Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter.
— Izaak Walton, 1593 - 1683
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South Africa

Background

South Africa

Dutch traders landed at the southern tip of modern day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the Far East, founding the city of Cape Town. After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, as the Boers became known, ruled together beginning in 1910 under the Union of South Africa, which became a republic in 1961 after a whites-only referendum. In 1948, the National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races - which favored the white minority at the expense of the black majority. The African National Congress (ANC) led the opposition to apartheid and many top ANC leaders, such as Nelson MANDELA, spent decades in South Africa's prisons. Internal protests and insurgency, as well as boycotts by some Western nations and institutions, led to the regime's eventual willingness to negotiate a peaceful transition to majority rule. The first multi-racial elections in 1994 brought an end to apartheid and ushered in majority rule under an ANC-led government. South Africa since then has struggled to address apartheid-era imbalances in decent housing, education, and health care. ANC infighting, which has grown in recent years, came to a head in September 2008 when President Thabo MBEKI resigned, and Kgalema MOTLANTHE, the party's General-Secretary, succeeded him as interim president. Jacob ZUMA became president after the ANC won general elections in April 2009. In January 2011, South Africa assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2011-12 term.

About

South Africa is located at the southern tip of Africa. It is bordered by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho (which is completely surrounded by South Africa). It is a vast country with widely varying landscapes and has 11 official languages, as well as an equally diverse population. South Africa is renowned for its wines and is one of the world's largest producers of gold. South Africa has a strong economy and is an influential player in African politics. In 2010, South Africa hosted the first Football World Cup to be held on the African continent.

Read more about South Africa in our South Africa travel guide »

Featured journals from

South Africa

Marco?

by EmelieRoy

Polo

Aug 2012 - Oct 2012  »  Canada | South Africa

Travels

by DaniellaAdler

Aug 2011 - Jan 2015  »  Croatia | United States | France | South Africa

Featured hotels in

South Africa

South Africa10 2nd Avenue Houghton Estate 

10, 2nd Avenue, Houghton Estate
Johannesburg 2041
South Africa

Price (US$): $209 - $210 / night

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Location. 10 2nd Avenue Houghton Estate is a business friendly Johannesburg hotel in the suburbs and close to Killarney Golf Club, South African Museum of Military History, and Johannesburg Zoo. Additional points of interest include Carlton Centre and Museum Africa. Hotel Features. Dining options at 10 2nd Avenue Houghton Estate include a restaurant and a snack bar/deli. A poolside bar and a bar/lounge are open for drinks. Room service is available 24 hours a day. The hotel serves a… more »

South AfricaKichaka Luxury Game Lodge 

Seven Fountains
Grahamstown 6140
South Africa

Price (US$): $1006 - $1007 / night

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Location. Kichaka Luxury Game Lodge is located in Grahamstown and local attractions include Lalibela Game Reserve. Property Features. Kichaka Luxury Game Lodge features a restaurant and a bar/lounge. Room service is available. Recreational amenities include an outdoor pool. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in public areas. The property offers a roundtrip airport shuttle (surcharge). Guest parking is complimentary. Additional property amenities include a library and laundry… more »

South AfricaThe Westcliff 

67 Jan Smuts Avenue
Johannesburg 2193
South Africa

Price (US$): $233 - $401 / night

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Location. The Westcliff is located in Johannesburg's Westcliffe neighborhood, close to Johannesburg Zoo, South African Museum of Military History, and Museum Africa. Nearby points of interest also include Carlton Centre and Parkview Golf Club. Hotel Features. The Westcliff's restaurant serves breakfast and dinner. A poolside bar is open for drinks. Room service is available 24 hours a day. Recreational amenities include an outdoor pool and a fitness facility. The property's full service… more »

South AfricaAfrican Pride Melrose Arch 

1 Melrose Square
Johannesburg 2196
South Africa

Price (US$): $345 - $406 / night

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Location. Near the airport, African Pride Melrose Arch is located in Johannesburg's Parkhurst neighborhood and close to Melrose Arch Shopping Centre, Sandton Convention Centre, and Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Additional points of interest include Sandton City and South African Museum of Military History. Hotel Features. Dining options at African Pride Melrose Arch include 2 restaurants. 2 bars/lounges and a poolside bar are open for drinks. Room service is available 24 hours a day. The… more »

South AfricaCape Cadogan 

5 Upper Union Street
Gardens
Cape Town 8001
South Africa

Price (US$): $134 - $135 / night

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Location. Cape Cadogan is located in Cape Town's Gardens neighborhood, close to Cape Town Medi Clinic, South African National Gallery, and Table Mountain. Nearby points of interest also include Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and Greenmarket Square. Hotel Features. Recreational amenities include an outdoor pool. Complimentary high speed (wired) Internet access is available in public areas. A bar/lounge is open for drinks. Room service is available during limited hours. The hotel serves a… more »

Browse more hotels in South Africa »

South Africa

Capital
Pretoria
Location

Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa

Geographic coordinates

29 00 S, 24 00 E

Area comparative

slightly less than twice the size of Texas

Border countries

Botswana 1,840 km, Lesotho 909 km, Mozambique 491 km, Namibia 967 km, Swaziland 430 km, Zimbabwe 225 km

Coastline

2,798 km

Climate

mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights

Terrain

vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain

Lowest point

Atlantic Ocean 0 m

Highest point

Njesuthi 3,408 m

Natural resources

gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, rare earth elements, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas

Population

49,109,107

Ethnic groups

black African 79%, white 9.6%, colored 8.9%, Indian/Asian 2.5% (2001 census)

Religions

Zion Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Catholic 7.1%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1% (2001 census)

Languages

IsiZulu (official) 23.8%, IsiXhosa (official) 17.6%, Afrikaans (official) 13.3%, Sepedi (offcial) 9.4%, English (official) 8.2%, Setswana (official) 8.2%, Sesotho (official) 7.9%, Xitsonga (official) 4.4%, other 7.2%, isiNdebele (official), Tshivenda (official), siSwati (official) (2001 census)

Government type

republic

Independence

31 May 1910 (Union of South Africa formed from four British colonies Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State); 31 May 1961 (republic declared); 27 April 1994 (majority rule)

National holiday

Freedom Day, 27 April (1994)

Chief of state

President Jacob ZUMA (since 9 May 2009); Executive Deputy President Kgalema MOTLANTHE (since 11 May 2009); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government

Head of government

President Jacob ZUMA (since 9 May 2009); Executive Deputy President Kgalema MOTLANTHE (since 11 May 2009)

Internet country code

.za

Internet users

4.42 million (2009)

Airports

578 (2010)

Ports and terminals

Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay

Other countries in the region