in South Africa · Map of South
Truly a world in
one country…the southernmost country on the African continent
has a coastline that stretches for 3000km from the border of Moçambique
in the east, to Namibia in the south west. The total area of the
country is 1 221 042km2 with a population of 38 million.
There are 11 regional languages but English is widely spoken.
Climate and the annual rainfall are influenced by two ocean currents;
the Indian Ocean’s warm Moçambique current brings subtropical
temperatures and mainly summer rainfall of up to 1000mm pa along
the eastern coastal plains, whilst along the Atlantic coast, the
cold northward-flowing Benguela current causes a semi-arid type
climate. Rainfall and low temperatures are experienced from April
to October. On the whole, South Africa is a dry country with a
mean annual rainfall of 502mm. An almost continuous line of mountains
from the Drakensberg in the east, to the ancient ranges of the
Western Cape, separates the narrow coastal plain from the interior.
Much of the country is situated on a plateau at an average elevation
of 1665m in the east, known as the Highveld to the vast semi-desert
expanses of the Great Karoo, further west. The plateau receives
summer rainfall of up to 700mm in the east, dwindling to 250mm
across the Great Karoo.
South Africa has a superb system of National Parks, Game Reserves and Nature
Reserves. Protection of the numerous species of wildlife is excellent,
and one may see lion, elephant, white and black rhino, giraffe,
many species of antelopes, and smaller predators in easily accessible
reserves throughout the country.
Johannesburg altitude is 1753m (population +3 million)
is the largest city in Southern Africa and the centre of the country’s
economic development. Its cosmopolitan allure attracts peoples
from countries further north in search of greater wealth.
Pretoria lies 58km further east of Johannesburg. Its lower elevation (1363m)
gives it a gentler climate, and it is well known for its gardens
and Jacaranda-lined avenues. Historically, it was made the capital
of the Boer Republic in 1854 by Martinus Wessels; more recently,
the Union Buildings which had been the seat of the previous government,
saw the inauguration of President Mandela as the leader of this
country’s first democracy. Pretoria is also home to one of the
largest zoos in the world, housing over 3500 species.
Kruger National Park:
This is one of the largest national parks in the world, covering
350km from north to south, and nearly 20 000km2. It
is named after President Paul Kruger, who in 1898, signed a proclamation
for the founding of a government game park in the area between
the Crocodile and Sabi Rivers, a region now known as Mpumalanga.
There are 147 species of mammal to be found in the park, including
all of the Big Five and 480 species of birds.
Zululand: The territory that lies in KwaZulu Natal just south
of the Moçambique/ Swaziland border is known as Zululand. It has
long been home to the Zulu tribe and traditional rural village
life can be experienced here. Due to its undulating topography,
lush vegetation and extensive estuaries, it offers a natural habitat
to an impressive amount of animal and birdlife. The best known
game parks are the Hluhluwe Game Reserve, the Umfolozi - home
of the White rhino - and the Mkuze game reserves. Together, they
total nearly 82 000 hectares of wildlife sanctuary, managed by
the Natal Parks Board.
Durban: This is Kwa-Zulu Natal’s principal city, with the country’s
largest port. The natural bay that is now the port was originally
a lagoon fed by the waters of the Isipingo river and its Zulu
name is “Thekweni”. Durban comes from the British Governor of
the Cape, Sir Benjamin D’Urban. The climate is warm and humid
most of the year, with 1000mm annual rainfall. The population
of 2 million reflects a cultural mix of inhabitants; Zulus, Indians
and Whites. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the southern
hemisphere. Indians were brought out in the mid 1800’s as indentured
labourers for the sugar-cane plantations.
Golden Gate: This unique national park was created in 1963 to conserve
11 500ha of golden sandstone cliffs and highlands along the Lesotho
border with Natal and the Free State provinces. Great caverns
and rock shelters are home to various raptors, including the bearded
vulture, the black eagle, the blue crane and the jackal buzzard.
Animals to be found on the lower grassland slopes include black
wildebeest, eland, red hartebeest and oribi.
Aliwal North Springs: The town was originally important during the Cape frontier
days as a transport depot, and crossing point of the Orange River.
Two thermal springs found on the farm Buffelsvlei (buffalo watering
hole) led to its popularity as a health resort. The springs are
highly mineralised at temperatures of 31°C.
Graaff Reinet: An historic Karoo (Khoi-Khoi word meaning “land of thirst”)
frontier town that was established in 1786 to govern an area too
remote from the Cape at the time. The desolate plains of the Great
Karoo are nearby and good examples of Cape Dutch architecture
are found here. The “drosty” (residency) was constructed to house
the governor, his family and officials, and their slaves. Today
these restored buildings are part of the Drosty Hotel.
Zebra National Park: Situated in the Bankberg Mountains, on the edge of the
Great Karoo, this park is a sanctuary for the very rare Cape mountain
zebra, (Equus zebra zebra) , which stands only 1.2m high.
Vegetation is typical Karoo with fine acacia, wild olive and succulents
like aloes. After good rains in April, the landscape is covered
with flowers. Bushman rock paintings can also be viewed.
A small settler town in the area known as the “Little Karoo” on the banks of
the Grobbelaars River. It owes much of its origin to the ostriches
that roamed naturally in the area. The ostrich adapted itself
well to the semi-desert habitat and just before the turn of the
century, their feathers were highly sought after to embellish
the Art Nouveau styles of the time. Farmers domesticated them,
making fortunes shipping their plumes to Europe, and processing
their meat. Unique sandstone “feather palaces” were built until
the austerities of First World War, and changes in fashion, brought
an end to this era.
Caves: In the limestone foothills of the Swartberg mountains
a cave system was first discovered by the Bushmen people who inhabited
the area. It was in 1780, that a herdsman discovered that the
primary caves where Bushmen paintings were found was only the
tip of a series of chambers filled with remarkable dripstone formations.
and the Garden Route: Knysna is a small town situated on South Africa’s only
National lake which is also the country’s largest permanent estuary.
The waters of the Indian Ocean channel through a break in the
wave-cliff terrace known as the Heads, into the wide lagoon basin,
where oyster farming is successfully practised.
The Garden Route remains more a scenic route that undulates along the narrow
coastal stretch, bordered by the Indian Ocean, and the Tsitsikamma
and Outeniqua mountain ranges, than a floral route.
This is the second oldest town in South Africa, founded in 1679, and named after
the Dutch governor of the Cape at the time, Simon van der Stel.
He also planted many superior cultivars of vine, and the river
valleys and slopes round Stellenbosch provide ideal conditions
for wine producing, with each valley adding a different characteristic
to the wine produced. It is also an academic and cultural centre,
with fine examples of historic Cape Dutch architecture to be seen.
Town: South Africa’s second largest city has a population of over 2 million made up
of a highly homogenized African and European cultural mix. The
African tribal migrations stopped here and to the early European
navigators (15th century), Table Mountain was visible from up
to 150km away, beckoning just like a giant sign outside of a tavern.
It has been known as “The Fairest Cape”, the “Tavern of the Seas”
and the “Cape of Good Hope”. It was also referred to as the “Cape
of Storms” by the Portuguese sailors, who battled with the turbulent
waters created where two ocean currents meet.
Originally established as a refreshment station for passing ships on the Spice
Route to the East, Cape Town is still an important port, is home
to the Houses of Parliament, and offers much of historical and
Mountain: (1086m) This distinctive sandstone mountain is flanked
by Devil’ s Peak and Lion’s Head, and has greatly influenced the
development of the city. A cable station from its lower slopes
above the city to its peak (weather permitting) gives the visitor
a remarkable panoramic view of the whole Cape Peninsula. The slopes
are also home to mountain goats, and dassies(Rock Hyrax).
Point: Whilst it is not the most southerly point on the African
continent (Cape Agulhas 170km further east), the point is recognized
as one of the great landmarks of the world, and where the eastward
pressure from the warm Moçambique current keeps the cold waters
of the Atlantic Ocean from travelling eastwards. Most of this
section of coastline is included in the Cape Point Nature Reserve.