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South Africa

The whole world in one country! Spectacular landscapes, wild animals and friendly people are waiting for you, as well as the metropolises Cape Town and Johannesburg.

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Country & People

Location 

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa, is a country located at the southern tip of Africa. It is divided into nine provinces, with 2,798 kilometers (1,739 mi) of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans. To the north of the country lie the neighbouring territories of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; to the east are Mozambique and Swaziland; while Lesotho is an enclave surrounded by South African territory.

South Africa is located at the southernmost region of Africa, with a long coastline that stretches more than 2,500 km (1,553 mi) and along two oceans (the South Atlantic and the Indian). At 1,219,912 km2 (471,011 sq mi), South Africa is the 25th-largest country in the world and is comparable in size to Colombia. Mafadi in the Drakensberg at 3,450 m (11,320 ft) is the highest peak in South Africa. Excluding the Prince Edward Islands, the country lies between latitudes 22° and 35°S, and longitudes 16° and 33°E. South Africa also has one possession, the small sub-Antarctic archipelago of the Prince Edward Islands, consisting of Marion Island (290 km2/110 sq mi) and Prince Edward Island (45 km2/17 sq mi)

Population

South Africa is multi-ethnic and has diverse cultures and languages. Eleven official languages are recognised in the constitution. Two of these languages are of European origin: South African English and Afrikaans, a language which originated mainly from Dutch that is spoken by the majority of white and Coloured South Africans. Though English is commonly used in public and commercial life, it is only the fifth most-spoken home language.

All ethnic and language groups have political representation in the country's constitutional democracy comprising a parliamentary republic; unlike most parliamentary republics, the positions of head of state and head of government are merged in a parliament-dependent President. About 79.5% of the South African population is of black African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status. South Africa also contains the largest communities of European, Asian, and racially mixed ancestry in Africa.

According to the 2001 national census, Christians accounted for 79.7% of the population. This includes Zion Christian (11.1%), Pentecostal (Charismatic) (8.2%), Roman Catholic (7.1%), Methodist (6.8%), Dutch Reformed (6.7%), Anglican (3.8%); members of other Christian churches accounted for another 36% of the population. Muslims accounted for 1.5% of the population, Hindus about 1.3%, and Judaism 0.2%. 15.1% had no religious affiliation, 2.3% were other and 1.4% were unspecified.

South Africa's cities

JOHANNESBURG

Johannesburg also known as Jozi, Jo'burg or eGoli, is the largest city in South Africa, by population. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa. The city is one of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the world, and is also the world's largest city not situated on a river, lake, or coastline. It claims to be the lightning capital of the world, though this title is also claimed by others.

While Johannesburg is not one of South Africa's three capital cities, it is the seat of the Constitutional Court, which has the final word on interpretation of South Africa's new post-Apartheid constitution. The city is the source of a large-scale gold and diamond trade, due to its location on the mineral-rich Witwatersrand range of hills. Johannesburg is served by O.R. Tambo International Airport, the largest and busiest airport in Africa and a gateway for international air travel to and from the rest of Southern Africa. More recently Lanseria International Airport has started international flights, and is situated conveniently on the opposite side of the metropolis.

Johannesburg is one of the most modern and prosperous cities in South Africa. Due to its many different central districts Johannesburg would fall under the Multiple Nuclei Model in Human Geography terms. It is the hub of South Africa's commercial, financial, industrial, and mining undertakings. Johannesburg is part of a larger urban region. It is closely linked with several other satellite towns. Randburg and Sandton form part of the northern area. The east and west ridges spread out from central Johannesburg. The Central Business District covers an area of 6 square kilometres. It consists of closely packed skyscrapers such as the Carlton Centre, Marble Towers, Trust Bank Building, Ponte City Apartments, Southern Life Centre and 11 Diagonal Street.

Worth seeing in Johannesburg: Cradle of Humankind (ca. 25 km out of the city), Gold Reef City, Carlton Centre

DURBAN

Durban is the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal and the third largest city in South Africa. It forms part of the eThekwini metropolitan municipality. Durban is famous for being the busiest port in South Africa. It is also seen as one of the major centers of tourism because of the city's warm subtropical climate and extensive beaches. The municipality, which includes neighbouring towns, has a population of almost 3.5 million, making the combined municipality the biggest city on the east coast of the African continent. The metropolitan land area of 2,292 square kilometers (885 sq mi) is comparatively larger than other South African cities, resulting in a somewhat lower population density of 1,513/km².

Durban and its suburbs are hilly, with very few flat areas, except for locations in and around the central business district and the harbor. The western suburbs off Hillcrest and Kloof are significantly higher above sea-level, reaching up to 850 meters (2,789 ft) in the community of Botha's Hill. Many gorges and ravines are found within the metropolitan area. There is almost no true coastal plain.

Worth seeing in Durban: Moses-Mabhida-Stadium, Bat-Centre, Juma Mosque

CAPE TOWN

Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality. The city is famous for its harbor as well as its natural setting in the Cape floral kingdom, including such well-known landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point.

Cape Town is also Africa's most popular tourist destination. Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a victualling (supply) station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa, India, and the Far East. Jan van Riebeeck's arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa. Cape Town quickly outgrew its original purpose as the first European outpost at the Castle of Good Hope, becoming the economic and cultural hub of the Cape Colony. Until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the development of Johannesburg, Cape Town was the largest city in South Africa.

Today it is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for immigrants and expatriates to South Africa. As of 2007 the city had an estimated population of 3.5 million. Cape Town's land area of 2,455 square kilometers (948 sq mi) is larger than other South African cities, resulting in a comparatively lower population density of 1,425 inhabitants per square kilometer (3,690/sq mi).

Worth seeing in Cape Town: Table Mountain, Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, Two Oceans Aquarium, Castle of Good Hope, Robben Island

PRETORIA

Pretoria is a city located in the northern part of Gauteng Province, South Africa. It is one of the country's three capital cities, serving as the executive (administrative) and de facto national capital.

Pretoria is situated approximately 50 km (31 mi) north of Johannesburg in the north-east of South Africa, in a transitional belt between the plateau of the Highveld to the south and the lower-lying Bushveld to the north. It lies at an altitude of about 1,350 m (4,500 ft) above sea level, in a warm, sheltered, fertile valley, surrounded by the hills of the Magaliesberg range.

Pretoria has over the years had very diverse cultural influences and this is reflected in the architectural styles that can be found in the city. It ranges from British Colonial Architecture to Art Deco with a good mix of uniquely South African style mixed in. Some of the notable structures in Pretoria include the Union Buildings, Voortrekker Monument, the main campus of the University of South Africa, Mahlamba Ndlopfu (the President's House), Reserve Bank of South Africa (Office Tower) and the Telkom Lukas Rand Transmission Tower. Other known structures and buildings include the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, The South African State Theatre, University of Pretoria, and Head Quarters of the Department of International Relations and Co-Operation (modern architecture).

Pretoria is home to the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa as well as the Pretoria National Botanical Garden, one of the National Botanical Gardens in South Africa. There are also a number of smaller parks and gardens located throughout the city, including the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary.

Worth seeing in Pretoria: Church Square, Union Building

History

South Africa contains some of the oldest archaeological and human fossil sites in the world. Extensive fossil remains have been recovered from a series of caves in Gauteng Province.

In 1652, a century and a half after the discovery of the Cape Sea Route, Jan van Riebeeck established a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope, at what would become Cape Town, on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch transported slaves from Indonesia, Madagascar, and India as labour for the colonists in Cape Town. As they expanded east, the Dutch settlers met the southwesterly migrating Xhosa people in the region of the Fish River. A series of wars, called the Cape Frontier Wars, were fought over conflicting land and livestock interests.

The British finally annexed the Cape Colony in 1806 and continued the frontier wars against the Xhosa; the British pushed the eastern frontier through a line of forts established along the Fish River. They consolidated the territory by encouraging British settlement. Due to pressure of abolitionist societies in Britain, the British parliament stopped its global slave trade with the passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807 and then abolished slavery in all its colonies with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1884 in the interior started the Mineral Revolution and increased economic growth and immigration. This intensified the European-South African subjugation of the indigenous people. The struggle to control these important economic resources was a factor in relations between Europeans and the indigenous population and also between the Boers and the British.

On 31 May 1961, following a whites-only referendum, the country became a republic and left the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II ceased to be head of state, and the last Governor-General became State President. In 1990 the National Party government took the first step towards dismantling discrimination when it lifted the ban on the African National Congress and other political organizations. It released Nelson Mandela from prison after twenty-seven years' serving a sentence for sabotage.

Economy 

South Africa has a mixed economy with a high rate of poverty and low GDP per capita. Unemployment is high and South Africa is ranked in the top 10 countries in the world for income inequality, measured by the Gini coefficient. Unlike most of the world's poor countries, South Africa does not have a thriving informal economy; according to OECD estimates, only 15% of South African jobs are in the shadow economy, compared with around half in Brazil and India and nearly three-quarters in Indonesia. The OECD attributes this difference to South Africa's widespread welfare system. World Bank research shows that South Africa has one of the widest gaps between per capita GNP versus its Human Development Index ranking, with only Botswana showing a larger gap.

After 1994 government policy brought down inflation, stabilised public finances, and some foreign capital was attracted, however growth was still subpar. From 2004 onward economic growth picked up significantly; both employment and capital formation increased. South Africa is a popular tourist destination, and a substantial amount of revenue comes from tourism. Illegal immigrants are involved in informal trading. Many immigrants to South Africa continue to live in poor conditions, and the immigration policy has become increasingly restrictive since 1994. Principal international trading partners of South Africa-besides other African countries-include Germany, the United States, China, Japan, the United Kingdom and Spain.

The currency in South Africa is the South African Rand (ZAR): 1 ZAR = 100 Cent.

Why South Africa?

South Africa - The whole world in one country.

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Flora & Fauna

Get to know the impressive nature of South Africa.

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Climate & Travel Season

South Africa is always worth travelling; but here you learn about the best travel season. Recommended by our experts

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Our South Africa offers

Here you will find our chosen journeys to South Africa.

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