Interesting Facts You May Not Know About South Africa

Ocean Passages

table mountainWe sailed out of Cape Town harbor the first time in 1992 on Royal Salute, our 45-foot monohull we built ourselves. We sailed east around the southern tip of Africa and up the eastern seaboard. We crisscrossed the Indian Ocean to places like Mozambique, Inhambane, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Zanzibar, Lamu, and Socotra. The ocean is alive with fish and birds and many places were still untouched by civilization. We were often the only boat in anchorages like the island of Pemba off Tanzania where we encountered giant Manta Rays while diving on the spectacular reefs and underwater cliffs.

The Horn Of Africa and The Red Sea

We rounded the Horn of Africa at the turn of the monsoon season and visited Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Dalek Islands, and Egypt in the Red Sea. We explored all these countries and were amazed at the natural beauty, friendly people, and ancient history like the Valleys of the Kings and Queens in Luxor, Egypt. The trip through the Red Sea was as spectacular as it was scary. We encountered pirates at the bottom of the Red Sea, sand storms (haboob) off Sudan, and fought raging seas while dodging unmarked oil rigs.

But despite all that, it was such an incredible experience to visit places and encounter cultures very few people had seen at that time. Scuba diving in the Red Sea is unparalleled. We even managed to dive on Jacques Cousteau’s underwater house with shark researcher, Dr. Eugenie Clark. Once we reached the Suez Canal we were guided to Ismailia, Bitter Lakes the first day by one Egyptian pilot and another one the next day to Cairo. The city is probably one of the most chaotic places we have ever encountered but certainly one of the most exciting with its bazaars, pyramids, and camel rides to the Sphinx being the highlights of our stay there.

The Mediterranean Sea and Crossing The Atlantic

Once we hit the Mediterranean Sea we were in for another treat. Some of the most memorable experiences were our visits to Israel, Turkey, and Lebanon. Royal Salute was only the second cruising yacht to visit Junieh, Lebanon after the end of the 16-year civil war. After spending an entire season in the Mediterranean Sea visiting all the countries and islands on the way to Gibraltar, to prepare for our Atlantic crossing.

We set off to Madeira, Canaries, Cape Verde Islands and across the Atlantic Ocean to Antigua in the Caribbean with the trade winds. The crossing took us 18 days to arrive on December 26, 1996. It was an arrival that will always be remembered with fondness. We were so ready to be on land for a while and no place was ever so dear to us as the bar in English Harbor was. Our exploits up and down the Caribbean Sea are well known and we eventually ended up in America.

Second Ocean Crossing From Africa

In 2005, we sailed our new Island Spirit 401, Siyaya, from Cape Town. This time we charted a course up the West Coast to St Helena, one of the most isolated places on earth. We caught the trade winds and crossed the equator to Fortaleza, Brazil. We changed crew in Trinidad and skipped up the island chain to Miami, Florida. We spent a total of 42 days at sea. It was a long but relatively comfortable trip compared to our our first crossing in our monohull.

We visit Cape Town occasionally. We have all our family and many friends in South Africa and despite being away from South Africa for almost 25 years we still yearn for Africa sometimes. Even though we have travelled extensively and have adopted elements and the tastes of other cultures, our culture and cooking is still greatly influenced by our South African roots. South Africa is in our blood. It is a beautiful country with a melting pot of cultures and history, and the wildlife is its unique treasure.

Twenty Interesting Facts About South Africa

Table Mountain is the oldest mountain

  1. South Africa has 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. Stephen and I speak English, Afrikaans, and a little Sotho.
  2. Amazing animals live in South Africa:
    • Three of the five fastest land animals:
      • the cheetah (63 miles per hour),
      • the wildebeest,
      • and the lion.
    • World’s largest animals
      • bird (ostrich),
      • largest mammal (bull elephant),
      • largest reptile (leatherback sea turtle: 1500 pounds),
      • tallest animal (giraffe),
      • largest fish (whale shark).
    • The worlds “Big 5”, coined by big game hunters, refers to the African lion , leopard , rhino , elephant, and Cape buffalo.African Animals Catamaran Guru
  3. The second highest waterfall in the world is in South Africa: Tugela Falls. It checks in at 948m (3,110 feet), 31m (102 feet) less than Angel Falls in Venezuela.
  4. Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world – and the largest green one. The Grand Canyon in the U.S. is the biggest, and the Fish River Canyon in Namibia the second, but both are very dry.
  5. South Africa has the longest wine route in the world as well as the oldest wine industry outside of Europe and the Mediterranean, featuring Chardonnays, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cinsault, Riesling, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage varietals.
  6. Table Mountain in Cape Town is believed to be one of the oldest mountains in the world.
  7. The world’s first heart transplant was performed in Cape Town at Groote Schuur Hospital in 1967 by Dr. Christiaan Barnard.
  8. The only street in the world to house two Nobel Peace prizewinners is in Soweto. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both have houses on Vilakazi Street in Soweto.
  9. South Africa is the largest producer of strategic minerals. It produces 90% of the platinum, 80% of the manganese, 73% of the chrome, 45% of the vanadium, and 41% of the gold.
  10. The two biggest man made holes in the world were excavated in South Africa. The Big Hole in Kimberley and the Jagersfontein Mine are both gigantic.
  11. The world’s largest diamond was the Cullinan Diamond, found in South Africa in 1905. It weighed 3,106.75 carats uncut. It was cut into the Great Star of Africa, weighing 530.2 carats, the Lesser Star of Africa, which weighs 317.40 carats, and 104 other diamonds of nearly flawless color and clarity. They now form part of the British crown jewels.
  12. South Africa has produced some of the oldest fossils in the world.
  13. The Sudwala Caves in South Africa is the oldest known caves in the world.
  14. South Africa is home to seven World Heritage sites.
  15. South Africa has the world’s largest individually timed cycle race (the Cape Argus), the world’s largest open water swimming event (the Midmar Mile), and the world’s largest ultra-marathon (the Comrades Marathon).
  16. South Africa is the first country in Africa to build nuclear weapons and voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons.
  17. The Vredefort Dome is the oldest meteor scar in the world.
  18. Since the 1940s, South African golfers have won more golf majors than any other nation apart from the United States.
  19. The Rovos Rail it is the most luxurious train in the world and runs from South Africa to Namibia and Tanzania.
  20. Kruger National Park supports the greatest variety of wildlife species on the African continent.

African Animals Catamaran Guru


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