We have heard South Africa referred to as ‘A world in one country,’
and ‘A land of beauty and splendour’. What is absolutely undeniable
is the fact that the spread of experiences within South Africa is
unique. A country full of cultural diversity and opportunity, a
past filled with struggle and hardship. From the Cape of Good Hope,
Table Mountain and the surrounding vineyards, along the Garden Route,
through to the wetlands of St. Lucia, the coastline of the Indian
Ocean displays all its moods.
The grandeur of the Drakensberg through to the wilderness of the Kruger
National Park and the surrounding reserves, as well as all those special
places, make this country a travel experience of exceptional value.
South Africa is the southern-most country on the African continent and
is cradled by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Its great diversity of
peoples, culture, wildlife and nature together with a highly developed
and sophisticated infrastructure, make it the easiest and one of the
most beautiful and exciting countries to visit in Africa.
During the Late Stone Age, approximately 10 000 years ago, the hunter /
gatherer tribes of Bushmen and Khoikhoi roamed the open plains of
southern Africa. During the Iron Age and up to the fifteenth century,
black African people moved southwards from central Africa into southern
Africa. During these times these people established trading links with
East Africa and the Middle East.
In 1488, the Portuguese navigator, Bartholomeu Dias, sailed around the
Cape coast on his voyage of discovery from Lisbon and just over 150 years
later, in 1652, Jan van Riebeeck established a Dutch presence on the
shores of Table Bay where the city of Cape Town now stands. Van Riebeeck
was an employee of the Dutch East India Company and it was his task to
provide their ships, sailing to the East for the purchase of silks and
spices, with fresh fruit and vegetables, and fresh water.
Over the centuries, the Dutch colonists developed into the Afrikaans people,
named after their Afrikaans language which is derived from the original Dutch.
The Afrikaner trekboers, or nomadic farmers, gradually ventured inland as far
as the Fish River where they encountered the Xhosa people.
The First British Occupation of the Cape Colony took place from 1795 to 1802.
During the four years following 1802, the colony reverted to the control of
the Dutch. It was taken over again in 1806 and the Second British Occupation
started. During the mid and latter part of the nineteenth century, the
Afrikaners moved north to escape the rule of the British. The discovery of
gold and diamonds during the late 1800s caused an economic boom with the
establishment of the city of Johannesburg and the diamond diggings in
After the second Anglo Boer War which was concluded in 1902, the
Boer Republics were taken over by the British together with their valuable
mineral reserves and were administered as separate Crown colonies.
In 1910, General Louis Botha formed the Union of South Africa as an
independent dominion within the Commonwealth out of the old Cape Colony,
Orange River Colony, Natal and Transvaal. In 1948, the National Party,
infamous for pursuing its policy of Apartheid, came to power and
relentlessly led South Africa down a path of isolation from the world
community. In 1961 South Africa became a Republic and withdrew from the
Commonwealth. Increasingly isolated from both an economic and political
perspective, the National Party under the leadership of FW de Klerk,
unbanned political opposition parties and released Nelson Mandela from
prison. These actions led to the election of Nelson Mandela as president
in 1994 under an African National Congress (ANC) government. Nelson
Mandela stepped down as president after his first term paving the way
for Thabo Mbeki's election as president subsequent to the 1999 elections.
South Africa is a full member of the Commonwealth, United Nations,
Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of African Unity.
South Africa is bordered in the north by Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
Mozambique and Swaziland border South Africa to the north-east while
Lesotho is completely landlocked by South Africa. South Africa has a
three thousand kilometre coastline encompassing both the Indian and
The most important rivers are the Orange, Vaal, Tugela and Limpopo.
The Orange River has its source in the Drakensberg Mountains in Lesotho
and it flows westward across the dry Karoo and Bushmanland into the
Atlantic Ocean forming the border between Namibia and South Africa.
The Vaal River is the major tributary of the Orange River. It is also
the most important source of water for the industrial heartland of
South Africa, Gauteng. The Tugela River has its source in the Drakensberg
Mountains, but flows eastwards, over the highest falls in Africa, through
KwaZulu-Natal to the Indian Ocean. The Limpopo River forms the border
between South Africa and Zimbabwe and part of Botswana and flows
eastwards to the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.
The climate is generally temperate and sub-tropical, with a Mediterranean
climate experienced in the Western Cape. As a result, much of the
south-western Cape is covered in vineyards where outstanding wines of
excellent quality are produced. The western half of the country, comprising
the Great Karoo, Bushmanland and Namaqualand, is semi-desert with some
natural forestation to be found along the southern Cape coast, most notably
the Tsitsikamma Forest. The remainder of the country consists of grasslands,
savanna and bush.
Today, South Africa is divided into nine provinces and has eleven official
languages, with English being the most widely spoken. There are two capital
cities - Cape Town (Western Cape) is the legislative capital and Pretoria
(Gauteng) the administrative capital. The most populous city is Johannesburg
(Gauteng) and it is the major business centre in the country. Durban, situated
on the KwaZulu-Natal coast is South Africa's largest port and second most
populous city. The nine provinces which make up South Africa are the Western
Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng,
North-West Province, the Northern Province and Mpumalanga.
Economy and Travel
South Africa is rich in mineral deposits including coal, asbestos, manganese,
copper, uranium, platinum and of course, gold and diamonds. Mining in South
Africa is very important forming historically one of the cornerstones of the
economy along with industry, agriculture and services. The major agricultural
crops are sugar cane, maize and wheat with an important livestock sector
concentrating on cattle,sheep and wildlife. South Africa has a highly developed
manufacturing base including chemicals, textiles, beverages, electrical
machinery and motor vehicles. The tourist industry is becoming increasingly
important as South Africa is now one of the most popular holiday destinations
for overseas tourists.
Direct flights from Europe, North and South America, Australia, the Far East
and the Middle East provide easy access to South Africa. Regionally South Africa
has daily flight connections to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique,
Swaziland and Lesotho. Regular scheduled flights connect destinations in West
Africa, Egypt, East and Central Africa. The Indian Ocean Islands of Madagascar,
Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles connect directly with South Africa. A number
of internal and regional airlines provide numerous daily flights between the
main centres in South Africa and the road network is well developed and of a
very high standard. All major international and a number of local car hire
companies are represented in South Africa. Easy access to car hire from all
major airports and in the main centres is possible.