Destination Information South Africa

Your stay abroad in South Africa

Country information

South Africa

South Africa – the country of contradictions. Explore the “Big Five” in their natural habitats, visit the famous Cape of Good Hopes or follow the tracks of wild animals in the African bush. In any case there will be an adventure waiting for you!



Geography

Geography

covers an area of more than 1.200.000 km2, which more than 3 times larger than Germany. South Africa can be divided into nine provinces. The Prince-Edward-Islands located in the Indian Ocean are also part of the South African territory.

South Africa’s capital is Pretoria in the East of the country. It is the seat of government. The parliament is located in Cape Town in the South, seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal is in Bloemfontein. The largest city of the country is Johannesburg.

South Africa shares borders with Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Namibia. Inside of the South African territory is the Kingdom of Lesotho. The west coast borders on the Atlantic Ocean, the east coast is located on the Indian Ocean.

The country can be divided into three different areas: the coastal areas, the threshold site and the highlands. The threshold site is dominated by the famous Drakensberg Mountains, which are the origin of most South African rivers. Ornaje River, South Africa’s longest river flows other than other rivers into the Atlantic Ocean. The major part of other rivers ends in the Indian Ocean in the east. The second most important river is called Limpopo which is the natural border with Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

The central highlands shade into the Kalahari basin in the Northwest, which reaches to the northwestern part of Bloemfontein. The highlands can be characterized by the central plateau, which is called “Highveld” in Afrikaans.

Geomorphology/Geology

Around 900 Mio. years ago South Africa was covered by the water of the ocean. The dynamics of tectonic plates lead to magma rising to the surface of the earth. The magma turned into granite rocks which built the fundament of the South African landmass. At that time it became part of the super-continent Gondwana. Over millions of years the landscapes of today’s South Africa were formed by continuous erosion-processes, sedimentation, changing sea levels and ice ages. A special landmark in South Africa is the so called Table Mountain close to Cape Town. It mainly consists of white, quartzitic sandstones. The 1087 m high Maclears Beacon is the highest point of Table Mountain.


Flora and fauna

Flora and fauna in South Africa

South Africa’s flora counts more than 20.000 species, many of them are endemic and can be found in the Cape region. More than 9.000 species occur in Fynbos in the West Cape Region. The mountain area in this place is regarded as one of the most diverse in the world, that is why they are regularly visited from botanists from all over the world. It is called Capensis. The different plant species are dominated by deciduous sclerophyllous plants. Forests are quite rare in South Africa; not even 1% of its area is covered by forests. There are around 130 different species of the South African sugarbush and plenty of flowering plants.

The central land is characterized by different grasses, shrubs and acacias. In the north and northwest, especially in the north of Kruger National Park there are many baobabs. The area of Namaqualand turns into a lush sea of flowers during the strong rainfalls in spring.

South Africa’s unique fauna can be observed in one of many wildlife conservation reserves or national parks, which are home to more than 300 (!) mammal species, over 500 bird species, around 100 reptiles and plenty of different insects. Apart from that you have the chance to see the famous “Big Five” lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino in their natural habitat. Other animals which can be seen are giraffes, hippos, zebras and many different kinds of antelopes. Around Cape Peninsula there are colonies of cape penguins, the west coast is home to the fascinating leatherback turtle. At the Cape of Good Hope some groups of baboon keep tourists on their toes.


Climate South Africa

South Africa’s climate varies a lot depending on the location. In the Kalahari Desert a mainly arid climate can be found. From the southeast to the borders of Mozambique and Namibia the temperatures are rather subtropical. The coastal area on the Atlantic Ocean is Mediterranean. The Cape of Good Hope is influenced by different streams and ranges from semi-arid to semi-humide climate conditions. Compared to Europe the seasons are inverted.

The average temperatures in South Africa are around 23°C from December to February. Also March and November are quite warm. Between June and July it is winter time. The temperatures can be below 11 °C.


Socio-geographical

Socio-geographical Information

Population

South Africa has around 54.6 million inhabitants. It is a multicultural country and therefore also known as “rainbow nation”. Even though apartheid was dismantled in 1994, the effects of this period are still present. The population groups of blacks, white and coloured people often live in separate districts. 79.2% of population is black. The percentage of white people is 8.9%. Due to migration in the 17th century South Africa has got the highest number of European descendants amongst all African counties. The group of coloured people covers 8.9% of total population. They have different ethnical backgrounds.

Language

In South Africa there are eleven official languages: isi Zulu, isi Xhosa, Afrikaans, sePedi, English, seTswana, seSotho, XiTsonga, siSwati, tshiVenda and isiNdebele. Besides that there are other spoken languages. Also German belongs to the 14 governmentally promoted languages according to the South African constitution.

Economy

Although South Africa is the largest national economy of the African continent, the rate of unemployment is relatively high (24%). The main economic sectors are mining, agriculture and tourism.

Political situation and security

South Africa is a parliamentarian democracy with a powerful executive president and federal elements. Since 2009 Jacob G. Zuma is the president and head of government of South Africa.

Religion

The major part of South Africans, around 79.8%, is Christian. Furthermore there are Muslims, Hindus, Jews and people who follow different natural religions.


Tips

Travel Tips and Trivia

Time Zone

UTC +02:00

In South Africa there is no daylight saving time.

Currency

The currency in South Africa is South African Rand (ZAR). For the current exchange rate please visit www.oanda.com

Units

All units accord to the metric system.

Electricity

In South Africa the standard voltage is 220 Volt at a frequency of 50 Hertz. Before your departure you should check if you need any plug adapter.

Transport

  • South Africa’s biggest airports are located in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
  • Even though the major part of railway traffic comprises goods trains, there are passenger trains between all big cities.
  • In larger cities like Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elisabeth and East London there are urban trains in the public transport.
  • The street network in South Africa is well developed and comprises around 358.596km, 59.753km of which are paved. Watch out: In South Africa there is left-hand traffic.
  • Travelling by bus is very convenient as the bus network is quite dense.
  • The bike is the most important means of transportation to many South Africans. Especially in big cities it is a convenient way to get from A to B.
  • To rent a car you need an international driving license. We advise you to pick an off-road vehicle since many streets are not sealed, especially in the countryside.

Holidays

  • 1st of January: New Year
  • 21th of March: Sharpeville Massacre Memorial Day
  • 27th of April: Freedom Day (first free election in South Africa in 1994)
  • 1st of May: Labour Day
  • 16th of June: Youth Day (Commemoration of the revolt in Soweto in 1976)
  • 9st of August: National Women’s Day
  • 24th of September: Heritage Day
  • 16st of December: Day of Reconciliation
  • 25th of December: Christmas Day
  • 26rd of December: After Christmas Day
  • Other holidays: Good Friday and Easter Monday

Highlights Must see places in South Africa

Our top recommendations for you

Highlights

Highlights

Kruger National Park

Africa’s largest wildlife conservations area is the oldest and probably the most famous national park of the whole continent. It is located around four driving hours away from Johannesburg, in the Southeast of South Africa. Amongst plenty of fascinating animal species, in a unique nature, you can find the impressive “Big Five” as well as other characteristic animals like crocodiles, hippos and many colourful birds.

Table Mountain

Cape Town’s silhouette is characterized by the famous Table Mountain. It is located in a mountain chain on Cape Peninsula. It is around 52 km long and up to 16 km wide. At the southern end of this chain the Cape of Good Hope stretches out into the sea. The Table Mountain is located in Cape Town’s centre, its highest point (1087 m) is called Maclears Bacon.

Drakensberg

The mountain chain of Drakensberg is located in the east of the country and reaches a maximum altitude of 3500 meters. Since 2000 the Drakensberg are on the UNESCO world heritage list.

Robben Island

The former prisoner island, which is located 12 km off Cape Town, was declared a natural and national memorial. In this place Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Nowadays the building is used as a history museum.

Cango Caves

The Cango Caves are considered as one of the most beautiful cave systems in the world. They can be found in the West Cape Province. There it is located in the so-called Swartbergen. The total expansion comprises many kilometers. The largest cave is around 90 meters long, 50 meters wide and up to 18 meters high. Discoveries prove that the caves are used by humans for more than 10.000 years.

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