South Africa, located at the southernmost part of the African continent, is a country of long colonial history which is particularly marked by aparthied. Today, it has evolved into a spectacular nation visited by tourists from all over the globe mostly for the wild safaris, wildlife sanctuaries and the natural beauty it holds in its confines.
It is bordered to the north by Botswana and Zimbabwe, to the northeast by Mozambique and Swaziland and to the northwest by Namibia. On the east coastline lies the Indian Ocean, on the Southern coastline lies the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean is located on the western side. South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho.
South Africa is predominantly marked by elevations of over 914m (3,000 ft) and at least 40% of the surface is at an elevation of over 1,220m (4,000 ft). Sections of Johannesburg are 1,829m (6,000 ft) above sea level. Resembling an inverted saucer, the land rises steadily from west to east to the Drakensberg Mountains, the tallest of which is Mont-aux-Sources at 3,300m (10,823 ft).
The coastal belt in the west and south varies from 3 to 30 miles in width, is between 152m (500ft) to 182m (600ft) above sea level, and is very fertile, producing citrus fruits and grapes, particularly in the Western Cape. North of the coastal belt stretch, the Little and the Great Karoo are bounded by mountains and lie higher than the coastal belt, and are semi-arid to arid, merging into sandy wastes that ultimately join the Kalahari Desert.
The high grass prairie, or veld, of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal is famous for its mineral deposits. From Drakensberg, the land falls towards the Indian Ocean in the rolling hills and valleys of Natal, which are occupied by rich vegetation and, near the coast, subtropical plants, including sugarcane.
Official name : The Republic of South Africa
Government : Republic and independent member of the British Commonwealth
Nationality : South African
Ethnic groups :
Location :: South Africa is located, as one might expect, on the southern tip of Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the Indian Ocean on the south and east.
Continent : Africa
Capital city :: Pretoria (administrative); Bloemfontein (judicial) and Cape Town (legislative).
Climate : Subtropical Summer: 19 -33°C, Winter: 5 -23°C.
Population : 45 million (2003)
Languages : Official language: 11official languages English widely spoken
Religion : Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and traditional religions
Area : 1,219,912 sq. km
Wildlife sanctuaries, safaries
Major cities : Alberton, Benoni, Cape Town, Carltonville, Durban, East London, Johannesburg
Clothing :: Summers: light cotton; winters : woolens
Major events : Day of the Vow, Day of Reconciliation (16 December), Soweto Day, Youth Day (16 June). Human Rights Day (21 March), Festival of the Arts , Arts Alive Festival, Pretoria Show ( third week of August)
Things to Buy :
Things to do :: Go for safaris (Jungle safaris, Elephant Safaris, etc.), shopping, sightseeing.
Entry permits are issued free on arrival to visitors on holiday from many Commonwealth and most western European countries, as well as Japan and the USA. If is not entitled to an entry permit, one will need a visa (also free) before arriving.
Culture in South Africa is diverse as it is a multiracial society and has distinct subgroups by skin colours. There are several major and many minor groupings in the traditional black cultures.
The mingling and melding in South Africa's urban areas, along with the suppression of traditional cultures during the apartheid years, means that the old ways of life are fading, but traditional black cultures are still strong in much of the countryside. Across the different groups, marriage customs and taboos differ, but most traditional cultures are based on beliefs in a masculine deity, ancestral spirits and supernatural forces. In general, polygamy is permitted and a lobolo (dowry) is usually paid. Cattle play an important part in many cultures, as symbols of wealth and as sacrificial animals.
When to Go
Summer are unbearably hot, especially in the low lands. Higher-altitude areas are pleasantly warm during summers, but the mountainous regions are rain- and mist-prone. The north-eastern regions very humid. Spring is the best time for wildflowers in the Northern Cape and Western Cape provinces. Winters are mild everywhere except in the highest country, where there are frosts and occasional snowfalls.
By Air : Johannesburg International Airport remains the main international airport.
Although about 30 airlines fly to South Africa, but there are an increasing number of flights to Cape Town and a few to Durban.
By Road : Private Car, an extensive network of minibus taxis, buses and trains.
Two major national bus operators cover the main routes and are pretty comfortable.
Pretoria (capital city) : Known as the Jacaranda City because of the purple blossom-bedecked trees which line its avenues, Pretoria is a spectacular, quiet city. It has a long, involved and engrossing history. Here one finds many significant old buildings and some interesting museums. The Transvaal Museum in the city has wonderful natural history displays and is the home of Mrs Ples, the australopithecine fossil found at Sterkfontein in the Cradle of Humankind. One must also visit the Cultural History Museum and the Smuts Museum present on the outskirts of the town.
Beaches : One can enjoy miles of unspoiled, exotic beaches, from the warm East Coast (stretching north of Durban down to East London in the Eastern Cape) to the cold Benguela stream around Cape Town and the West Coast. The most visited one’s are the Garden Route with its scenic beaches, The south coast of KwaZulu Natal.
National Parks : More than 20 National Parks are spread through the country offering a diversity of attractions like wildlife, mountains, floral scenery and more. Some of these are Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, Paul Kruger National Park, Pilanesberg National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Par
City Life : From the bustling Johannesburg to the irresistible Cape Town, from the small village of Pilgrims Rest in the mountains of Mpumalanga to the scenic town of Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands, South African cities and towns offer the visitor a variety to satisfy every need. Some of the important cities are Pretoria, Durban, Graaff and Reinet.
Nature Reserves, Hiking Trail and Botanical Gardens
Capture the essence of nature in any of the multitude of provincial and private nature reserves and botanical gardens. Hiking trails range from less an hour's leisure walks to 5 days hiking in the wild.
Favourites De Hoop Nature Reserve
Blyde River Canyon
Royal Natal Park
Storms River, Western Cape
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town Karoo National Botanical Garden, Worcester