By Tony Maniscalco
When walking South Africa you’ll come across the country’s symbols and emblems everywhere that you turn. Here are some of the national treasures that you’ll encounter on your travels.
South Africa’s National Tree
When walking South Africa’s national parks and forests you’ll come across many trees with yellow-hued bark. These trees are known as yellowwoods and can be seen all across South Africa from the ravines of the Drakensburg to the slopes of Table Mountain. This ancient tree has grown in this area of Africa for over 100 million years and can grow up to 40 metres in height, with a trunk reaching 3 metres in width. These trees look their best when growing in unsheltered places, like the Drakensberg, where they take on a short, bushy and gnarled appearance.
South Africa’s National Animal
The springbok is the national animal of South Africa and it is this animal that gives its name to the country’s rugby team. The best place to see a springbok when walking South Africa is the open plains of the Kalahari Desert. Springbok are famously suited to desert climates as they can survive without liquids, providing that their food contains at least 10% water. Springboks are extremely fast runners and can reach speeds of up to 80 km/h. However, they take their name from their excellent jumping abilities – spring is Afrikaans for jump and bok simply means antelope. You are most likely to see a springbok jump when rare rainfall hits the desert area. This rainfall causes such pure exaltation in the animal that it literally jumps for joy!
South Africa’s National Flower
While South Africa’s rugby team might take its name from the country’s national animal, South Africa’s cricket team take their name from the national flower; the giant protea. This large pink-petalled flower is commonly seen in the southern areas of the Western Cape, from the Cedarberg all the way up to Grahamstown. This whole area makes up the UNESCO protected Cape Floral region; an area which is just perfect for walking South Africa. In fact, botanists and horticulturists should definitely consider visiting this area of the Cape, alongside Table Mountain National Park – which is said to contain more species of plants in its 22,000 hectares than the whole of England and Ireland combined.
South Africa’s National Bird
Ornithologists flock to South Africa for the bird-life, but it’s the blue crane that the country has adopted as its national bird. This bird holds particular significance to the amaXhosa, who name the bird indwe and use its distinct blue feathers to award any valiant or meritorious conduct. The chief of the tribe would attach the crane feathers to the hero’s hair in a ceremony called ukundzabela. The receiver would then be known as an ugaba and it would be his job to sort out trouble in the tribe. The blue crane is most commonly seen in the karoo, but when walking South Africa’s Kwa Zulu Natal area you may be lucky enough to spot one lurking in the area’s grasslands.
South Africa’s National Fish
Keen anglers might want to take a break from walking South Africa and try to catch the country’s national fish – the galjoen. You can only catch the fish for your own consumption and it is not served in restaurants. If you want to sample the fish then be warned, the blue hinged fish is an acquired taste. Galjoen mostly keep to shallow water where they feeds and can only be found in South African waters, particularly along the coastline of the Western Cape.
About the Author: Tony Maniscalco is the Sales and Marketing Manager for Ramblers Worldwide Holidays. Operating since 1946, they now offer over 250 guided group walking holidays in more than 90 different countries. Whilst walking South Africa with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays, you can walk the most scenic locations & landscapes at the best value prices.
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