Overview: A land of jagged mountains, rich safari plains and barren deserts; South Africa encompasses all these things. The teeming wildlife is as diverse and spectacular as the scenery,
South Africa’s cities are also enormously varied, with hustling Johannesburg at its heart, and cosmopolitan Cape Town an enclave of European chic at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. In between you can lose yourself for days on safari in the bush or explore quaint isolated towns breaking up the arid Karoo wilderness. The hot and humid seaside fun of Durban with its even hotter curries is another sharp contrast to the scattering of sedate resorts lining the pretty south coast Garden Route.
Abundant wildlife is South Africa’s major attraction, with the world-famous Kruger National Park delivering uniquely African sights, sounds, smells and memories. At the top end of the scale are luxurious world-class lodges with private butlers and game rangers who practically deliver the animals to your door. Travelers with more normal salaries can stay in the numerous ‘Tented Villages’ with tents permanently pitched on a raised wooden platform near communal facilities.
If the landscape sounds diverse, wait until you meet the people. South Africa boasts 11 official languages, mostly drawn from its indigenous population, while the colonialist legacy stirred Afrikaners, English and Indians into the mix. That blend has created a wonderful array of food, music and culture that offers something for everyone.
In stark contrast, the city centers are glowingly modern with bold new architecture interspersed between colonial buildings of the past. Cape Town has been chosen as the World Design Capital for 2014, heralding a year-long programme of design-focused events, while iconic Table Mountain has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, despite being extremely old.
Just a Glimpse:
- Population: ~ 53 million
- Area: 1,221,040 sq. kms
- Capital city: Bloemfontein (judicial capital), Cape Town (legislative capital), Pretoria (executive capital)
- Currency: South African Rand (ZAR)
- Time zone: UTC+2
- Religion: 80% Christians, others include Anglican, Dutch Reformed, Methodist, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic and Zion Christian, 3% Islam.