South Africa lies at the southernmost part of the African continent. It
is bordered to the north by Botswana and Zimbabwe, to the northeast by
Mozambique and Swaziland and to the northwest by Namibia. On the east
coastline lies the Indian Ocean, the Southern coastline the confluence
of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, and Atlantic Ocean on the western
side. South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho.
Most of South Africa has elevations of over 914m (3,000 ft) and at least
40% of the surface is at an elevation of over 1,220m (4,000 ft). Parts
of Johannesburg are 1,829m (6,000 ft) above sea level. Resembling an
inverted saucer, the land rises steadily from west to east to the
Drakensberg Mountains, the tallest of which is Mont-aux-Sources at
3,300m (10,823 ft).
The coastal belt in the west and south varies from 3 to 30 miles in
width, is between 152m (500ft) to 182m (600ft) above sea level, and is
very fertile, producing citrus fruits and grapes, particularly in the
Western Cape. North of the coastal belt stretch, the Little and the
Great Karoo, which are bounded by mountains, lie higher than the coastal
belt, and are semi-arid to arid, merging into sandy wastes that
ultimately join the Kalahari Desert.
The high grass prairie, or veld, of the Orange Free State and the
Transvaal is famous for its mineral deposits. From the Drakensberg, the
land falls towards the Indian Ocean in the rolling hills and valleys of
Natal, which are covered with rich vegetation and, near the coast,
subtropical plants, including sugarcane.
South Africa lies almost wholly within the southern temperate zone, and
its climate is more equable than that of corresponding northern
latitudes because of its surrounding waters. Cape Town and the
southernmost part of Western Cape has a Mediterranean-type climate and
is warmer than some areas further north that are affected by the cold
Benguela Current on the west coast of Southern Africa. The winter months
are mild and changeable, this is also the time when most the rainfall
occurs. The Durban and Kwa-Zulu-Natal coastline is affected by the warm
Mozambique current and enjoys a sub-tropical climate, with plenty of
sunshine throughout the year, but the summer months can become very hot
and humid. Throughout the country, however, the mean annual temperature
is just below 15.6°C (60°F). On the high veld there are sharp
differences of temperature between day and night; but there is less
daily fluctuation nearer the coast. Rainfall is unpredictable in large
parts of the country, and prolonged droughts are a serious restriction
on farming in such areas. While the mean annual rainfall is 18.6 inches,
nearly 30% of the country receives less than 10 inches and 65% receives
less than 20 inches. Much of South Africa gets its rain in the summer
months, but the western coastal belt is a winter rain area. Along the
Cape south coast, rain falls during both seasons. Generally the winter
months are between April and August with summer being from September to
The climate is perfect for motorhome and camping
travel, with plenty of sunshine and warm balmy evenings. Seasons are the
opposite of those in Europe and North America. Generally it is sunny and
pleasant even in the mild winters. Average daily temperatures are evenly
spread throughout the country at between 21° C and 30° C - though it
can soar above this in some areas. Summer is beach time; autumn and
spring are best for walking; winter is best for white water rafting and
canoeing in Zimbabwe (when the rivers are high) and for game watching in
the bushveld when the cover is sparse.
VISAS AND IMMIGRATION
Entry permits are issued on arrival to holiday visitors from most
British Commonwealth countries and to holders of Japanese, Irish, Swiss
and German passports. Currently holders of Scandinavian and Finnish
passports do not require visa but this situation could change and it is
advisable to check with your nearest South African Embassy/Consular.
South Africa has at least consular representation in most countries. It
is possible that, on entry into South Africa, you will be asked to show
sufficient funds to support your stay or have an onward ticket. Visa
extensions are expensive and can be difficult to obtain because of the
recent influx of illegal immigrants.
Visa enquiries can be made to:
Department of Home Affairs
Private Bag X114
Telephone: +27(0)12 314 8911
Fax: +27(0)12 328 3908
Credit and charge cards are widely accepted, including American Express,
Bank of America, Diners, MasterCard, Standard Bank Card and Visa. Some
ATM's give cash advances. Travellers cheques are also widely accepted
and exchanged. Different commission charges are incurred depending on
which bank you use and which travellers cheques you have.
Most banks are open Mon-Fri 0900-1530 and Sat 0900-1100. Autobanks are
found in most towns and operate on a 24-hour basis.
The railway system in South Africa is well established and mostly
privately run. All the major towns are connected. There is a Metro
service in and around several cities.
The Blue Train, which runs between Pretoria and Cape Town, is famous for
its sheer luxury, people come to South Africa just for the experience.
If the whole trip is out of your budget you can take just a section of
it. The train is very popular and bookings will need to be made in
advance. The train recently started a new service "Zimbabwe
Spectacular" where two nights are spent on board.
You can also experience a steam train tour, including "Apple
Express" from Port Elizabeth, the "Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe between
Knysna and George the "Banana Express" along KwaZulu Natal
South Coast and "Magaliesberg Express" from Johannesburg to
A number of coach operators operate an inter city service. Translux
Express offers very flexible passes, enabling visitors to make up their
own itineraries to explore the country. It is advisable to book in
advance. Greyhound Coach Lines
Self Drive / Vehicle Hire
South Africa is an excellent country to drive in. Road conditions are
good, there are plenty of petrol stations often open 24 hours and fuel
is relatively cheap. Driving is on the left hand side and a valid
national licence is accepted provided it carries your photograph
otherwise an International Driving Licence is recommended.
Leaded and unleaded petrol and diesel is available. In areas where this
is not available, leaded fuel may be used.
If you need medical care whilst in South Africa, it is best to be aware
that medical providers may not accept payment through your insurance
company. In these circumstances you will have to pay in full after your
treatment and file a claim with your insurance company for
reimbursement. Therefore you should have access to cash, either from a
credit card or by wire transfer. If you need assistance contact the
country's local embassy or representative.
To be compensated you must be treated by licensed medical personnel and
provide your insurance company with proper documentation and receipts.
South Africa is one of the most diverse and enchanting countries in the
world. Exotic combinations of landscapes, people, history and culture
offer a larger-than-life experience for the traveller in search of a
truly unique and inspiring experience.
South Africa’s vast landscape includes
savannahs, snow-covered mountains, forests, tropical swamps, endless
beaches, tranquil rivers and… bustling urban epicentres.
South Africa is known for its abundant wildlife (and of course the
famous "big five") as well as its fantastic birding and
However, the real heart of this vibrant
country is the diversity of people and cultures. South Africa’s family
tree goes way back to the start of time. The country has been touted as
the Cradle of Humankind, because it was here that archaeologists
discovered 2,5 million year old fossils as well as the 100 000 year old
remains of modern humankind.
Many of South Africa’s cultures have
their roots in an ancient world, whilst some of the cultures are
relatively new – and others, well, are a fascinating mix of both.
A People of Diversity
According to a statistics census taken in 2001 (Census ’01), South
Africa’s population was recorded as 44,8 million people.
The results across the racial groups were
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 (of Dutch origin)
• Khoi and San people
• Other: the remainder consist of people who have immigrated to
South Africa from the rest of Africa, Europe and Asia and who maintain a
strong cultural identity.
There are 11 official languages spoken in South Africa, namely: English,
Afrikaans, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana,
siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.
However, English is largely spoken in
most urban areas of the country.
Almost 80% of South Africa's population adheres to the Christian faith.
Other major religious groups are the Hindus, Muslims and Jews. A
minority of South Africa's population does not belong to any of the
major religions, but regard themselves as traditionalists or of no
specific religious affiliation.
Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the
Constitution, and official policy is one of non-interference in
The South African 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 temperatures between these two currents partly accounts
for important differences in climate and vegetation between the east and
west coasts of South Africa. These differing temperatures also cause 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. As a result, the South African fishing industry is centred
on the west coast.
The coastline of South Africa is
relatively even with few bays 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.
SOUTH AFRICAN CUISINE
your visit to South Africa, why not try one of the local recipes?
Here is the recipe for one of the most exquisite unique South African
1 kg minced topside
25 ml oil
12,5 ml butter
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic
10 ml green ginger, chopped
12,5 ml curry powder
10 ml turmeric
25, ml apricot jam (smooth)
3 slices white bread
375 ml milk
juice and rind of 1 lemon
3 bay leaves
salt and black pepper
flaked almonds (optional)
Sauté onions in oil and butter, add the chopped garlic and chopped
green ginger, and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the curry powder and
turmeric, add the minced meat to the pot and brown.
Soak the bread in cold water. Beat eggs with milk and add the lemon
juice and rind. Squeeze all the water from the bread and crumble. Add
the bread and milk and egg mixture to the meat, as well as the apricot
jam. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. If you find
the curry flavour too mild stir in 5ml curry paste. Spoon into a
well-buttered oven dish, and push the bay leaves into the bobotie. Bake
at 180°C for 30 minutes.
For the custard, beat another 2 eggs with 180 ml milk and pour over the
top of the bobotie. If you want to be extravagant, sprinkle some flaked
almonds over the custard. Bake for 30 minutes or until the custard is
golden brown. Serve with rice, some sliced banana, toasted coconut and
tomato and onion sambal.
Rooibos Tea & Rusks
If you spend any time in South Africa, chances are that you'll develop
an addiction to Rooibos tea. It's becoming easier to find in the US as
well, so if you're an American, you'll be able to support your habit.
The name comes from "Red Bush". It's a completely natural herb
tea prepared from the indigenous plant aspalathus Linearis which only
grows near Cape Town at the Southern tip of South Africa in the
The tea is also supposed to have numerous health benefits. It is full of
polyphenols and flavonoids which help protect the body from
free-radicals that weaken natural defenses and eventually lead to aging
and the onset of disease. "Studies show drinking red tea daily can
reward you with powerful anti-oxidants that help create a healthier and
longer life." It also has all the benefits of green tea but it's
It has a great taste and smell and it's one of the tea's that can be
drank with milk or creamer added. You can usually order a cup or pot
even at more "fast-food" type places like Wimpy. Another good
side item for a morning cup of tea are Rusks. They're similar to
biscotti except they're more like buttermilk biscuits baked within an
inch of their lives . Once you dunk them, they soften up to an edible
What you see here is a typical example of African bead work. This
specific picture is a bead work broach for the arm, the leg, or even the
neck. Although this example comes from the Ndebele tribe, all African
art is characterised by the use of amazingly bright and beautiful colors.
The Ndebele tribe lives in the northern regions of South Africa. One of
the smallest and most colourful tribes, the Ndebele people enjoy
dressing up; sometimes to impress the opposite sex; mostly to
distinguish various status levels within the tribe. Much emphasis is
placed on dress code in their everyday lives.
touring South Africa one of the great remaining impressions is that it
seems that all African people have the gift of creating art.
This is obvious from the way they decorate their homes, the way they
dress, and then of course, the carvings, sculptures, paintings, bead
work, pottery and many, many other expressions of their artistic
These works of art may be bought at a premium at any of the upper class
curio shops, but if one just waits a while and tour the country side,
one can buy exactly the same quality of art work directly from the
artists themselves. As one travels the highways and byways there are
stalls everywhere where one may barter with these friendly and gifted