No wind serves him who addresses his voyage to no certain port.
— Michel de Montaigne, 1533 - 1592
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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 AfricaThe Westin Cape Town 

Convention Square
Lower Long Street
Cape Town 8000
South Africa

Price (US$): $369 - $484 / night

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Location. The Westin Cape Town is a business friendly hotel located in Cape Town's City Bowl neighborhood, close to Cape Town International Convention Centre, Greenmarket Square, and Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Additional points of interest include Castle of Good Hope and Two Oceans Aquarium. Hotel Features. Dining options at The Westin Cape Town include a restaurant and a coffee shop/cafĂ©. A bar/lounge is open for drinks. Room service is available 24 hours a day. The hotel serves a… more »

South AfricaFancourt 

Montagu Street
Blanco
George 6530
South Africa

Price (US$): $357 - $637 / night

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Location. Near the airport, Fancourt is located in George's Garden Route neighborhood and close to Redberry Farm. Other area points of interest include Garden Route Botanical Garden. Hotel Features. Dining options at Fancourt include 2 restaurants. A bar/lounge is open for drinks. Room service is available. Recreational amenities include a golf course. Also located on site are an outdoor pool, an indoor pool, a children's pool, and a health club. The property's full service health spa has… more »

South AfricaTenahead Lodge 

Naudes Nek Pass
Rhodes Eastern Cape
Rhodes 6170
South Africa

Price (US$): $192 - $193 / night

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Location. Located in Rhodes, Tenahead Lodge is in the historical district. Hotel Features. Tenahead Lodge's restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A bar/lounge is open for drinks. Room service is available. Recreational amenities include a health club. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in public areas. Guest parking is complimentary. Additional property amenities include a rooftop terrace, a library, and barbecue grills. Guestrooms. 7 air conditioned guestrooms at… more »

South AfricaThe Marine Hermanus 

Marine Drive
Walker Bay
Hermanus 7200
South Africa

Price (US$): $427 - $855 / night

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Location. The Marine Hermanus is located near the beach in Hermanus and close to Hermanus Beach and Whalehaven Winery. Regional points of interest also include Bot River Estuary. Hotel Features. Recreational amenities include an outdoor pool and a health club. This 5 star property has a business center and offers small meeting rooms and a meeting/conference room. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in public areas. This Hermanus property has event space consisting of banquet… more »

South AfricaFairmont Zimbali Lodge 

Zimbali Estate Durban 4390 Sou
North Coast
Zimbali 4420
South Africa

Price (US$): $841 - $842 / night

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Location. Fairmont Zimbali Lodge is located on the beach in Zimbali, close to Ballito Beach and Casuarina Beach. Another point of interest is Thompson's Bay Beach. Hotel Features. Fairmont Zimbali Lodge's restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A poolside bar and a bar/lounge are open for drinks. Room service is available during limited hours. Recreational amenities include a golf course. Also located on site are an outdoor pool, a children's pool and a health club. The property's… 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