Destination Co.
Map of South Africa
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.

Leopard cub
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.

Sundowners on a safari drive
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.

Giraffe silhouetted against a sunset sky
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 Kimberley.

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.

Endless vistas
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 Atlantic Oceans.

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.

Vineyards in Franschhoek, Western Cape
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.
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