Travel is only glamorous in retrospect.
— Paul Theroux, 1941 -
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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 AfricaLion Sands Ivory Lodge 

Kruger Gate Road (R536)
Sabi Sands
Kruger National Park 1240
South Africa

Price (US$): $1955 - $1956 / night

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Location. Lion Sands Ivory Lodge is located in Kruger National Park's Skukuza neighborhood. Hotel Features. Lion Sands Ivory Lodge features a restaurant and a bar/lounge. Room service is available 24 hours a day. The hotel serves a complimentary breakfast. Recreational amenities include an outdoor pool. The property's full service health spa has massage/treatment rooms. High speed (wired) Internet access (surcharge) is available in public areas. The property has a roundtrip airport shuttle,… more »

South AfricaTHANDA PRIVATE GAME RESERVE 

D242 OFF THE N2
BAYALA ROAD
HLUHLUWE ZA 3960
Hluhluwe
South Africa

Price (US$): $982 - $983 / night

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Winner of the 2011 World Travel Awards as Worlds Leading Luxury Lodge, Thanda Private Game Reserve is situated 23km north of Hluhluwe in northern Zululand, South Africa, and is set on a 14 000 hectare Big Five private game reserve. Thanda, meaning love in Zulu, unites romance and exclusivity with Zulu culture and wildlife. The nine luxury bush villas at the main lodge have private infinity pools, viewing decks, private salas, lounges, fireplaces and full bathrooms. The public facilities at… more »

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 AfricaOceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve 

Off the R72
Port Alfred 6170
South Africa

Price (US$): $1014 - $1132 / night

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Location. Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve is located on the beach in Port Alfred and local attractions include East Beach. Regional points of interest also include Kelly's Beach and Great Fish Lighthouse. Property Features. Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve features a restaurant and a bar/lounge. Room service is available. The lodge serves a complimentary breakfast. Recreational amenities include a fitness facility. The property's full service health spa has massage/treatment rooms,… more »

South AfricaKloofzicht Lodge 

Kromdraai Road, Muldersdrift
Krugersdorp 1747
South Africa

Price (US$): $414 - $480 / night

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Location. Kloofzicht Lodge is located in Krugersdorp and local attractions include Kromdraai, Sterkfontein, and Sterkfontein Caves. Regional points of interest also include Lion Park and Lesedi Cultural Village. Property Features. Kloofzicht Lodge features a restaurant. Spa amenities include facials and body treatments. This 5 star property has a 24 hour business center and offers small meeting rooms and audiovisual equipment. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in public… 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