SANParks top cultural & heritage tourism sites

Northern Cape
Northern Cape

Top cultural & heritage sites in South Africa

South Africa’s vast landscape is a world of wonder endowed with spectacular features and attractions in the form of mountains, rivers, the ocean, game reserves that boast rare bird and animal species as well as preserved cultural and heritage sites. South Africa’s rich history and heritage is still embedded in the peoples’ lifestyles and value systems and exhibited in cultural events, artefacts monuments, museums, ancestral graves, historical war sites, rock art, etc. What is even more interesting is the fact that many of these cultural and heritage sites are located within or near South Africa’s diverse national parks.

Here are some of the top cultural and heritage sites you need to consider for your next holiday or tourism trip:

 Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is one of the country’s biggest game reserves and has earned global acclaim with tourists from across the world traveling just to come and experience the unique plants and animals on display. Towering cliffs, lush forests, rivers, and streams which are home to the big 5 and other endangered animals and birds which are complemented by breath-taking sunrises and sunsets complete the elegance and beauty of this game reserve.

Northern Kruger National Park has several self-catering camps which provide the perfect setting for visitors to set out for an adventure into cultural and heritage sites and sounds. These sites hold immense cultural value to the local people but also provide unparalleled insights into all things heritage. These sites are Albasini Ruins, Masorini, and Thulamela.

The Albasini Ruins remains a cultural business heritage that provides historical knowledge on local and cross-border business. This site is where you will find the remains of the pioneering business leader of Portuguese descent, Joao Albasini. He is credited with establishing trading routes that extend to the Portuguese Port of Lourenco Marques (Mozambique) as a way to facilitate trade for the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR).

 Masorini is a typical iron-age site located about 12kms from the Phalaborwa gate. It was initially established by the local people as an advanced industrial area for mining, smelting iron ore, and other metal trading businesses. You can look forward to experiencing reconstructed huts and furnaces, a rich museum with archaeological and ethnographic information, a picnic area by the hill, and guided tours to enjoy the scenery.

Thulamela is classified as a heritage site and dates back to 450 – 500 years before the present (BP). The history behind this site is centered on the Nyai division of the Shona people who believed in a mystical, elusive and sacred leader. Learn through the discovered graves about individuals of the past and their belief systems. The site also provides historical revelation around the farming and food practices with preserved potshards pointing to the cooking, eating, and drinking habits.

Mapungubwe National Park

The Mapungubwe Cultural site is located not far from Limpopo and Shashe rivers and is commonly known as a burial site of African Kings. This site is a natural reservoir of human development that took place in Southern Africa between AD900 and 1300. By visiting this site, you will get a rare opportunity to learn and appreciate the journey of the Mapungubwe kingdom and its role in facilitating state trading from East African ports into international markets like Saudi Arabia and India.

Karoo National Park

Karoo National Park is not just a game reserve known for interesting 4×4 trails, diverse animals and birds, game drives, and a true African landscape, Karoo is also a cultural and heritage destination. The significant cultural attractions in the Karoo are:

Grantham house -This is an environmental education centre that hosts tourists and groups of people looking for intensive environmental education, outdoor activities, and walking trails.

Stolzhoek Ou Schuur – Dating back to the 1800s, this cultural site has been preserved as a rich source of information and graphic display of history regarding the historical journey of the park as well as the flora and fauna which are very common around this part of the country.

“Wolwehokke’ / Traps -These traps have historical significance because they were historically used by farmers to catch predators and other vicious animals. From these traps, tourists get a chance to learn the history of the food gathering and hunting habits of the local farmers.

Graveyards – Karoo also plays host too many historical gravesites with special meaning. These include cricketer Edward Lohmann and revered military general Andrew Wauchope who was a casualty in the battle for Magersfontein in the outskirts of Kimberley. There is also the gravesite of Winchester Clowes. Winchester’s name is recorded in the history books as a survivor of the wars of Majuba and Magersfontein. There is the resting place of John Sweet Distin who is recorded to have jumped overboard around Table Bay in 1946 on his way from New Zealand just because of the love of the area. The list of these cultural gravesites can’t be complete without mentioning General Pieter Hendrik Kritzinger who was a major Boer warrior who fought against British invaders.

For more information, visit: For more information contact the South African Tourism Press Centre or visit www.southafrica.net