A World Heritage Site is an area that is deemed to have outstanding natural or cultural value and is therefore worthy of protection. Protection takes place as a result of being inscribed in the World Heritage List of the World Heritage Committee, in terms of the World Heritage Convention established in 1972 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).
The following Southern African sites are listed:
The Cradle of Humankind - South Africa
The many caves in the Sterkfontein Valley have produced abundant information on the evolution of modern man over the past 3,5 million years, on his way of life, and on the animals with which he lived and which served as a source of food. More than 500 hominid fossils, thousands of animal fossils, over 300 fragments of fossil wood, and over 9 000 stone tools have already been discovered in these caves and more are still being found.
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park - South Africa
This site contains a variety of landforms, including coral reefs, long sandy beaches, coastal dunes, lake systems, swamps, and extensive reed and papyrus wetlands. The diversity of habitat types and a transition between sub-tropical and tropical climates have resulted in exceptional species diversity. The site contains critical habitats for a range of species from Africa's marine, wetland and savannah environments. The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park is also of exceptional scenic value. The mosaic of landforms and habitat types creates superlative scenic vistas.
Robben Island - South Africa
This island is situated 11 kilometers from Cape Town in the middle of Table Bay. Nelson Mandela was held prisoner on Robben Island for a period of 18 years. Prior to being used as a prison, this island served as a leper colony. Robben Island is now a museum and conservation area.
Drakensberg Park - South Africa
The rock art of the Northern Drakensberg represents the largest and most concentrated group of rock paintings in Africa south of the Sahara and is outstanding with regard to both quality and diversity. The many caves and rock shelters in the Drakensberg Park contain a wealth of paintings made by the San people over a period of 4000 years. This area is also of outstanding natural beauty.
Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape - South Africa
Mapungubwe is set hard against the northern border of South Africa joining Zimbabwe and Botswana. It is an open, expansive savannah landscape on the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe. Mapungubwe developed into the largest kingdom in the subcontinent 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.
THE Vredefort Dome is the newest World Heritage Site for South Africa
The Vredefort Dome is the oldest and largest meteor impact site in the world. This meteor hit earth an estimated two billion years ago causing an impact site of 380km in diameter. It is located 110km from Johannesburg, in the Free State where one can experience the cultural heritage of the Basotho, Batswana and Khoi-San. R18m is to be taken from the poverty relief program to be put towards creating a tourism centre, hiking trails and the eradication of alien plant life within the Dome's ecosystem. This ecosystem contains much plant life as well as bird life and many uncommon animal species.
Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape
The 160,000 ha Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape of dramatic mountainous desert in north-western South Africa constitutes a cultural landscape communally owned and managed. This site sustains the semi-nomadic pastoral livelihood of the Nama people, reflecting seasonal patterns that may have persisted for as much as two millennia in southern Africa. It is the only area where the Nama still construct portable rush-mat houses (haru om) and includes seasonal migrations and grazing grounds, together with stock posts. The pastoralists collect medicinal and other plants and have a strong oral tradition associated with different places and attributes of the landscape.
African World Heritage Sites
The Island of Mozambique - Mozambique
The fortified city of Mozambique is located on this island, a former Portuguese trading post on the route to India. Its remarkable architectural unity is due to the consistent use, since the 16th century, of the same building techniques, building materials (stone or macuti) and decorative principles
The Victoria Falls - Zambia
These are among the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. The Zambezi river, which is more than 2 km wide at this point, plunges noisily down a series of basalt gorges and raises an iridescent mist that can be seen more than 20 km away
Motobo Hills - Zimbabwe
The area exhibits a profusion of distinctive rock landforms rising above the granite shield that covers much of Zimbabwe. The large boulders provide abundant natural shelters and have been associated with human occupation from the early Stone Age right through to early historical times, and intermittently since. They also feature an outstanding collection of rock paintings. The Motobo Hills continue to provide a strong focus for the local community that still uses shrines and sacred places, closely linked to traditional, social and economic activities.
Mana Pools National Park - Zimbabwe
On the banks of the Zambezi, great cliffs overhang the river and the floodplains. The area is home to a remarkable concentration of wild animals, including elephants, buffalo, leopards and cheetahs. An important concentration of Nile crocodiles is also be found in the area.
Great Zimbabwe National Monument - Zimbabwe
The ruins of Great Zimbabwe - the capital of the Queen of Sheba, according to an age-old legend - are a unique testimony to the Bantu civilization of the Shona between the 11th and 15th centuries. The city, which covers an area of nearly 80 ha, was an important trading centre and was renowned from the middle Ages onwards.
Khami Ruins National Monument - Zimbabwe
Khami, which developed after the capital of Great Zimbabwe had been abandoned in the mid-16th century, is of great archaeological interest. The discovery of objects from Europe and China shows that Khami was a major centre for trade over a long period of time.
For more information on the worldwide network of World Heritage Sites, visit the website of UNESCO at http: //www. u nesco.com. UNESCO is the custodian of World Heritage sites and you can play a vital role in the protection and management of sites in your area.