SOUTH AFRICA INFORMATION
SOUTH AFRICA INFORMATION
The Republic of South Africa is located on the southern tip of Africa from latitudes 22° and 35° south and from longitudes 17° to 33° east.
South Africa is 1,219,090 million square kilometers in size and is approximately one seventh the size of the USA.
In the northwest, north and northeast Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the Kingdom of Swaziland border South Africa. Landlocked inside South Africa is the Kingdom of Lesotho.
On the east, South Africa is flanked by the Indian Ocean and on the south and west by the Atlantic Ocean. South Africa has a coastline of about 3000 kilometers.
The warm Mozambique-Agulhas current flows along the eastern and southern coastlines whereas the cold Benguela current flows from south to north along the western coastline. These currents meet at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of South Africa.
The two currents differ in temperature and make for a wide diversity of marine life along the South African coastline. It also brings about a remarkable difference in the vegetation type along the east coast and the west coast.
The warm water of the east coast is not nearly as rich in phosphates, nitrates plankton and oxygen as that of the west coast and its abundant marine life. The fishing industry is mainly based on the west coast, due to the prolific marine life and abundance of fish species, caused by the cold Benguela current flowing along the west coast.
South Africa has 9 provinces namely:
• North West
• Free State
• Eastern Cape
• Western Cape
• Northern Cape
Pretoria is the administrative Capital City of South Africa. Other major cities are Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and East London.
Name changes of cities, towns, places of interest and more
Please note! Many cities, towns, roads, buildings, rivers, dams, mountains, regions and places of interest have been renamed during the last few years. In cases of uncertainty please consult a local travel agent.
The Rand (ZAR) is the official monetary unit. One Rand is a hundred cents.
Culture, people and languages
At the last census, South Africa officially had about 53 million people.
South Africa has a unique diversity of cultures, religions and lifestyles. Although many more languages are spoken in South Africa, there are 11 official languages and sign language written into the constitution.
The 11 official languages are English, Afrikaans, IsiZulu, Tshivenda, Xitshonga, SiSwati, Sepedi, Sesotho, IsiNdebele, Setswana and isiXhosa. English is spoken generally throughout South Africa.
Climate, Seasons & Rainfall
South Africa is mainly semi-arid with a subtropical climate along the east coast. It is generally sunny and most of the country has summer rainfall, however the southern part (Western Cape Province and surrounds) has a Mediterranean climate and winter rainfall.
South Africa has an average rainfall of about 460 millimeters per year and to compare, the world average is about 860 millimeters.
Spring and Summer: September to March.
Autumn and Winter: April to August.
Daytime temperatures can soar above 40° Celsius in some areas of the country in summer and night temperatures in winter can dip to minus 0° Celsius in some areas.
The best time of the year to visit South Africa depends on personal preferences as every season has its advantages. Generally, March, April and May are very pleasant months with the most moderate temperatures. October to April are ideal months to visit our south and western coastal areas. April to October are the best months to visit our eastern coastline and subtropical region, as well as the game reserves, wildlife areas and national parks, especially in the northern and northeastern part of South Africa.
Cuisine and Wine:
These must rank amongst the finest in the world with meals catering to every taste. South Africa’s fresh produce, meat, fish and wines are of the finest quality.
Visitors can select from a large variety of affordable meals and dishes at the various establishments throughout the country. All tastes are catered for, from the Western and European, to the traditional, African, and exotic Eastern dishes. Restaurants serving cultural dishes from all over the world can be found in most of the large cities.
Throughout the country, there are establishments that serve traditional South African meals such as Bobotie (a curried Cape Malay dish), Sosaties (a type of Kebab), Bredie (meat and vegetable casserole), Waterblommetjiebredie (a dish made from mutton and indigenous water lily), Afval (a traditional Afrikaner meal of tripe) and many more.
On a cultural excursion or tour you can savour some of the following traditional African dishes or meals: Pap and Sheba (cooked maize or corn meal with gravy), Marog (wild spinach either alone or mixed with potato), Braaivleis (a variety of barbecued meat) usually eaten with pap (cooked corn meal) and gravy, Biltong (dried salted meat strips similar to beef or venison jerky), Masonja (mopanie worms), flying ants and many more. You could also try some traditional drinks like Tshwala and Mqombothi which are traditional African drinks as well as marula beer (a brew made of the fruit of the Marula tree) and iLala palm brew (made out of the rootsap of the iLala palm).
South Africa is also well known for its large variety of quality wine, which compares favourably with the best and can be found in establishments all over the world. The main wine producing area is the Western Cape region with its Mediterranean climate.
Arts and culture
With all the many languages spoken throughout South Africa and a complex history, the country has a vibrant arts and culture tradition.
Visitors can experience or visit music and dance, arts and crafts, performing arts, literature, films, museums and monuments, visual arts, and living culture. There is also an abundance of national and regional arts festivals.
All the major religions of the world are represented in South Africa.
South Africa is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, USA.
Agriculture is one of the sectors that employ the most people. Major agricultural produce includes maize, corn, grain sorghum, cotton, tobacco, wheat, sugarcane, fruits (citrus and other) and vegetables. Major livestock produce includes cattle, dairy products, sheep, wool, pigs, poultry, goats, ostriches, and wildlife products.
Besides the very large service industry, which employ the majority of people in SA, there are also textiles, automobile assembly, iron and steel, fertilizer, machinery, metalworking, chemicals, foodstuffs, oil and natural gas production, mining
Mining and Minerals
South Africa is the world’s largest producer of gold, platinum and chromium. South Africa has the deepest gold mine in the world extending about 3.5 kilometers. There are several shafts in various mines deeper than 3 kilometers.
Besides the above other minerals that are mined include diamonds, other precious minerals, coal, uranium, iron ore, antimony, nickel, manganese, tin, phosphates, copper, vanadium, salt.
With over 500 000 kilometers of streets and roads, South Africa has the largest road network of any country in Africa.
The public transport network consists of buses, trains and aeroplanes, with private taxis available in all the large cities and in many smaller cities and towns.
Major Harbours & Ports
Saldanha Bay, Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Richards Bay
The largest and busiest airport is the OR Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg. Cape Town International Airport is also one of the largest and busiest airports. Other major airports are in Durban, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein. Domestic flights are available to all major cities and many towns. Charter flights are available to other areas.
Standards and services are generally of a high quality. Accommodation facilities to choose from, ranging from backpacking accommodation to the most luxurious hotels.
Main Attractions in South Africa
Nature scenery, wildlife and wilderness areas, national parks, private game reserves, mountains, coastlines, adventure activities, museums and monuments, cultural villages.
World Heritage Sites
South Africa has eight World Heritage Sites. They are:
Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein (Cradle of Humankind), Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs, with the two latest extensions namely Taung Skull Fossil site and Makapan Valley
Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park
Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape
Cape Floral Region Protected Areas
The Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape
South Africa has 21 wetlands on the list of Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance.
Rivers and Dams
Of the many rivers in South Africa, the two largest are the Orange River which flows west and the Limpopo River, which like most rivers in the country, flows east.
The Gariep dam is the largest dam in South Africa, with the Vaaldam and the Sterkfontein dam also ranking in the top 5 largest dams in South Africa.
Of the mountain ranges in South Africa, the largest is the Drakensberg / Maluti with highest peaks above 3400 m. Other major mountain ranges include the Soutpansberg, the Swartberg, the Cederberg and the Outeniqua mountains.
The power supply is 220 / 230 / 250 Volts AC but conversion or adapters plugs can be bought if needed. Many hotels have sockets for 110 / 220 volts which can be used for hairdryers, shavers and other appliances.
Besides the South African Flag and Coat of Arms, the following fauna and flora are also national symbols:
National Animal – Springbok – Antidorcas marsupialis
National Bird – Blue Crane – Anthropoides paradisia
National Fish - Galjoen – Coracinas capensis
National Tree - Real Yellowwood – Podocarpus latifolius
National Flower - King Protea – Protea cynaroides