen. Refreshments and morning/afternoon snack served at a secluded picnic spot. While enjoying the snack, a short fossil cast demonstration and talk on human evolution is presented.
11h30 or 14h30 - A guided tour of the actual fossilferous deposit of Drimolen is conducted. As Drimolen is a working site, one has the rare privilege to see two million year old fossil unearthed for the first time.
12h30 or 15h30 - Depart Drimolen.
14h00 or 17h00 - Arrive at departure point.
One thousand years ago, Mapungubwe in Limpopo province was the centre of the largest kingdom in the subcontinent, where a highly sophisticated people traded gold and ivory with China, India and Egypt. Mapungubwe is an area of open savannah at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers and abutting the northern border of South Africa and the borders of Zimbabwe and Botswana. It thrived as a sophisticated trading centre from around 1220 to 1300.
What survives are the almost untouched remains of the palace sites and also the entire settlement area dependent upon them, as well as two earlier capital sites, the whole presenting an unrivalled picture of the development of social and political structures over some 400 years. Mapungubwe was home to an advanced culture of people for the time – the ancestors of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. They traded with China and India, had a flourishing agricultural industry, and grew to a population of around 5 000. Mapungubwe is probably the earliest known site in southern Africa where evidence of a class-based society existed (Mapungubwe's leaders were separated from the rest of the inhabitants).
What is so fascinating about Mapungubwe is that it is testimony to the existence of an African civilisation that flourished before colonisation. According to Professor Thomas Huffman of the archaeology department at the University of the Witwatersrand, Mapungubwe represents "the most complex society in southern Africa and is the root of the origins of Zimbabwean culture". Between 1200 and 1300 AD, the Mapungubwe region was the centre of trade in southern Africa. Wealth came to the region from ivory and later from gold deposits that were found in Zimbabwe. The area was also agriculturally rich because of large-scale flooding in the area. The wealth in the area led to differences between rich and poor.
In the village neighbouring Mapungubwe, called K2, an ancient refuse site has provided archaeologists with plenty of information about the lifestyles of the people of Mapungubwe. Besides the rich cultural heritage of the place, most of the continent's big game roam here. There is also a tremendous diversity of plant and animal life, and the park, known as the Limpopo Shashe Transfrontier Conservation Area, is likely to become a major tourist attraction.
Mapungubwe is set hard against the northern border of South Africa, joining Zimbabwe and Botswana. It is an open, expansive savannah landscape at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. Mapungubwe developed into the largest kingdom in the sub-continent before it was abandoned in the 14th century. What survives are the almost untouched remains of the palace sites and also the entire settlement area dependent upon them, as well as two earlier capital sites, the whole presenting an unrivalled picture of the development of social and political structures over some 400 years.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (ii): The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape contains evidence for an important interchange of human values that led to far-reaching cultural and social changes in Southern Africa between AD 900 and 1300.
Criterion (iii): The remains in the Mapungubwe cultural landscape are a remarkably complete testimony to the growth and subsequent decline of the Mapungubwe state which at its height was the largest kingdom in the African sub-continent.
Criterion (iv): The establishment of Mapungubwe as a powerful state trading through the East African ports with Arabia and India was a significant stage in the history of the African sub-continent.
Criterion (v): The remains in the Mapungubwe cultural landscape graphically illustrate the impact of climate change and record the growth and then decline of the kingdom of Mapungubwe as a clear record of a culture that became vulnerable to irreversible change.
People lived on Robben Island many thousands of years ago, when the sea channel between the Island and the Cape mainland was not covered with water. Since the Dutch settled at the Cape in the mid-1600s, Robben Island has been used primarily as a prison. Indigenous African leaders, Muslim leaders from the East Indies, Dutch and British settler soldiers and civilians, women, and anti-apartheid activists, including South Africa's first democratic President, Nelson Rohihlahla Mandela and the founding leader of the Pan Africanist Congress, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, were all imprisoned on the Island. Today, however, Robben Island also tells us about victory and ‘the indestructibility of the spirit of resistance against colonialism, injustice and oppression’. Overcoming opposition from the prison authorities, prisoners on the Island after the 1960s were able to organise sporting events, political debates and educational programmes, and to assert their right to be treated as human beings, with dignity and equality. They were able to help the country establish the foundations of our modern democracy. The image we have of the Island today is as a place of oppression, as well as a place of triumph. Robben Island has not only been used as a prison. It was a training and defence station in World War II (1939-1945) as well as a hospital for leprosy patients, and the mentally and chronically ill (1846-1931). In the 1840s, Robben Island was chosen for a hospital because it was both secure (isolating dangerous cases) and healthy (providing a good environment for cure). During this time, political and common-law prisoners were still kept on the Island. As there was no cure and little effective treatment available for leprosy, mental illness and other chronic illnesses in the 1800s, Robben Island was a kind of prison for the hospital patients too. Since 1997 it has been a museum. The museum is a dynamic institution, which acts as a focal point of South African heritage. It runs educational programmes for schools, youths and adults, facilitates tourism development, conducts ongoing research related to the Island and fulfils an archiving function.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (iii): The buildings of Robben Island bear eloquent testimony to its sombre history.
Criterion (vi): Robben Island and its prison buildings symbolize the triumph of the human spirit, of freedom, and of democracy over oppression.
Cape Floral Kingdom:
The Cape Floral Region - comprising eight protected areas stretching from the Cape Peninsula to the Eastern Cape - was the sixth South African site to be inscribed on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco). Unesco's World Heritage Committee declared the 553 000 hectare Cape Floral Region to be "outstanding universal significance to humanity", describing it as "one of the richest areas for plants in the world".
The Cape Floral Region "represents less than 0.5% of the area of Africa, but is home to nearly 20% of the continent's flora," Unesco said in a statement. "Its plant species diversity, density and endemism are among the highest worldwide, and it has been identified as one of the world's 18 biodiversity hot-spots. "The site displays outstanding ecological and biological processes associated with the Fynbos vegetation, which is unique to the Cape Floral Region," Unesco added. "Unique plant reproductive strategies, adaptive to fire, patterns of seed dispersal by insects, as well as patterns of endemism and adaptive radiation found in the flora, are of outstanding value to science."
The "serial" heritage site comprises eight protected areas considered to be the most important examples of the Cape floral kingdom: Table Mountain, De Hoop Nature Reserve, the Boland mountain complex, the Groot Winterhoek wilderness area, the Swartberg mountains, the Boesmansbos wilderness area, the Cederberg wilderness area, and Baviaanskloof, which straddles the Western and Eastern Cape boundary. Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden on the slopes of Table Mountain is included in the site, the first time a botanical garden has been included in one of Unesco's world heritage sites. The region follows the Cape fold belt of mountains, the Cedarberg and Hottentots Holland mountains, then cuts through the Langeberg, Outeniquas, Tsitsikamma, Swartberg and Zuurberg mountains, encompassing key sections of the Cape floral kingdom, the smallest and richest of the world's six floral kingdoms - and the only one to be contained within one country.
South Africa has the third-highest level of biodiversity in the world, thanks in no small part to the Cape floral kingdom. The Table Mountain National Park alone has more plant species within its 22 000 hectares than the whole British Isles or New Zealand.
A stretch of land and sea spanning 90 000 square kilometres, or 0.05% of the earth's land area, the Cape floral kingdom contains roughly 3% of the world's plant species - at about 456 species per 1 000km2. Of the 9 600 species of vascular plants (plants with vessels for bearing sap) found in the Cape floral kingdom, about 70% are endemic, i.e. occur nowhere else on earth.
The area’s freshwater and marine environments are similarly unique, with plants and animals adapted to highly specialised environments. And when it comes to fauna, the kingdom boasts 11 000 marine animal species, 3 500 of which are endemic, and 560 vertebrate species, including 142 reptile species of which 27 are endemic.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (ii): The Cape Floral Region is considered of outstanding universal value for representing ongoing ecological and biological processes associated with the evolution of the unique Fynbos biome. These processes are represented generally within the Cape Floral Region and captured in the eight protected areas. Of particular scientific interest are the plant reproductive strategies including the adaptive responses to fire of the flora and the patterns of seed dispersal by insects. The pollination biology and nutrient cycling are other distinctive ecological processes found in the site. The Cape Floral Region forms a centre of active speciation where interesting patterns of endemism and adaptive radiation are found in the flora.
Criterion (iv): The Cape Floral Region is one of the richest areas for plants than for any similar sized area in the world. The number of species per genus within the region (9:1) and per family (52) are among the highest given for various species-rich regions in the world. The species density in the Cape Floral Region is also amongst the highest in the world. It displays the highest levels of endemism at 31.9 % and it has been identified as one of the world’s 18 biodiversity hot spots.
Vredefort Dome, approximately 120km south west of Johannesburg, is a representative part of a larger meteorite impact structure, or astrobleme and has been declared South Africa’s seventh World Heritage Site (2005).
Dating back 2,023 million years, it is the oldest astrobleme found on earth so far. With a radius of 190km, it is also the largest and the most deeply eroded. Vredefort Dome bears witness to the world’s greatest known single energy release event, which caused devastating global change, including, according to some scientists, major evolutionary changes. It provides critical evidence of the earth’s geological history and is crucial to our understanding of the evolution of the planet.
Despite their importance to the planet’s history, geological activity on the earth’s surface has led to the disappearance of evidence from most impact sites and Vredefort is the only example on earth to provide a full geological profile of an astrobleme below the crater floor. When visiting the area you will notice small hills in a large dome shape with beautiful valleys between them.
The ring of hills we see now are the eroded remains of a dome created by the rebound of the rock below the impact site after the asteroid hit. The original crater, now eroded away, is estimated to have been 250 - 300 kilometres in diameter. Some 70 cubic kilometres of rock would have been vaporised in the impact. The Vredefort structure is currently regarded the biggest and oldest clearly visible impact structure on Earth.
Within the ring of hills at Vredefort is found granite gneiss rock. The force of the impact produced deep fractures in the underlying rock. Rock melted by the impact flowed down into the cracks, producing what are now exposed as ridges of hard dark rock - the granophyres dykes. This contrasts with normal geological dykes, where molten rock from deeper in the earth has flowed upwards through cracks.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (i): Vredefort Dome is the oldest, largest, and most deeply eroded complex meteorite impact structure in the world. It is the site of the world’s greatest single, known energy release event. It contains high quality and accessible geological (outcrop) sites that demonstrate a range of geological evidences of a complex meteorite impact structure. The rural and natural landscapes of the serial property help portray the magnitude of the ring structures resulting from the impact. The serial nomination is considered to be a representative sample of a complex meteorite impact structure. A comprehensive comparative analysis with other complex meteorite impact structures demonstrated that it is the only example on earth providing a full geological profile of an astrobleme below the crater floor, thereby enabling research into the genesis and development of an astrobleme immediately post impact.
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