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South Africa - Vast Landscapes and Wild Animals

South Africa is a country full of facets. You find everything the African continent has to offer here: fascinating landscapes, a rich exotic fauna and the African culture in conjunction with European influences. The ideal destination for varied holidays.

Savanna in South Africa

Geography - The south of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope

South Africa is the continent's southern tip. The country borders on the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, which meet at the southern tip of the republic. In the west you find the rugged Cape of Good Hope, which used to frighten sailors who had to pass it to get to Asia. In the east, the Drakensberg (highest peak: Mafadi 3,450 m) runs through the country from North to South. The central area is dominated by the inland plateau Highveld with heights from 900 to 2,000 metres. Toward the coast, the country becomes flatter. Depending on the region, the climate is hot and dry, cool and maritime, subtropical or Mediterranean. In general the weather is sunny but not as hot as in many parts of Africa.

Cape Town at the seaside in South Africa

Nature - From the desert to the coast

Especially the North and the West of the country are dominated by the dry, inhospitable world of the desert. In the hottest regions particularly cactuses and succulent plants brave the heat. Furthermore, there are many desert flowers which transform the barren grounds into colourful carpets after rainstorms. South Africa also has vast steppes and savannas. Half-height, faded grasses, between which you find the occasional knobby tree, characterise the pasture. These harsh landscapes extend to the horizon, where the rust brown mountains tower. Lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, buffaloes and leopards live under these harsh conditions. Giraffes, zebras, hippopotamuses and cheetahs also brave the climate. In contrast, you find vast sheep farms and fields in fertile regions, on which fruit, vine and cereal are grown. There are several forests with eucalyptus trees and pines in the southeastern parts of the country. The coasts and islands are populated by large colonies of African penguins.

Gazelles in the wilderness of South Africa

Natural sights - Wild animals at close range

The Kruger National Park is South Africa's biggest and best-known national park. On guided or individual tours you can experience the whole diversity of the wild African life – and you meet elephants, lions, giraffes and rhinoceroses. You get even closer to the wild animals on the Cango Wildlife Ranch, where you can stroke cheetahs which were raised by hand or dive in the crocodiles' cages. A must on every journey through South Africa are the Cape of Good Hope and the Cape Point, a cliff in the east of the Cape Peninsula which is popular with tourists. The distinctive Table Mountain near Cape Town with its flat peak is also worth seeing. You can take a cable railway to get on top of the mountain or follow a hiking trail, which leads you through a landscape full of plants, antelopes and dassies, animals which are closely related to the elephant. The Namaqualand is considered to be one of South Africa's hottest regions. Numerous desert flowers spring up in August/September every year and make the region an attractive destination. One of South Africa's most beautiful parts of the coast is the Garden Route between Mossel Bay and Storms River Bay. Along the route you find the national park of the same name and the impressive Cango Caves. Good places for watching penguins are the beaches Betty's Bay and Boulders Beach. You find particularly beautiful and known beaches in the region Clifton Beach near Cape Town, for example. The Augrabies Falls National Park, which contains the falls of the same name, which have a drop of 56 metres, is characterised by a spectacular, unspoiled landscape.

Wild elephants in South Africa

Culture - South Africa as the Rainbow Nation

South Africa's location constitutes an important strategic point on the sea route between Europe and Asia. That is why the Netherlands and Great Britian contested for the region in the past. South Africa is also known for its apartheid laws for the separation of the white and black population, which were abolished in 1990. After that the freedom fighter Nelson Mandela was appointed as the country's first black president. Due to the number of peoples and ethnic groups who live there, South Africa is known as the "Rainbow Nation". In the colourful mix of influences, traditions play a major role. Ritual dances and classic medicine accompanied by drums and flutes, for example, are still practised. Magnificent jewellery made of rings, gold and feathers as well as colourful clothing and the round huts with their thatched roofs are also typical of the country.

Zulu dancers at the beach of South Africa

Cultural sights - Shopping and going out in Cape Town

When you think of South Africa, you usually have Cape Town at the back of your mind. The European influence lives in the colourful city at the seaside with its distinctive Table Mountain in the background and forms a fascinating mosaic of cultures. Shopping streets with fashionable boutiques are situated there as well as traditional, lively street markets. The Long Street is Cape Town's most famous nightlife district. It is worthwhile to make a trip to the star-shaped Castle of Good Hope from the 17th century. In the South-African summer, you can watch many teams who use Cape Town's beautiful backdrop for shooting films and photos. On Robben Island you can visit the prison, in which political prisoners - like Nelson Mandela - were kept. The island also accommodates fascinating nature in addition to seal and penguin colonies. Once founded as a gold mining town, Johannesburg is South Africa's vibrant economic centre today. The boom is especially apparent in the Carlton Centre (223 m), which is Africa's highest building, and the suburb Newtown, which contains many modernised buildings, the Apartheid Museum and a number of theatres, jazz clubs and similar venues. From Johannesburg you can take a tour into the nearby gold mines. Another attraction is the Blue Train. This nostalgic train with its ostentatious furnishing is considered the paragon of luxury travel and runs, for example, between Cape Town and the capital Pretoria, which is known for its blooming trees.

Cape Town and the Table Mountain in South Africa

Experience - Getting to know South African diversity

Balloon flights over the vast, unspoiled steppe or whale watching from a boat are extraordinary experiences. A visit to an ostrich farm is also appealing because it is culture and entertainment at the same time. Those who want to go shopping during their holidays will get their money's worth in South Africa. There are both smart fashion shops and small market stalls which sell traditional goods like jewellery, safari equipment, bead-work and wood carvings. Party-goers will enjoy South Africa's theatres and operas, modern discos, clubs and live concerts. You can taste the country's culinary specialities such as shashlik, minced meet with curry or meat stew in a number of restaurants. The first rate wines and the sherry are also worth a try. You find these on the wine-growing estates, where tourist can dive into the world of wine production. A more rustic experience is a barbecue with the local inhabitants, which does not only mean food preparation in Africa but also passion and convivial gathering. On the grill you find many types of meat – from ostrich to springbok.

Eating curry in South Africa

Activities - Watching wild animals on safari

Jolting over bumpy landscapes in a cross country vehicle and camping under the breathtaking southern spangled sky – South Africa is perfectly suited for safaris through wild landscapes. You can also take long walks along the beautiful beaches or go swimming. The mighty waves at the coast present great conditions for surfing. It is also worthwhile to dive down to the reefs and marvel at the magnificent, bizarre underwater world and swim with sharks. The Drakensberg is especially suited for hiking, mountain climbing, horse riding or cycling. There are many nicely arranged golf courses and in addition, South Africa has the Tiffindell Ski Resort, where fans of winter sports get their money's worth – by European standards in summer.

Safari in South Africa

Information

Travellers usually arrive at the airports in Johannesburg (JNB) or Cape Town (CPT). The well-developed road network makes it possible to reach most parts of the country by car or bus. Eleven official languages are spoken in South Africa, one of which is English.

Those interested in Africa's breathtaking nature with its spectacular landscapes and diverse fauna, are at the right place in South Africa. The country is also the ideal destination for travellers who want to experience adventure, be active and get to know a rising culture.

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South Africa
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Information

Flag of South Africa
Region:
Africa
Size:
1,219,912 km²
Population:
51,770,560
Capital:
Cape Town, Pretoria, Bloemfontein
Timezone:
UTC+2
Currency:
Rand (ZAR)
Languages:
Afrikaans, English, Southern Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Venda, Tsonga