Despite being the most modern African country, South Africa still offers many of the attractions that draw people to Africa. It is infused with vibrant culture and has the wild African bush at its back door. This is important in understanding why South Africa is such a special place. It has a rare mix of modern development, African culture, outdoor attractions, and untamed wildlife – a mix you’ll find nowhere else in the world.
South Africa is much larger than most people realize. It is 1,233,404 km² in size, more than five times larger than Britain. The distance between Johannesburg and Cape Town is roughly 1,400 kilometers – the same as from Philadelphia to Florida or London to Barcelona. The East, West and South side are formed by 3,000 km of coastline along the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The country is bordered in the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Within these borders it encloses two independent countries, the kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland.
South Africa has nine provinces and three capitals: Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (administrative) and Bloemfontein (judicial). Its largest town is Johannesburg.
Before 1994 the country was under the infamous Apartheid system. In 1994 Nelson Mandela became the first democratically chosen president. The Constitution is regarded as an example to the world: a wide range of human rights is protected by an independent judiciary. The current president is Jacob Zuma, who is the head of the ruling party, the African National Congress.
The South African flag is a much-loved symbol of the ‘new’ South Africa. It is the only flag in the world with six colors: green, white, black, gold, red and blue. The national anthem is one of the most beautiful in the world and is based on a Xhosa hymn, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa), composed by Enoch Sontonga in 1897, and Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (The Call of South Africa).
South Africa’s national bird is the blue crane. The national animal is the springbok. The national fish is the galjoen, the national flower the giant or king protea and the national tree is the yellowwood.
South Africa is regarded as an emerging market with a steady growth in BNP each year. Tourism, agriculture, industry, its financial sector and an abundance of natural resources are the main reasons for this growth. Its currency is the Rand (ZAR), which offers great value for money for tourists visiting the country.
Its population of about 52-million people comes of varying origins, cultures, languages and religions. Of these 79,2% are African, 8,9% ‘colored’ (a term used in South Africa to describe people of mixed race), 8,9% white, and 2,5% Indian. Just over half the population is female. There are 11 official languages of which English, isiXhosa, isiZulu and Afrikaans are the most common. Of these English is most widely spoken.
About 80% of South Africa’s population is Christian. Other major religious groups include Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists. A minority does not belong to any of the major religions. The Constitution guarantees freedom of worship.
South Africa has its fair share of sporting, movie, music and political celebrities. From global political icons like former president Nelson Mandela and Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to movie stars like Charlize Theron and musicians Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the group Freshlyground. Sporting greats include golfers Gary Player and Ernie Els, swimmers Roland Schoeman and Chad le Clos, rugby player Francois Pienaar, cricketer Jacques Kallis and female runner Caster Semenya. It’s best loved sport team is probably the ‘Springboks’, the 1995 world champion Rugby team. Another well-known name is blade runner Oscar Pistorius.
Nature and landscape
Africa’s wildlife is legendary. So legendary we have a special page dedicated to it. But look beyond the lions and rhino’s and you will find some of the most beautiful landscapes of Africa, if not the world, in Southern Africa. No other African country has such variation in parks, reserves and wilderness areas as South Africa. From Table Mountain in the south to God’s Window in the north, from the Natal Wild Coast in the East to the vast Kalahari Desert in the West, the mountains and plains, deserts and forests, wine-lands and coasts will more than fulfill your dreams. Stuck in the middle of all this beauty are two genuine treasures. First is Lesotho, the country perched on top of the desolate Drakensberg mountains. Then there is Swaziland with its rolling green mountainsides dotted with picturesque mountain villages and some of the best nature reserves of Africa. And there is much, much more to see within our modules. So you can include the most famous as well as the best of the unsung treasures with an unforgettable safari experience. For an incredible trip of a lifetime!