A wise traveler never despises his own country.
— Carlo Goldoni, 1707 - 1793
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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 AfricaBushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve 

Pakhuis Pass
Cederberg Mountains
Clanwilliam 8135
South Africa

Price (US$): $716 - $962 / night

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Location. Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve is located in Clanwilliam. Property Features. Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve features a restaurant, a poolside bar, and a bar/lounge. Room service is available during limited hours. The lodge serves a complimentary breakfast. Recreational amenities include an outdoor pool, a sauna, and a fitness facility. Spa amenities include spa services, massage/treatment rooms, and beauty services. This 5 star property offers secretarial services,… more »

South AfricaRoyal Legend Safari Lodge Timbavati Nature Reserve 

Argyle Road past HDS Airport
Timbavati Nature Reserve
Hoedspruit 6191
South Africa

Price (US$): $551 - $552 / night

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Location. Located in Hoedspruit, Royal Legend Safari Lodge Timbavati Nature Reserve is in a national park. Property Features. Royal Legend Safari Lodge Timbavati Nature Reserve features a restaurant and a bar/lounge. Room service is available. Recreational amenities include an outdoor pool, a health club, a spa tub, a sauna, and a steam room. Spa amenities include spa services and facials. Dial up Internet access (surcharge) is available in public areas. This Hoedspruit property has event… more »

South AfricaCybele Forest Lodge And Health Spa 

R40 Spitskop Road
Kiepersol
White River 1240
South Africa

Price (US$): $387 - $838 / night

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Location. Located in White River, Cybele Forest Lodge And Health Spa is in the mountains and attractions in the region include Hazyview Elephant Sanctuary. Property Features. Cybele Forest Lodge And Health Spa's restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A bar/lounge is open for drinks. Room service is available during limited hours. A complimentary full breakfast is served each morning. Recreational amenities include 7 outdoor swimming pools. Also located on site are a sauna, a fitness… more »

South AfricaAfrican Pride Pumba Private Game Reserve 

Highlands, Makana Municipality
Grahamstown 6065
South Africa

Price (US$): $1015 - $1016 / night

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Location. Located in Grahamstown, African Pride Pumba Private Game Reserve is in a provincial park and attractions in the region include 1820 Settlers National Monument, Rhodes University, and South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity. Regional points of interest also include Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George and Observatory Museum. Property Features. This lodge offers both all inclusive and room only rates. Meals and beverages at onsite dining establishments are included in all… more »

South AfricaLe Franschhoek Hotel & Spa 

Minor Road 16
Franschhoek 7690
South Africa

Price (US$): $216 - $463 / night

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Location. Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa is located in Franschhoek's Cape Winelands Franschhoek neighborhood, close to Huguenot Monument. Additional area points of interest include La Motte Estate and Boschendal Estate. Hotel Features. Dining options at Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa include 3 restaurants. A poolside bar and a bar/lounge are open for drinks. Room service is available. Recreational amenities include an outdoor pool, an outdoor tennis court, and a sauna. The property's full service… 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