A World Heritage Site, iSimangaliso Wetland Park (the former Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park) incorporates an astonishing variety of habitats from the Ubombo Mountains to grasslands, forests, wetlands, mangroves and ancient dunes, magnificent beaches and coral reefs.
The Cape Floral Region has been called the world's hottest hot-spot for plant diversity and endemism. Its flora is so diverse and unique that it warrants classification as one the world's six principal floristic regions.
While most UNESCO heritage sites relate to a specific site or area, there are some listings which focus on a collection of related things – such as the work of an architect, an area of ancient rock art or an area of special scientific interest.
One of these collections is the ‘Cape Floral Protected Region‘, which in less than 0.38% of the area of Africa has nearly 20% of the continent’s flora and five of its twelve endemic families. Although the entire floral region is only 90,000 km2 in extent, it is home to 8,996 plant species and 988 genera, with 32% of its species found nowhere else in the world. The world heritage site comprises an ‘archipelago’ of eight protected areas encompassing as much as possible of this floristic diversity and the range of ecological conditions, soil types, rainfall regimes, and elevation found in the region. It stretches from the Cederberg to the Cape of Good Hope and includes the Boland Mountains, De Hoop Nature Reserve, the Swartberg Mountains and eastwards to Baviaanskloof.
During our tour of South Africa, we visited a few of the areas covered by the UNESCO listing.
1. TABLE MOUNTAIN
Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cableway or hiking to the top.
2. KIRSTENBOSCH BOTANICAL GARDENS
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is acclaimed as one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch, against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.
3. CAPE OF GOOD HOPE
So named by Portugal’s King John II this area has captured the imagination of European sailors such as Dias who first named it the Cape of Storms in 1488 and later in 1580 Sir Francis Drake who called it the “The Fairest Cape in all the World”.