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South Africa Travel Information
"Home to the world's strangest and most dramatic landscapes" is a great way to describe South Africa. Tour a unique wealth of animal and plant life, treasures of gold and a kaleidoscope of fascinating cultures. South Africa is about extremes, Deserts and savannas, snow-covered mountains and grasslands, high forests and tropical mangrove swamps. Within these climatic zones, Earth's most diverse plant population flourishes.

South Africa is also the home of big game, and hosts birds as varied as the vast range of habitats and foods that nature has prepared for them.

South Africa's fascinating and diverse peoples are its greatest asset. Known as the cradle of civilisation, archaeologists discovered 2,5 million-year-old fossils of our earliest ancestors, as well as 100 000-year-old remains of modern man.

The People:

On the night of 9 October 1996 there were 40,58 million people in South Africa (Census '96). Of these, 76,7% classified themselves as African; 10,9% as white; 8,9% as coloured; and 2,6% as Indian/Asian. According to statistics, the country's population is estimated at 43 686 million.

The South African population consists of the following groups: the Nguni people (including the Zulu, Xhosa and Swazi), who account for two-thirds of the population; the Sotho-Tswana people, who include the Southern, Northern and Western Sotho (Tswana); the Tsonga; the Venda; Afrikaners; English; coloureds; Indians, and people who have immigrated to South Africa from the rest of Africa, Europe and Asia and who maintain a strong cultural identity. A few members of the Khoi and the San (the original inhabitants) also live in South Africa.


The South African Constitution, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996), states that everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of his or her choice, but no one may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights. Each person also has the right to instruction in the language of his or her choice where this is reasonably practicable.

To cater for South Africa's diverse peoples, the Constitution provides for 12 official languages, namely: Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga and sign language for people with a hearing disability.

Recognising the historically diminished use and status of the indigenous languages, the Constitution expects the Government to take positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of these languages. According to the Census '96 figures, isiZulu is the mother tongue of 22,9% of the population, followed by isiXhosa (17,9%), Afrikaans (14,4%), Sepedi (9,2%) and English (8,6%).

Tourists travelling in South Africa will be pleased to know that most hotels, restaurants and tour operators speak European languages.

The Land:

The Republic of South Africa occupies the southern part of the African continent, stretching from 22° to 35° S (latitude) and longitudinally from 17° to 33° E.

Its surface area is 1 219 090 km2. This is an area bigger than Germany, France and Italy combined. It has common boundaries with the republics of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, while the Republic of Mozambique and the Kingdom of Swaziland lie to the north-east. Completely enclosed by South African territory in the south-east is the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

To the west, south and east, South Africa borders on the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Isolated, 1 920 km southeast of Cape Town in the Atlantic, lie Prince Edward and Marion islands, annexed by South Africa in 1947.

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The Seas:

South Africa is surrounded by the ocean on three sides, to the west, south and east and has a long coastline of about 3 000 km. This coastline is swept by two major ocean currents, the warm south-flowing Mozambique-Agulhas Current and the cold Benguela. The former skirts the east and south coasts as far as Cape Agulhas, while the Benguela Current flows northwards along the west coast as far as southern Angola.

The contrast in temperature between these two currents partly accounts for important differences in climate and vegetation between the east and west coasts of South Africa. It also causes big differences in marine life. The cold waters of the west coast are much richer in oxygen, nitrates, phosphates and plankton than those of the east coast. Consequently, the South African fishing industry is centred on the west coast.

The Coasts:

Tourists often enjoy travelling South Africa because of its beautiful coastal regions. The coastline is an even, closed one with few bays or indentations naturally suitable for harbours. The only ideal natural harbour along the coastline is Saldanha Bay on the west coast. However, the area lacks fresh water and offers no natural lines of penetration to the interior.

Most river mouths are unsuitable for use as harbours because large sand bars block entry for most of the year. These bars are formed by the action of waves and currents, and by the intermittent flow, heavy sediment load and steep gradients of most South African rivers. nly the largest rivers, such as the Orange and Limpopo, maintain narrow permanent channels through the bars. For much the same reasons, the country has no navigable rivers.

Relief Features:

The surface area of South Africa falls into two major physiographic features: the interior plateau and the land between the plateau and the coast. Forming the boundary between these two areas is the Great Escarpment, the most prominent and continuous relief feature of the country. Its height above sea level varies from approximately 1 500 m in the dolerite-capped Roggeveld scarp in the south-west to a height of 3 482 m in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg.

Inland from the Escarpment lays the interior plateau, which is the southern continuation of the great African plateau stretching north to the Sahara Desert. The plateau itself is characterised by wide plains with an average height of 1 200 m above sea level.

Surmounting the plateau in places are a number of well-defined upland blocks. The dissected Lesotho plateau, which is more than 3 000 m above sea level, is the most prominent. In general, the Escarpment forms the highest parts of the plateau.

Between the Great Escarpment and the coast lies an area which varies in width from 80 to 240 km in the east and south to a mere 60 to 80 km in the west. At least three major subdivisions can be recognised: the eastern plateau slopes, the Cape folded belt and adjacent regions, and the western plateau slopes.

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Felicity and Mike, UK
We arrived back safely in the UK earlier this week. We are missing the light and warm South African sun as it is now freezing and with snow lying in many parts of the UK. However the memory of the South African spring light and beautiful scenery is still imprinted on our minds and helps banish the cold.

Thank you so much for looking after us so well and being such an interesting tour guide. We enjoyed all our discussions and learnt much more about your beautiful country than we would without your insight.

Some wonderful memories are the views from table mountain, standing in the wind at Cape Point, whale watching, the garden in the Little Karoo, the passes in the Karoo, lunch at Prince Albert, the fynbos, the peace at De Zeekoe, Knysna in the storm, Storms River mouth, seeing elephants, rhinos, cheetahs and lions almost close enough to touch and a leopard playing with her cub in the early morning light.Kirstenbosch totally lived up to expectations.

We were very impressed with all our accommodation and the warm welcome we received everywhere.

So all in all thank you for putting together such an excellent package for us and for taking us on our adventure yourself.

We loved your country and hope that with all the determination we saw to succeed that the country will have peaceful and prosperous future. We do hope to return one day. In the meantime I will recommend you to any of our friends visiting South Africa.
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