South Africa is a travel destination that is hardly missing from any serious traveller’s bucket list. From endlessly running coastlines to fascinating wildlife, the country has more reasons to draw you to its doorstep than one. The outstretched deserts beautifully lit under clear star-studded skies, rolling verdant hills and mountains, and numerous powdery beaches, form only the beginning of the long list of wonders that tourism in South Africa offers your way. The exciting safaris and vast wildlife, including the rare and unique Black-Maned Lions is only one but also the biggest attraction of this versatile global destination. Moreover, with scores of heavenly natural attractions, vibrant cities, multiple wineries and hordes of stimulating adventure activities, the country has come a long way from being a pariah land to becoming the humongous African tourism industry of the present day. Owner of astounding natural beauty and wildlife, as well as utterly absorbing culture and history, South Africa is just a humble country with ceaseless opportunities for a wonderful vacation. You can also check out more ways on How to reach South Africa.
Currency: South African Rand (R)
Population: 55.91 million
Time Zone: UTC +02:00
Area: 1.22 million sq. km.
Capital: Cape Town (Legislative), Pretoria (Administrative), Bloemfontein (Judiciary)
Official Language: English, Afrikaans, Southern Sotho, Zulu and Xhosa
Capital's calling code: +27
Steadily rising as the top desired tourist destination for anyone, be it families, groups of friends, honeymooners and even high-end business tycoons on the lookout for the perfect business/pleasure travel destination, South Africa tourism is escalating fast. It has in fact, already emerged as the ideal world travel destination for backpackers and adventure seekers from every corner of the world, and for every right reason. A land apt for every kind of traveller, one who wants to spend a relaxing vacation in the lap of nature, one who wants to partake in a variety of adventure activities and also the one who wants to explore a culturally and historically rich and unique country. It is important to choose the best time to visit South Africa wisely to have the best possible experience.
Considered as an outcast for most part of the known history, this fabulous country has surprising proven its mettle as an exceedingly potential tourist destination of the world. It is now sought by travellers in a huge number every year, fuelling tourism in South Africa by statistics never imagined before. Although still the place is plagued by widespread corruption and petty crimes like theft, putting a dent in the otherwise flawless tourist destination, it is by large a very prudent and desirable choice for vacations. Its desirability is fortified by its weak currency which lets you do a lot more for a lot less, when compared to most of other international tourist places.
The country largely owes its popularity and appeal to the spectacular wildlife including lions, wild buffaloes, rhinoceros, giraffes, hippopotamuses, leopards, elephants and even whales. The safari in this region, is especially popular among its visitors for the world of exceptional, exciting and absolutely stunning vista it provides them. Apart from the myriad beautiful sightseeing spots like Bourke’s Luck rock formations or the former home of Nelson Mandela, and pristine beaches lapped by azure waters from two oceans, South Africa is also known for its pulsating cities and lifestyle. There are really some amazing places to visit in South Africa so make sure to check it out.
Cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg along with lesser known but equally captivating towns such as that of Durban or Mpumalanga give you a sense of living off the edge. The intriguing past of the country coupled with deeply seated culture of the native people of South Africa, it is through and through a wonderful experience to get to know this land. The tempting food and multiple options for satisfying shopping spree are another With an ever happening and exciting life surrounded by some truly thrilling adventures like watching whales at KwaZulu-Natal or abseiling down the famed Table Mountain, South Africa brings alive your dream holidays in a foreign land.
Geographically, South Africa is bifurcated into three distinct regions. The first region is formed by the African Plateau which is located in the country’s interior. A part of it falls under the Kalahari Basin which is mostly semiarid and hence thinly populated. Although it slopes down towards the north and west directions but rises in the east to a height of about 6,500 ft. The Great Escarpment forms the second geographical part of the country. While it has an undulating terrain but the Drakensberg Mountains make its highest peaks closely bordering with Lesotho. Lastly, the fertile and narrow valleys which consistent with the coastal plains, form South Africa’s third region.
The country has a primarily semiarid climate. However, the coastal region on the eastern part of South Africa are subtropical therefore escorted by sunny days and pleasantly cooler nights. The west coast of the country is predominantly arid due to the Benguela which is the name given to the cold ocean current it experiences. It rids the area of any moisture leading to the formation of Namib Desert which extends further into Namibia.
Alongside its multifarious topography, South Africa is also very well known for its biodiversity. At present, the country has eight wildlife reserves, among which Kruger National Park, located near the border of Mozambique, is the most famous one. It is popular for animals such as lions, hippopotamuses, leopards, elephants and giraffes. Another important animal reserve is The Cape Floristic Region which is world hotspot for biodiversity. It is situated on the west coast of the country and is the home to a variety of endemic plants and animals including many mammals and amphibians.
Visiting South Africa without getting to know its turbulent history is ignoring a huge and vital part of its identity. The country’s history begins as early as the 14th Century C.E. when migrating from Central Africa, the Bantu people settled in the region. The first Europeans who settled on this land were Portuguese who arrived in the country in 1488, at the Cape of Good Hope. However, permanent settlement only occurred by 1656 on the establishment of the Dutch East India Company, followed by more European settlers including the Dutch, French and Germans.
Towards the end of 1700s, the Cape of Good Hope was widely strewn with various European settlements and by the time it was 18th century, the land was completely under the control of the British. In the early part of the century, the native South African farmers called Boers shifted to the northern region of the country in an attempt to escape their rule. Here they formed independent movements known as Republics of the Transvaal in 1852 and Orange Free State in 1854. In the late 1800s when gold and diamonds were discovered in South Africa, more European colonisers arrived in the country which eventually steered the Anglo-Boer Wars. The war was won by the British and they made the republics to align with their empire. Together, in the year 1910, they created the Union of South Africa which was a self-governing territory of the empire.
In 1912, African National Congress or ANC was founded with the aim to provide the native blacks of the region with much more freedom. However, despite elections in 1948, ANC lost and National Party came into power which began passing and enforcing laws for racial separation, known as apartheid. Subsequently ANC was banned in 1960s and anti-apartheid leaders including Nelson Mandela were imprisoned after convicting them of treason.
In 1961, withdrew from the Commonwealth Games of British and became a republic as a result of worldwide protests against apartheid. A constitution was brought into effect in 1984 and in February of 1990, ANC was finally unbanned by President F.W. de Klerk after a short while of which Mandela was freed from prison.
Four years after this, Nelson Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa in 1994. He was committed to his goal of reforming the race related discriminations in the country and strengthening both its economy and its place on the globe. And ever since this, it has been the primary aim of the successive government leaders of the nation.
Although it may not be a very beatific endeavour to visit South Africa’s museums displaying exhibits from the era of apartheid, it is definitely one of the most vital things to do in South Africa. It will not only help to understand the delicate fabric of the nation’s foundation but will also aid you in appreciating the long way that it has come from there.
The population of South Africa stands at 55.91 million. The nation is often called by its nickname of ‘Rainbow Nation’ due to the various beautiful colours the country displays, thanks to the diversity of its people. Since the country has had a colonial past, the population is also varied in origination and races. The native people of the country consists of blacks who form around 80% of the total population and belong to different ethnic groups. Due to the country’s colonisation by various European countries, South Africa has a number of Afrikaans people who descended from the country’s Dutch settlers and many English speakers as well. In addition to these, the nation also saw French Huguenots, Portuguese and German settlers as well who brought with them many slaves from India and Indonesia. This further contributes in its population. Apart from the blacks (80%), the population is made up of Whites at 8%, coloured (9%) and the rest is made up of India/Asia and some other regions.
Known as the Rainbow Nation for being a hub for a variety of people following a variety of religions and practicing different cultures as well, there are multiple religions followed in the country. The people here possess varied religious faiths and follow distinct spiritual traditions. The constitution of South Africa also protects the freedom of its people to follow any religion of their liking. They are encouraged to know more about different faiths and respect the distinct practices promoted in them. This forms a part of the country’s democracy.
The major religions practiced by the people of South Africa primarily include traditional African religions, Christianity and Islam along with Hinduism and Judaism as well. Most of these faiths were brought and promoted by the European settlers in the area. Of these the traditional African religion is highly popular and followed by a large portion of the nation’s population. Their ancestors arriving from the parts of North and West Africa brought this religion with them. Elements borrowed from religions of Christianity and Islam are usually combined with it. The South African religion aims at spiritual enhancement which is used to generate mutual understanding and harmony among the people.
There are eleven officially recognized languages in South Africa. These include English, Afrikaans, Sotho, Tswana, Zulu, Ndebele, Swazi, Northern Sotho, Xhosa, Tsonga and Venda. The people here mostly speak one of these as their first language and rarely any other as the primary one.
English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Southern Sotho
Budget: A daily budget of less than INR 5000 is enough for a stay at a dorm room, meals including single main dish and travelling through buses taking a Baz Bus Pass.
Midrange: A daily budget of 5,000 to 10,000 INR is sufficient for stays at mid-range hotels, reasonably priced meals and travelling by tourist class trains.
ATMs are widely available all over the country. Cards are widely accepted too, though it is good to keep some cash handy for trips to rural areas of South Africa, such as Kruger National Park. There are also amazing South Africa tour packages to choose from, here at Thomas Cook.