South Africa South Africa Flag

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). The resulting Union of South Africa operated under a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races. The 1990s brought an end to apartheid politically and ushered in black majority rule.

Great dive locations in South Africa :

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If you want to travel in southern Africa then South Africa is a good place to start. While you can fly into any country in southern Africa, most flights will route through South Africa anyway. South Africa is also a good place to get used to travelling in the region (though some would argue that Namibia is better for that). Of course South Africa is not only a jumping off point, it is itself a superb destination rich in culture, fauna & flora and history.

Outsiders' views of South Africa are coloured by the same stereotypes as the rest of Africa. Contrary to popular belief, South Africa is not devastatingly poor with an unstable government that is rapidly going to pot. Although the rural part of South Africa remains among the poorest and the least developed parts of the world and poverty in the townships can be appalling, progress is being made. The process of recovering from apartheid, which lasted almost 46 years, is quite slow. South Africa boasts a well-developed infrastructure and has all the modern amenities and technologies. The government is stable, although corruption is common. The government and the primary political parties all have a high level of respect for democratic institutions and human rights.

The tip of Africa has been home to the Koisan (collective name for Hottentot(Koi) and Bushmen(San)) people for thousands of years. Their rock art can still be found in many places throughout South Africa. Bantu tribes started expanding into Southern Africa around 2500 years ago and by around 500 AD the different cultural groups as we know them today had been established in the area.

The first permanent European settlement was built after the Dutch East India Company reached the Cape of Good Hope in April 1652. In the late 1700's the Boers (the settling farmers) slowly started expanding into the interior. In 1795 Britain took control of the Cape and in 1820 a large group of British Settlers arrived in the region. In 1835 large numbers of Boers started out on the Groot Trek into the interior after becoming dissatisfied with the British rule. In the interior they established their own republics after a number of bloody conflicts with the local population.

Two wars for control over the region were fought between the Boers and the British in 1883 and 1899.

The Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, consolidating the various Boer republics and British colonies. From this, the Republic of South Africa was formed in 1961. Non-Europeans were largely excluded in all these political changes and even with the creation of the Union were not given the right to vote. From 1948 additional apartheid laws were introduced to erode the right of the black population further.

In 1992, 68% of the voting white population voted in a referendum to have the apartheid system abolished. This was quickly followed by a new constitution in 1993 and the first fully democratic election in 1994.


The climate in South Africa ranges from desert and semi-desert in the...

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 with 11 official languages, an equally diverse people. South Africa is renowned for its wines and is the world's largest producer of gold. South Africa has a strong economy and is an influential player in African politics. In 2010 South Africa will host the first Football World Cup to be held in the African continent.


South Africa is divided into 9 provinces, they are:
  • Eastern Cape
  • Free State
  • Gauteng
  • KwaZulu-Natal
  • Limpopo
  • Mpumalanga
  • North West
  • Northern Cape
  • Western Cape

  • Territories
  • Marion Island
  • Prince Edward Islands

  • Cities

  • Bloemfontein -- Location of the Supreme Court of Appeal, the highest court in non-constitutional matters. The Constitutional Court in Johannesburg became the highest court in constitutional matters in 1994.
  • Cape Town -- The legislative capital and seat of Parliament. A world-class city named for its proximity to the Cape of Good Hope. Also within a stone's throw of South Africa's winelands.
  • Pretoria -- The administrative capital of the country

  • Others
  • Durban -- Largest city in KwaZulu-Natal and one of the biggest ports in Africa.
  • East London -- Industrial town in the Eastern Cape centred around motor vehicle manufacturing.
  • George -- The largest town on the Garden Route.
  • Johannesburg -- The business centre of South Africa.
  • Kimberley -- Capital of the Northern Cape known for its diamonds
  • Nelspruit -- Capital of Mpumalanga.
  • Pietermaritzburg -- Capital of KwaZulu-Natal, near Durban.
  • Polokwane -- formally Pietersburg, and capital of Limpopo Province.
  • Port Elizabeth -- Capital of the Eastern Cape
  • Upington -- Large town in the Northern Cape

  • Other destinations

    South Africa is a paradise for anyone interested in natural history. A wide range of species (some potentially dangerous) may be encountered in parks, farms, private reserves and even on the roads.
  • The Kruger National Park is exceptionally well managed and a favourite tourist destination.
  • Kgalagadi Transfontier Park in the heart of the Kalahari desert with wide open spaces and hordes of games including the majestic 'Gemsbok'. This is the first park in Africa to cross political borders.
  • There are also a large number of smaller parks, like the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, Addo Elephant National Park, Pilanesberg National Park or the Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park.

  • See African Flora and Fauna and South African National Parks for additional information.
    There are many geographical features and landmarks in South Africa worth a visit.
  • The Augrabies Falls carved out by the Orange River in the Northern Cape
  • The Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga is the third largest Canyon in the world.
  • The Tugela Falls, the second highest waterfall in the world, located in the Drakensberg
  • The Drakensberg Escarpment and surrounding areas in Mpumalanga
  • The most southern tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas
  • The Garden Route - One of the top destinations, running along the Southern Coast from Mossel Bay to Port Elizabeth.
  • The Drakensberg mountain range, if you like hiking
  • The Whale Coast along the Overberg Coast from Hermanus past Gansbaai to De Hoop Nature Reserve

  • There are hiking trails available in almost all the parks and around geographical places of interest. Hiking in South Africa contains information on those.

    With 2798km of coastline one can also except to find excellent beaches and coastal activities.
  • Durban, not only the beaches, but also the Indian market.
  • Port Elizabeth for swimming and scuba diving and other water related activities.
  • Jeffreys Bay, the surfing mecca of South Africa

  • Other places not to miss include
  • Cape Town - the mother city is a must. Be sure to visit its famous landmarks Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope
  • The famous Cape Winelands around Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek.
  • The semi-desert Karoo and the famous ostrich farms near Oudtshoorn, as well as the Big Hole in the diamond city of Kimberley.
  • Johannesburg, the economic powerhouse of Africa

  • A number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites are also located in South Africa
  • The Cradle of Humankind in Johannesburg is a must see for anyone interested in where it all started.A large collection of caves rich in hominid and advanced ape fossils.
  • Robben Island just off the coast from Cape Town where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many years.
  • The Cape Flora Region in the Overberg
  • Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park,
  • Mapungubwe Kingdom, in the North-West
  • Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, , for its landscape, biodiversity and rock art.
  • Vredefort Dome, remnants of the largest and oldest meteorite impact crater.

  • Understand

    If you want to travel in southern Africa then South Africa is a good place to start. While you can fly into any country in southern Africa, most flights will route through South Africa anyway. South Africa is also a good place to get used to travelling in the region (though some would argue that Namibia is better for that). Of course South Africa is not only a jumping off point, it is itself a superb destination rich in culture, fauna & flora and history.

    Outsiders' views of South Africa are coloured by the same stereotypes as the rest of Africa. Contrary to popular belief, South Africa is not devastatingly poor with an unstable government that is rapidly going to pot. Although the rural part of South Africa remains among the poorest and the least developed parts of the world and poverty in the townships can be appalling, progress is being made. The process of recovering from apartheid, which lasted almost 46 years, is quite slow. South Africa boasts a well-developed infrastructure and has all the modern amenities and technologies. The government is stable, although corruption is common. The government and the primary political parties all have a high level of respect for democratic institutions and human rights.

    The tip of Africa has been home to the Koisan (collective name for Hottentot(Koi) and Bushmen(San)) people for thousands of years. Their rock art can still be found in many places throughout South Africa. Bantu tribes started expanding into Southern Africa around 2500 years ago and by around 500 AD the different cultural groups as we know them today had been established in the area.

    The first permanent European settlement was built after the Dutch East India Company reached the Cape of Good Hope in April 1652. In the late 1700's the Boers (the settling farmers) slowly started expanding into the interior. In 1795 Britain took control of the Cape and in 1820 a large group of British Settlers arrived in the region. In 1835 large numbers of Boers started out on the Groot Trek into the interior after becoming dissatisfied with the British rule. In the interior they established their own republics after a number of bloody conflicts with the local population.

    Two wars for control over the region were fought between the Boers and the British in 1883 and 1899.

    The Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, consolidating the various Boer republics and British colonies. From this, the Republic of South Africa was formed in 1961. Non-Europeans were largely excluded in all these political changes and even with the creation of the Union were not given the right to vote. From 1948 additional apartheid laws were introduced to erode the right of the black population further.

    In 1992, 68% of the voting white population voted in a referendum to have the apartheid system abolished. This was quickly followed by a new constitution in 1993 and the first fully democratic election in 1994.


    The climate in South Africa ranges from desert and semi-desert in the north west of the country to sub-tropical on the eastern coastline. The rainy season for most of the country is in the summer, except in the Western Cape where the rains come in the winter. Rainfall in the Eastern Cape is distributed evenly throughout the year. Winter temperatures hover around zero, summers can be very hot, in excess of 35 Celsius in some places.
    The South African Weather Service provide up to date weather information, forecasts and radar imaging.

    Public Holidays

    The public holidays in South Africa are:
  • New Years' Day
  • Human Rights Day
  • ("Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday" and "Easter Monday"): a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian dates.
  • Freedom Day
  • Workers Day
  • Youth Day
  • Woman's Day
  • Heritage Day
  • Day of Reconciliation, (see Bloodriver)
  • Christmas Day
  • Day of Goodwill

  • If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, then the Monday following will be a holiday

    School holidays occur middle December to middle January, early in April, middle June to middle July and late September. Most South Africans go on leave during these times and accomodation will be harder to find.

    Tourism Offices
    South African Tourism operates a number of offices in other countries. You might wish to contact the office in your country for any additional information or assistance

  • Get In


    Most nationalities get up to 3 months entry on arrival. Check with the Home Affairs and your travel agent whether you need to prearrange a visa. Do not show up without a visa if you are required to have one, as visas will not be issued at points of entry. If needed, you can extend your visa in South Africa. With an extension the total amount of time you are allowed to stay is 6 months. Additional information as well as Visa application forms can be found at the Department of Home Affairs, ph: +27 (0)12 810 8911

    Make sure you have 2 blank pages back to back in your passport and that it is valid for at least six more months or you will be sent back! Make sure you have a return ticket available or they will send you back. If you need to pick up a ticket at the airport have the flight number and details handy and speak with the customs guy, they should check your story out and let you in (be firm). Be wary of arriving with a damaged passport as new security measures might trip up your entry.

    By plane

    South Africa has 10 international airports, the two major ones being Cape Town International and OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Regular flights arrive from major centres throughout Africa including: Blantyre, Cairo, Gaborone, Dar es Salaam, Harare, Lilongwe, Livingstone, Luanda, Lusaka, Kinshasa, Maputo, Manzini, Maun, Mauritius, Nairobi, Victoria Falls and Windhoek.

    Direct flights also arrive from major European centres, including: Amsterdam, Athens, Madrid, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich and Lisbon. There are also direct flights from Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Dubai, Doha, New York, Atlanta, Washington (D.C.), Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Sydney and Perth.
    You may also want to have a look at Discount airlines in Africa.

    See Air travel in South Africa for detailed information.

    By car
    Should you be entering from one of the other countries in Southern Africa you might want to do so by car. South Africa operates a number of land border posts between itself and immediately neighbouring countries. The more commonly used ones are:

    Botswana border

  • Lesotho border

  • Mozambique border

  • Namibia border

  • Swaziland border

  • Zimbabwe border

  • Open times are often extended during South African holidays..
    For a full list of entry ports or any additional information see the South African Border Information Service or contact them on +27 (0)86 026-7337.

    By boat
    Most of the larger cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises offer Cape Town as one of their destinations, but you can also try something different
  • This passenger/cargo ship is the last working Royal Mail Ship and stops at Cape Town on it's way to St Helena.

  • Get around

    By plane
    South Africa has a well established domestic air travel infrastructure with links between all major centres.

    See Air travel in South Africa for detailed information.

    By car

    One drives on the left-hand side of the road in South Africa. All measurements are done using the metric system; distances on road signs are in kilometer and fuel is sold by the litre.

    To get a car in South Africa there are basically three options, you can hire a car, buy one or use the so-called buy-back option. Hiring a car is fairly easy and bookings can be made online and in all major cities. Buying a car takes a bit more work (Roadworthy license, registering the car, insurance), but there is a lively used car market in South Africa. The third option is a combination of both, as you buy a car with a guarantee that the rental company will buy-back your car at the end of the contract. Most cars in South Africa have manual transmissions and the selection of second-hand automatics may be limited.

    The roads within South Africa, connecting most major cities, and between its immediate neighbors are very good. There are many highways connecting the cities and larger centers, including the N1 running from Cape Town through Johannesburg and Pretoria up to Harare, Zimbabwe, the N2 running from Cape Town to Durban, which passes through the world-famous Garden Route near Knysna, and the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg.

    Many of the major highways are toll roads with emergency assist telephones every couple of kilometers. All the large fuel companies have rest stops every 200km to 300km along these highways where you can full up, eat something at a restaurant, get takeaways, do some shopping or just stretch your legs. Restrooms at these facilities are well maintained and clean. Most (but not all) of these rest stops also have ATMs.
    Toll roads generally have two or more lanes in each direction.

    Some of the main roads have only one lane in each direction, especially where they are far from urban centers. It is customary to flash your hazard lights once, after passing a truck or other slow vehicle that has moved onto the hard shoulder to let you pass. This is considered a thank you and you will most likely receive a my pleasure response in the the form of the slow vehicle flashing its headlights once.

    South Africa has a high rate of traffic fatalities, and you may want to avoid driving at night except in urban areas. Watch out for unsafe drivers (minibus taxis), poor lighting, and pedestrians (who are the cause of many accidents, especially at night). When driving outside of the major cities you will often encounter animals, wild and domestic, in or near the roadway. The locals tend to herd their cattle and goats near the road. If you see an animal on or by the road, slow down, as they are unpredictable. Do not stop to feed wild animals!

    Make sure you understand the road signs. A special kind of crossing is the 'four way stop' where the car that stops first has right of way. You will not encounter many traffic circles, but when you do, take special care as the general attitude of South African drivers is that traffic circles do not constitute a traffic management roadway structure, and do not use their indicators in a safe and predictable fashion. In general, South Africans tend to speed excessively and are prone to selfish or aggressive driving behavior, such as tailgating and hooting. On multi-lane roadways, the principle of keep-left, pass right, is often not adhered to.

    Fuel stations are full service with lead free petrol, lead replacement petrol and diesel available. Pump attendants will offer to wash your windscreen and check oil and water in addition to just filling up the car. It is usual to tip the attendant approximately R5. Almost all fuel stations are open 24 hours a day.

    Speed limits are clearly indicated. Generally speed limits on highways are 120km/h, major roads outside buildup areas are 100 km/h, major roads within build up areas are 80km/h and normal town roads are 60 km/h.

    Speed law enforcement is usually done by portable or stationary, radar or laser cameras. Fines will be sent to the registered address of the vehicle you are driving.
    Non camera portable radar and laser systems are also used and you may be pulled over for speeding and given a written fine.

    Should you find yourself waiting at a red traffic light late at night in an area where you do not feel safe, you can cross over the red light after first carefully checking that there is no other traffic. If you receive a fine due to a camera on the traffic light you can normally have it wavered by writing a letter to the traffic department or court explaining that you crossed safely and on purpose, due to security reasons. Do not make a habit of this.
    When stopped at a traffic light at night always leave enough room between your car and the car in front of you so you can get around them. It is a common hijacking manoeuvre to box your car in. This is especially prevalent in the suburbs of Johannesburg.

    South Africa currently does not have a merits system and does not share traffic violation information with other nations.

    The N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town and the N3 between Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal can become very busy at the start and end of Gauteng school holidays, due to many people from Gauteng spending their holidays at the coast. If you are planning on using these two highways, it is wise to try and avoid the two days after schools break up and the two days before they open again. School holiday calenders for South Africa can be found here.

    The N3 normally have a Highway Customer Care line during busy periods, ph: 0800 203 950, it can be used to request assistance for breakdowns, accidents or general route information.

    Licence requirements
    If your drivers licence is in any of South Africa's 11 official languages (i.e. English) and it contains a photo and your signature integrated into the licence document, then it is legally acceptable as a valid drivers licence in South Africa. However, some car rental and insurance companies may still insist that you provide an International Driver's Permit.

    It is generally best practise to acquire an International Driver's Permit in your country of origin, prior to starting your journey, regardless of whether your licence is legally acceptable or not.

    Useful links
  • National Roads Agency, , has latest toll tariffs and road condition reports.
  • Shell, has a very good route planner and street level maps. Well worth spending some time there planning your trip before you hit the road.
  • South African Automobile Association, ph: +27 (0)83 843 22,

  • By bus

    There are scheduled bus services between Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and other cities (with stops in between), as well as connections to neighbouring countries. The main bus companies are:

  • Booking for the above can also be done via Computicket.

    Smaller services include City Bug and Lowveld Link.

    An alternative is the Baz Bus. It offers a regular hop-on-hop-off service on some of the most interesting routes for the tourist (Cape Town to Durban via the Garden Route; Durban to Johannesburg via Swaziland; Durban to Johannesburg via the Drakensberg). Baz Bus picks you up and drops you off at many hostels along the route, so you don't have to hang around at a downtown bus stop at night.

    If you're really in a pinch, you can use minibus taxis. They are poorly maintained and rarely comply with safety standards. They also require patience as they make many detours and changeovers at the taxi rank (hub) where the driver will wait for passengers to fill up the bus. But they cover many routes not covered by the main bus service and are quite cheap (25 cents per kilometre per person on the main routes).

    Warning: Many buses are removed from service by the police, due to lack of legal road-worthiness. Seek up-to-date advice on which companies are more reputable. Occasionally, the driving can be rather wild, and if you're prone to motion sickness, be prepared.

    By train

    Spoornet is the national rail operator. There are budget passenger services between major South African cities (known as Shosholoza Meyl) as well
    as a Premier Class service between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

    Spoornet Central Reservations (for both Shosholoza Meyl and Premier Class) can be contacted as follows :
  • From within South Africa, phone 086 000 8888 (share-call)
  • From outside South Africa, phone +27 (0)11 774 4555
  • Email or

  • To book tickets, phone Central Reservations on one of the numbers given above and make your booking. You can pick up and pay for the tickets later at any train station.

    There are also commuter trains in larger cities (Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London) ; these are run by MetroRail. Most services are perfectly safe, but certain routes are overcrowded and not always safe.

  • Offers rail Safaris across South Africa

  • Rail Safaris across South Africa

  • Splurge
  • This world famous luxury train operates between Pretoria and Cape Town.
  • Offers luxury rail travel throughout Southern Africa. Destinations include Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban, George, Swakopmund in Namibia, Vic Falls in Zimbabwe and Dar es Salaam in Zanzibar.

  • By motorhome
    With the abundance of caravan parks available in South Africa, motorhomes are becoming ever more popular with international visitors. It gives you the freedom to move around as well as a place to stay wherever you are.

    A number of companies offer motorhomes rentals

  • By thumb
    Hitchhiking in South Africa is not so hard, but most people will think you are catching a ride with the local taxis and thus expect you to pay. I suggest you tell them you are looking for a free ride before climbing aboard. The main issue is crime: some drivers may hijack you and your belongings. Don't hitchhike at night.


    South Africa has 11 official languages. Most people other than rural black Africans speak English, although not many as a first language. Afrikaans is also widely-spoken, especially by the white and coloured population. Often Afrikaans is incorrectly called 'afrikan' or 'african' by foreigners. Note this is very incorrect as 'African' for a South African corresponds with the native-african languages: Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi etc. (and, of course, there are thousands of languages in Africa so no single language can be called 'African') Afrikaans has roots in Dutch, so it can be understood by Dutch speakers and sometimes deciphered by German speakers. Other widely spoken languages are Zulu (mainly in KwaZulu-Natal) and Xhosa (mainly in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape), as well as Sotho and Venda. This changes, according to the region you are in. There is also a very large Portuguese community and you will very often find that someone will understand you when speaking Portuguese.

    A few words you may encounter are:
  • eish - as in, "eish, it's hot today", "eish, that's expensive" or "eish, that's too far to drive"
  • lekker - Enjoyable
  • howzit - How is it? (generally a rhetorical question)
  • yebo - Yes
  • boet, bru, china or ou - Brother or man (equivalent to dude or bro
  • koppie - A small hill (can also mean a cup)
  • Madiba - Nelson Mandela
  • robot - Traffic light
  • tannie - Respectful term for an older woman
  • tinkle - phone call
  • boot - trunk of a car
  • just now - sometime soon (from Afrikaans "net-nou")
  • now now - sooner than just now! (from Afrikaans "nou-nou", pronounced no-no)
  • braai - barbecue.
  • cheers - we use this for saying good-bye, as well as saying thank you and for the occasional toast.
  • heita - Hello
  • sharp - (usually pronounced quickly) OK
  • sure-sure more pronounced like sho-sho - Correct, Agreement, Thank you

  • You’ll find the Wikipedia page on South African English well worth reading.

    In general English spelling follows British rules rather than American; litre rather than liter, centre rather than center etc.


    The currency is the Rand (ZAR), divided into 100 cents (c). Notes are in denominations of R200, R100, R50, R20 and R10. Higher value notes are slightly larger in physical size than small value notes. All notes have a metallic security strip and a watermark. Note that there are two types of R5 coins in circulation. One is a solid silver coin while the other is silver with a copper insert. Both are legal currency.

    Coins are in denominations of R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c. Production of 2c and 1c coins were suspended in April 2002, but those still in circulation remain legal tender. All transactions are rounded down to to the nearest lower 5c, so as not to require a 2c or 1c coin.

    Rough conversion rates are: 7:1 (USD), 9:1 (EUR) and 14:1 (GBP). Carry one of the above currencies, as conversion between any of them and the Rand can be done at any bank without trouble. The Rand is also used in Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland, although it is not an official currency in these countries.

    Traveller's Cheques are a safe way of carrying money around. You can exchange them at all banks (you will find one even in the roughest places) and you will get a refund if they are stolen. The disadvantage is that you cannot pay with them and you will need change when exchanging them into Rand. Use ATMs instead if possible.

    Automated teller machines (ATMs), linked to all major international networks, are available throughout the country and will generally dispense money in a mixture of denominations between R200 and and R10, with about 80% of the value requested being high value notes and the rest in smaller denominations. You can use any Cirrus or Maestro card as well as all major credit and debit cards at the ATMs.

    It is best to use only ATMs that are inside a mall or other building. Always be careful to make sure no one is watching you enter your PIN, and be vigilant about scams (e.g. machines that seem to eat your card and won't give it back after you enter the PIN). The till points at some major retail (such as Pick 'n Pay) also act as ATMs; simply tell the checkout clerk that you would like to withdraw money.

    VISA and MasterCard's are accepted almost everywhere, while American Express and Diners Club are also accepted, but not as widely.

    Most retail stores accept credit cards and pin based debit cards as payment. Don't be surprised if the teller still insist that you have to sign the slip when paying with a pin based card, certain banks require signatures as authorisation over and above the pin authorisation and the store may be penalised if this is not obtained from the card holder. It is a requirement to always sign the slip, a line with "Cardholder Signature" under it is provided for this purpose.

    VAT (Value Added Tax) is levied at 14% on almost all products in South Africa . By law advertised prices should be inclusive of VAT except when explicitly stated otherwise. Foreign passport holders may claim back the VAT on products that were bought in South Africa and is being taken out of the country, provided that the total value of the goods exceed R250. Full details of the procedure to follow is available from the Department of Foreign Affairs and their new TAX Refund for tourists site. VAT Refund Administrator's offices are available at both OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airports.

    Petrol and Diesel
    Liquid fuel prices in South Africa are regulated and fixed monthly. During 2006 a liter of petrol would cost anywhere from R5.20 to R6.80. See the current prices.

    Toll roads
    The most expensive toll gate in South Africa is the Machado plaza on the N4 between Pretoria and Nelspruit, cost is R43 for a normal car. In total, road tolls between Pretoria and Nelspruit or between Johannesburg and Cape Town will cost you just under R100.

  • You can buy three McDonalds burgers (a hamburger, cheese burger and chicken burger) for just under R17
  • A sit down lunch in an average establishment will cost you between R60 and R120 per person.
  • A decent 30cm pizza will cost you between R35 and R45

  • Shopping
    Prices in shops are fixed, but prices in open markets or from street vendors are open to barter. Tipping is the norm in restaurants and at gas-stations (which are all full-service). Indeed, most of these businesses pay their staff the legal minimum-wage, relying on customer-tips to bring staff incomes up to live-able levels. Tips of around 10% of the bill are considered the norm.


    South African cuisine is just as diverse as its cultures, with influences from British, Dutch, German, Indian, Malay, Portuguese and of course all the indigenous tribes.
  • Braaivleis, meat roasted over an open wood or charcoal fire, is very popular and generally done at weekend social events. The act of roasting the meat as well as the social even is referred to as a braai.

  • Pap, a porridge made with corn meal. Slappap (runny porridge), is smooth and often eaten as a breakfast porridge, Stywepap (stiff porridge) has a doughy and more lumpy consistency and is often used as a replacement for rice or other starches. Krummelpap (crumby porridge) is drier, resembles couscous and is often served at a braai covered in a saucy tomato relish.

  • Potjiekos, a meat and vegetable stew make in a cast iron pot over an open fire. A favourite at braais.

  • Boerewors, a spicy sausage. Boerewors Rolls are hotdog buns with boerewors rather than hotdogs, traditionally garnished with an onion and tomato relish.

  • Biltong and Droewors, seasoned meat or sausage that has been dried. Beef, game and ostrich meat is often used. A favourite at sports events and while travelling.

  • Bunny chows, half a loaf of bread with the inside replaced by lamb or beef curry is a dish not to be missed when traveling to KwaZulu Natal.

  • Bobotie, meatloaf with a Cape Malay influence, seasoned with curry and spices, topped with a savoury custard.

  • Marog, a wild spinach on it's own or with potato. Sometimes served with pap.

  • Waterblommetjiebredie, mutton and indigenous water lily stew.

  • Masonja, for the culinary adventurer, fried Mopanie worms.

  • Fast food
    You will find the usual array of international fast food outlets, McDonalds, KFC and Wimpy is well represented throughout the country.
    Local franchises worth mentioning are Black Steer and Steers for the best burgers and Nando's peri-peri chicken.

    Pizza delivery is available in most urban areas.


    Municipal tap water is safe to drink.

    The legal age to purchase and drink alcohol in South Africa is 18.
    Almost all restaurants are licensed to serve liquor.

    Be very careful if someone offers you witblits or mampoer; those are the local names for moonshine or firewater. It's extremely high in alcohol content and packs a lethal blow.

    Local beer production is dominated by SABMiller with the Castle, Amstel and Windhoek , Black Label and Castle Milk Stout being most popular brands

    Imported beers such as Stella Artois, Heineken and Grolsh are also widely available.

    Prices can vary widely depending on the establishment. Expect to pay anything from R7 to R18 for a beer.

    South Africa has a well established wine industry with most of the wine produced concentrated in the Cape Winelands in the Western Cape and along the Orange River in the Northern Cape

    Amarula Cream is made from the amarula fruit. The amarula fruit is a favourite treat for African elephants, baboons and monkeys and in the liqueur form definitely not something to be passed over by humans. Pour over crushed ice and enjoy. The taste, colour and texture is very similar to the world famous Baileys Irish Cream.
    Cape Velvet is a favourite in and around Cape Town.

    Tea and Coffee
    The local Rooibos tea, made from a herb from the Cederberg Mountains is a favourite for many South Africans.
    You will find coffee shops in most shopping malls, such as Mug&Bean and House of Coffees.
    Coffee shops similar in concept to Starbucks, like Seattle Coffee Company and Vida e Caffe (Portuguese themed), are becoming commonplace.


    Establishments in South Africa can have themselve graded by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa on a 5 star basis. Many establishments make use of this service and you will see the star grading displayed on most advertising material.
  • 1 star - Clean, comfortable and functional.
  • 2 star - Good: Quality furnishings, service and guest care.
  • 3 star - Very good: Better furnishings, service and guest care.
  • 4 star - Superior: Excellent comfort and very high standard furnishings, service and guest care.
  • 5 star - Exceptional: Top of the line quality and luxurious accommodation to match the best international standards. Flawless service and guest care.

  • Hotels and Holiday Rentals
    A hotel provides accommodation to the travelling public, has a reception area and offers at least a "breakfast room" or communal eating area. In general a hotel makes food and beverage services available to a guest, though these may be outsourced or provided by the hotel.

    There are a number of Hotel chains that operate nationally
  • Wide range of accommodation from budget to splurge

  • B&Bs
    Bed and Breakfast establishments are becoming very popular. The accommodation is usually provided in a family (private) home and the owner/manager lives in the house or on the property. Breakfast is usually served. Bathroom facilities may be en-suite. In general, the guest shares the public areas with the host family.

    Self Catering
    A house, cottage, chalet, bungalow, flat, studio, apartment, villa, houseboat, tents or similar accommodation where facilities and equipment are provided for guests to cater for themselves. The facilities should be adequate to cater for the maximum advertised number of residents the facility can accommodate.

    Guest House
    A guest house is either a converted house, manor, etc adapted to accommodate overnight guests or it may be a purpose built facility. A guest house is run as a commercial operation and is often owner-managed. A guest house has areas which are for the exclusive use of the guest. The owner/manager either lives off-site, or in a separate area within the property.

    Camping and caravaning

    Caravan parks can be found in most towns that are holiday destinations. Most caravan parks also offer camping sites where you can pitch a tent.
    The parks generally have central ablution facilities.

    There are many timeshare resorts in South Africa, most participate in international exchange agreements such as RCI.
    Many timeshare owners also rent their time when they can not make use of it.

    Many real estate agents in South Africa also offer rental services. The rental properties are mostly available on unfurnished long term lease, but you will also find furnished properties on offer with 1 to 12 month lease agreements

    Your local branch of an international estate agent with a presence in South Africa might also be able to assist you.


    Non-South African citizens need to be in possession of a study permit in order to study inside the country. You should apply for one at a South African High Commission, Embassy, Consulate or Trade Mission in your country of origin, or in the nearest country, should there be no South African representation is available in your country. Government form B1-1740 needs to be completed for the application.

    You will need to do some preparation in order to gain a study permit. At a minimum you will need acceptance by a South African University, repatriation guarantees, return air ticket and proof that you can cover living expenses while in South Africa before a permit will be issued. The cost for obtaining a study permit is R425 and applications take about 6 week to process.

    Expect to spend about R5000 per month on general living expenses (accommodation, food, travel, etc) in addition to tuition fees.

    There are many secondary and tertiary education centres in South Africa.
  • Located in Pretoria, this university offers full-time classroom as well as distance learning courses.

  • South Africa is also an excellent venue to learn new skills such as flying, sailing and scuba diving since costs are generally far lower than in more developed countries while quality of training will be equal or better.
    Examples of companies that offer these kind of courses include:
  • For PADI dive courses
  • Obtain a Private Pilots License
  • Offers Royal Yachting Association courses.

  • Work

    There are very limited opportunities for working in South Africa. However, people with certain technical skill sets may find themselves in demand. Research the situation before leaving home.

    Non South African citizens are only allowed to work in South Africa if they are in possession on a work permit.

    The process of applying for a work permit is similar to applying for a study permit, contact a South African High Commission, Embassy, Consulate or Trade Mission in your country of origin, or in the nearest country, should there be no South African representation is available in your country. Government form B1-159 (A&C) needs to be completed for the application. Processing of the application will take 8 to 12 weeks.

    Applications will be approved based on whether or not a South African citizen is available to fill the position you applied for.

    Stay safe

    South Africa has a high rate of violent crime (the world's highest for rape, and second-highest for murder), which calls for extra precautions. Do not accept offers from friendly strangers. Do not wear jewellery or expensive watches. Do not wear a tummy bag with all your valuables. Distribute your valuables in inside pockets and other pockets. Do not carry large sums of money. Do not walk by night in deserted places. Don't make it obvious you are a tourist - conceal your camera and binoculars. Do not leave your valuables in plain sight when driving in your car, as "smash and grab" attacks do sometimes occur at intersections, and keep your car doors locked, and windows closed. Know where to go so that you don't have to reveal you're lost or need a map -- simply all the obvious "I am a tourist" signs.

    Visiting the townships is possible, but don't do it alone unless you really know where you're going. Some townships are safe while others can be extremely dangerous. It's best to go with an experienced guide. Some tour companies offer guided visits to the townships, and this is perfectly safe.

    South Africa has very few earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes, floods, terrorist incidents or contagious diseases (with the notable exception of HIV).

    Please also note that taking an evening stroll, or walking to venues after dark can be very risky! It simply is NOT part of the culture there, as it is in Europe,North America or Australia. Best to take a taxi (a meter cab - not a minibus taxi) or private vehicle for an "evening out". The same applies to picking up hitchhikers or offering assistance at broken-down car scenes.

    Important telephone numbers

  • Operated by South African Tourism

  • From a fixed line
  • 107 - Emergency
  • 10111 - Police
  • 10177 - Ambulance
  • 082911 - Netcare911 and The National Sea Rescue Institute''

  • From a mobile phone
  • 112 - Emergency
  • 911 - Netcare911 and The National Sea Rescue Institute''

  • Wildlife
    One of the main reasons travellers visit South Africa is to experience the outdoors and see the wide range of wildlife.

    When driving in a wildlife reserve, always keep to the speed limits and stay inside your car at all times.
    On game drives or walks, always follow the instructions of your guide.

    Ensure that you wear socks and boots whenever you are walking in the bush; do not wear open sandals. A good pair of boots can stop snake and insect bits and avoid any possible cuts that may lead to infections.

    In many areas you may encounter wildlife while driving on public roads, monkeys and baboons are especially common. Do not get out of the vehicle to take photos or otherwise try to interact with the animals. These are wild animals and their actions can be unpredictable.

    Sometimes you might find yourself in the open with wild animals (often happens with baboons at Cape Point). Keep your distance and always ensure that the animals are only to one side of you, do not walk between two groups or individuals. A female baboon may get rather upset if you separate her from her child.

    Always check with locals before swimming in a river or lake as there may be crocodiles or hippos.
    Most major beaches in KwaZulu-Natal have shark nets installed. If you intend to swim anywhere other that the main beaches, check with a local first. Note that shark nets may be removed for a couple of days during the annual sardine run (normally along the KwaZulu-Natal coast between early May and late July). This is done to avoid excessive shark and other marine life fatalities. Notices are posted on beaches during these times.

    Stay healthy

    Emergency and Medical Assistance
    There are a number of independent emergency assist companies in South Africa

  • One of their products is comprehensive EMS cover for the inbound traveller to South Africa. Some travel agents offer Netcare911 cover as an option, but you can deal with them direct or find out if your existing cover has an association with them.

  • A large and well represented emergency assist company incorporating the Medi-Clinic chain of hospitals.

    It is best to avoid public hospitals where possible. Private hospitals (such as the Netcare Group) are of world class standard.

    Municipal tap water is safe to drink throughout the country. In the Western Cape mountain water is safe, even if it has been stained brown due to vegetation. A strong risk of bilharzia exists for still-standing water.

    Many activities in South Africa are outdoors, see the sunburn and sun protection travel topic for tips on how to protect yourself.
    there is about 15% of water in S. Africa

    HIV and AIDS

    South Africa has one of the largest HIV infection rates world-wide. 5.4 million people out of a population of 48 million are HIV-positive (South African Medical Research Council ).

    The HIV infection rate in the total population older than 2 years varies from around 2% in the Western Cape to over 17% in KwaZulu-Natal (Avert ), and all together 18.8% of South Africans over 15 years of age are HIV-Positive (UNICEF ). One in four females and one in five males aged 20 to 40 is estimated to be infected (Avert ).

    Only about 10% of the world's population lives in Sub-Sahara Africa, but the same population includes 70% of the world's HIV infected individuals (CDC ).

    For your own safety, DO NOT HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX.

    The north-eastern areas of the country (including the Kruger National Park and St. Lucia and surrounds) are seasonal malaria zones, from about November to May. The peak danger time is just after the wet season from March to May. Consult a physician regarding appropriate precautions, depending on the time of year you will be traveling. The most important defences against malaria are:
  • using a DEET-based mosquito repellent
  • covering your skin with long-sleeved clothing, especially around dusk; and
  • using mosquito nets while sleeping.

  • Tabbard and Peacefull Sleep are commonly used mosquito repellents and can be bought almost anywhere.

    Also read the Malaria and Mosquitoes travel topics.

    Except for pubs, smoking is banned in all enclosed public spaces, these include airports, shopping malls and theaters.

    Most restaurants do have smoking sections, either ventilated indoor areas or outdoor open areas.


    South Africans are generally polite, friendly and accommodating to tourists.

    Public behaviour is very similar to what you might find in Europe. Heterosexual displays of affection is public is not frowned upon unless you overdo it; homosexual displays of affection will probably generate unwelcome attention, especially around children.

    Men generally greet with a firm handshake, while woman will do the continental kiss on the cheek .

    Except for designated beaches, nude sunbathing is illegal. Bikini's for ladies and swimming trunk for men (speedos if you really must, but be prepared to be laughed at and don't be surprised if people say Yebo Yah when walking past you, in reference to a Vodacom TV advert a couple of years ago) are acceptable. Eating places are casual except when otherwise indicated.

    Eating is generally done the British way with the fork in their left hand and the tines pointed downward. Burgers, pizzas, bunny chows and any other fast foods are eaten by hand. It is generally also acceptable to steal a piece of boerewors from the braai with your hands. Depending of what cultural group you find yourself with, these rules might change. Indians often eat biryani dishes with their hands, a white person from British descent might insist on eating his pizza with a knife and fork or a black person might eat pap-and-stew with a spoon. Be adaptable, but don't be afraid to also do your own thing; if really unacceptable, people will generally tell you so rather than take offence.

    South Africans are proud of their country and what they have achieved. Although they themselves are quick to point out and complain to each other about the problems and shortcoming that still exist, they will harshly defend against any outsider from doing so.

    Those who are practised in North American racial terminology should understand that familiar words have different meanings in South Africa, and the rules for what terms are polite or not are different.
  • If you wish to refer to South Africans of solely African ancestry, "black" (the term used under apartheid) is still considered appropriate. It might help to practice thinking "black South African" instead of "African American". (Indeed, many black South Africans scoff at the term "African American", claiming that there is very little of Africa residing within the average "African American".)
  • The term "coloured" is neither synonymous with "black", nor offensive; it refers to a cultural group with both white and black ancestors from the early colonial period.

  • White South Africans are can quite simply be called "white" or "white South African". White South Africans in general speak either Afrikaans (derived from Dutch) or English, thus Afrikaners and English South Africans. A typical white South African considers himself as "African" as any person born in the United States considers himself "American"; most have family who have lived in South Africa for generations and the only continent they can call home is Africa.
  • The fourth racial category left over from the apartheid system is "Indian" (from India).

  • In general, it is wise to avoid racial or political remarks while in South Africa, because the country's very diverse cultural disposition means that "putting your foot in it" is easy.

    South Africa is now in its second decade since the end of apartheid, but it is always easier to change laws than people. You will occasionally still hear overtly racist remarks, from any race group in South Africa, not only white South Africans. This is more common from the older generation than the younger ones. The best thing to do is simply ignore it; leave the responsibility for enlightening lectures to other South Africans, who know the subject at least as well as any foreign traveler.

    Interracial marriages are becoming quite common, and except for possibly some of the older generation, people no longer take offence if you and your partner are not the same colour.


    South Africa's country code is 27.

    Phone numbers within South Africa are of the format 0XX YYY ZZZZ.

    Large cities have area codes 0XX (Johannesburg is 011, Pretoria 012, Cape Town 021, Durban 031, Port Elizabeth 041, East London 043, Kimberley 053, Bloemfontein 051) while smaller towns may have longer area codes (0XX Y for example) with shorter local numbers.

    When dialing a South African number from outside the country, one should dial +27 XX YYY ZZZZ.

    Dialing within the country one should use all 10 digits, 0XX YYY ZZZZ.

    To dial out of South Africa, dial 00 followed by the country code and the rest of the number you are trying to reach.

    Pay phones are available at airports, shopping malls and some petrol stations. The number of pay phones in open public areas have been reduced over recent years, but you should still be able to find one when you need one. Pay phones use either coins or prepaid cards that are available at most shops and petrol stations ; coin phones are generally blue while card phones are usually green.
    South Africa has an extensive GSM network, working on the same frequency as the rest of Africa and Europe. There are four cell phone providers in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C and Virgin Mobile.

    The networks support GPRS countrywide and 3G, EDGE and HSDPA support is available in larger urban areas.

    Do not assume you will not have network coverage just because you can not see a GSM tower. Many of the towers have been built to look like trees (Vodacom) or other structure (MTN) in order to better blend into the surroundings and not be an eyesore.


    There are plenty of Internet cafes and access rates are cheap.

    Even cheaper and more mobile would be to buy a prepaid cell phone starter pack (less than 10 rand) and access the Internet with GPRS or 3G. Generally 2 Rand per MB for out of bundle data from most providers, but it becomes a lot cheaper if you buy a data bundle. Vodacom prices range from 38c per MB on a 500MB bundle to 19c per MB on a 1GB bundle. MTN prices range between1 Rand per MB on a 10MB to 39c per MB on a 1GB bundle.

    Always-On seem to be leading the way in prepaid WiFi access.
    Their hotspots can now be found at Cape Town and OR Tabmo airports, some City Lodge Hotels, most Mugg&Bean restaurants and various other places.

    Simply connect to the access point and you will be given the opportunity to pay for access by credit card. Pricing starts at around R15 for 10 minutes or R60 for 100MB.
    Their support desk can be contacted on +27 (0)11 575-2505.


    You can have film developed at most pharmacies and shopping malls, even is small towns. Automated machines to print (or copy to CD) from digital media (CF, CF, MMC, Memory stick etc) are also becoming quite common and easy to find. Larger shopping malls have dedicated photography shops where you can buy cameras and lenses or have a camera repaired. Most major camera manufacturers are well represented.

    Embassies and Consulates
  • High Commission
  • Embassy
  • Embassy
  • High Commission
  • Embassy
  • Embassy
  • Embassy
  • Embassy
  • Embassy
  • Embassy
  • Her Britanic Majesty's High Commission
  • Embassy

  • If your country is not listed here, have at look at the list provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

    International banks
    A number of international banks operate branches in South Africa.
  • Now part of ABSA

  • Stay Legal
    There are some laws that the average tourist might not be aware of
  • If you intend to do any angling, either freshwater or at the coast, you will require an angling licence for the province you are in. These can be obtained at any Post Office and the price depends on the province, but is generally under R50. Fishery and environments officials do from time to time check if anglers are in possession of a licence and you can expect to be fined if you are caught fishing without a licence. Also pick up a booklet from the nearest angling shop that will tell you what the size limits for each species of fish is.
  • Except for specific areas, clearly indicated by notice boards, it is illegal to drive a vehicle onto any beach.

  • Tickets
    You can get tickets online at Computicket for most major events that occur in South Africa. Every till point at Shoprite/Checkers is also a computicket outlet.

    |common_name = South Africa
    |image_flag = Flag of South Africa.svg
    |image_coat = Coat_of_arms_of_South_Africa.svg
    |symbol_type = Coat of arms
    |image_map = LocationSouthAfrica.svg
    |national_motto = !ke e: xarra ke(Ç€Xam)
    “Unity In Diversity” (literally “Diverse People Unite”)

    |national_anthem = National anthem of South Africa 
    |official_languages =
    |capital = Pretoria (executive)
    Bloemfontein (judicial)
    Cape Town (legislative)
    |latd=25 |latm=43 |latNS=S |longd=28 |longm=17 |longEW=E
    |largest_city = Johannesburg (2006) 
    |government_type = Parliamentary democracy
    |leader_title1 = President
    |leader_name1 = Thabo Mbeki
    |sovereignty_type = Independence
    |sovereignty_note = from the United Kingdom
    |established_event1 = Union
    |established_date1 = 31 May 1910
    |established_event2 = Statute of Westminster
    |established_date2 =
    11 December 1931
    |established_event3 = Republic
    |established_date3 = 31 May 1961
    |area_rank = 25th
    |area_magnitude = 1 E12
    |area = 1,221,037
    |areami² = 471,443
    |percent_water = Negligible
    |population_estimate = 47,432,000
    |population_estimate_year = 2005
    |population_estimate_rank = 26th
    |population_census = 44,819,278
    |population_census_year = 2001
    |population_density = 39
    |population_densitymi² = 101
    |population_density_rank = 163rd
    |GDP_PPP_year = 2005
    |GDP_PPP = $570.2 billion
    |GDP_PPP_rank = 18th
    |GDP_PPP_per_capita = $12,161
    |GDP_PPP_per_capita_rank = 57th
    |Gini = 57.8
    |Gini_year = 2000
    |Gini_category = high
    |footnotes =
    |HDI_year = 2004
    |HDI = 0.653
    |HDI_rank = 121st
    |HDI_category = medium
    |currency = South African rand
    |currency_code = ZAR
    |country_code = RSA
    |time_zone = SAST
    |utc_offset = +2
    |cctld = .za
    |calling_code = 27

    South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa, is a country located at the southern tip of the African continent. It borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho, an independent enclave surrounded by South African territory. South Africa is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

    South Africa has experienced a different history from other nations in Africa as a result of early immigration from Europe and the strategic importance of the Cape Sea Route. European immigration started shortly after the Dutch East India Company founded a station at (what was to become) Cape Town in 1652. The closure of the Suez Canal during the Six Day War exemplifies its significance. The country's relatively developed infrastructure made its mineral wealth available and important to Western interests, particularly throughout the late nineteenth century; then, with international competition and rivalry during the Cold War. South Africa is an ethnically diverse nation with the largest white, Indian, and racially-mixed communities in Africa. Black South Africans, who speak nine officially-recognised languages and many more dialects, account for slightly less than 80% of the population.

    Racial strife between the white minority and the black majority has played a large part in the country's history and politics, culminating in apartheid, which was instituted in 1948 by the National Party (although segregation existed prior to that date). The laws that defined apartheid began to be repealed or abolished by the National Party in 1990 after a long and sometimes violent struggle (including economic sanctions from the international community) by the Black majority as well as many White, Coloured, and Indian South Africans.

    A number of philosophies and ideologies have developed in South Africa including ubuntu (the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity); Gandhi's notion of "passive resistance" (satyagraha), developed while he lived in South Africa; and also Jan Smuts' holism.

    Regular elections have been held for almost a century; however, the majority of black South Africans were not enfranchised until 1994. The economy of South Africa is the largest and best developed on the continent, with modern infrastructure common throughout the country.

    South Africa is often referred to as the "Rainbow Nation" a term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and later adopted by then-President Nelson Mandela. Mandela used the term "Rainbow Nation" as a metaphor to describe the country's newly-developing multicultural diversity in the wake of segregationist apartheid ideology. The country's socially progressive policies are rare in Africa. By 2007, the country had joined Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Canada in legalising same-sex marriage.

    South Africa hosted and won the 1995 Rugby World Cup at their first attempt, and then followed this up by hosting and winning the 1996 African Cup of Nations football tournament. It has also hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup and will be the host nation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which will be the first time the tournament is held in Africa. It will also host the first ever Twenty20 Cricket World Championship in September 2007.


    South Africa contains some of the oldest and most beautiful archaeological sites in Africa. Extensive fossil remains at the Sterkfontein, Kromdraai and Makapansgat caves suggest that various australopithecines existed in South Africa from about three million years ago. These were succeeded by various species of Homo, including Homo habilis, Homo erectus and modern man, Homo sapiens. Bantu-speaking peoples, iron-using agriculturists and herdsmen, moved south of the Limpopo River into modern-day South Africa by the fourth or fifth century (the Bantu expansion) displacing the original Khoi and San speakers. They slowly moved south and the earliest ironworks in modern-day KwaZulu-Natal Province are believed to date from around 1050. The southernmost group was the Xhosa people, whose language incorporates certain linguistic traits from the earlier Khoi and San people, reaching the Fish River, in today's Eastern Cape Province. These Iron Age populations displaced earlier hunter-gatherer peoples as they migrated.
    The written history of South Africa begins with the accounts of European navigators passing South Africa on the East Indies trade routes. The first European navigator to achieve circumnavigation of the Cape was the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488.

    When Bartolomeu Dias returned to Lisbon he carried news of this discovery he called "Cabo das Tormentas" (cape of storms). But for his sponsor, Henry the Navigator, chose a different name, "Cabo da Boa Esperança" Cape of Good Hope for it promised a sea route to the riches of India, which was eagerly anticipated in Portugal.

    Along with the accounts of the early navigators, the accounts of shipwreck survivors provide the earliest written accounts of Southern Africa. In the two centuries following 1488, a number of small fishing settlements were made along the coast by Portuguese sailors, but no written account of these settlements survives. In 1652 a victualling station was established at the Cape of Good Hope by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. For most of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the slowly-expanding settlement was a Dutch possession. The Dutch settlers eventually met the southwesterly expanding Xhosa people in the region of the Fish River. A series of wars, called Cape Frontier Wars, ensued, mainly caused by conflicting land and livestock interests.

    To ease Cape labour shortages slaves were brought from Indonesia, Madagascar, and India. Furthermore, troublesome leaders, often of royal descent, were banished from Dutch colonies to South Africa. This group of slaves eventually gave rise to a population that now identifies themselves as "Cape Malays". Cape Malays have traditionally been accorded a higher social status by the European colonists — many became wealthy landowners, but became increasingly dispossessed as Apartheid developed. Cape Malay mosques in District Six were spared, and now serve as monuments for the destruction that occurred around them.

    Most of the descendants of these slaves, who often married with Dutch settlers, were later classified together with the remnants of the Khoikhoi (aka Khoisan) as Cape Coloureds. Further intermingling within the Cape Coloured population itself, as well as with Xhosa and other South African people, now means that they constitute roughly 50% of the population in the Western Cape Province.

    Great Britain seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1795 ostensibly to stop it falling into the hands of the French under Napoleon Bonaparte but also seeking to use Cape Town in particular as a stop on the route to Australia and India. It was returned to the Dutch in 1803, but soon afterwards the Dutch East India Company declared bankruptcy, and the British annexed the Cape Colony in 1806. The British continued the frontier wars against the Xhosa, pushing the eastern frontier eastward through a line of forts established along the Fish River and consolidating it by encouraging British settlement. Due to pressure of abolitionist societies in Britain, the British parliament first stopped its global slave trade in 1806, then abolished slavery in all its colonies in 1833.

    The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1886 encouraged economic growth and immigration, intensifying the subjugation of the natives. The Boers successfully resisted British encroachments during the First Boer War (1880–1881) using guerrilla warfare tactics, much better suited to local conditions. However, the British returned in greater numbers without their red jackets in the Second Boer War (1899–1902). The Boers' attempt to ally themselves with German South West Africa provided the British with yet another excuse to take control of the Boer Republics.
    The Boers resisted fiercely, but the British eventually overwhelmed the Boer forces, using their superior numbers, improved tactics and external supply chains. Also during this war, the British used controversial Concentration Camps and Scorched Earth tactics. The Treaty of Vereeniging specified full British sovereignty over the South African republics, and the British government agreed to assume the £3 000 000 war debt owed by the Afrikaner governments. One of the main provisions of the treaty ending the war was that 'Blacks' would not be allowed to vote, except in the Cape Colony.

    After four years of negotiations, the Union of South Africa was created from the Cape and Natal colonies, as well as the republics of Orange Free State and Transvaal, on May 31, 1910, exactly eight years after the end of the Second Boer War. The newly-created Union of South Africa was a dominion. In 1934, the South African Party and National Party merged to form the United Party, seeking reconciliation between Afrikaners and English-speaking 'Whites', but split in 1939 over the Union's entry into World War II as an ally of the United Kingdom, a move which the National Party strongly opposed.

    In 1948 the National Party was elected to power, and began implementing a series of harsh segregationist laws that would become known collectively as apartheid. Not surprisingly, this segregation also applied to the wealth acquired during rapid industrialisation of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. While the White minority enjoyed the highest standard of living in all of Africa, often comparable to "First World" western nations, the Black majority remained disadvantaged by almost every standard, including income, education, housing, and life expectancy. However, the average income and life expectancy of a black, 'Indian' or 'coloured' South African compared favourably to many other African states, such as Ghana and Tanzania.

    Apartheid became increasingly controversial, leading to widespread sanctions and divestment abroad and growing unrest and oppression within South Africa. (See also the article on the History of South Africa in the apartheid era.) A long period of harsh suppression by the government, and at times violent resistance, strikes, marches, protests, and sabotage, by various anti-apartheid movements, most notably the African National Congress (ANC), followed. In the late 1970s, South Africa began a program of nuclear weapons, and in the following decade it produced six deliverable nuclear weapons. The rationale for the nuclear arsenal is disputed, but it is believed that Vorster and PW Botha wanted to be able to catalyze American intervention in the event of a war between South Africa and the Cuban-supported MPLA government of Angola.

    In 1990 the National Party government took the first step towards negotiating itself out of power when it lifted the ban on the African National Congress and other left-wing political organisations, and released Nelson Mandela from prison after twenty-seven years' incarceration on a sabotage sentence. Apartheid legislation was gradually removed from the statute books, and South Africa also destroyed its nuclear arsenal and acceded to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The first multi-racial elections were held in 1994, which the ANC won by an overwhelming majority. It has been in power ever since.

    Despite the end of apartheid, millions of South Africans, mostly black, continue to live in poverty. This is partly attributed to the legacy of the apartheid system (although poverty is also a problem throughout much of Africa), and, increasingly, what many see as the failure of the current government to tackle social issues, coupled with the monetary and fiscal discipline of the current government to ensure both redistribution of wealth and economic growth. In the ten years since the ANC government took power, South Africa's United Nations Human Development Index has fallen dramatically, while it was steadily rising until the mid-1990s. Much of this could be attributed to the AIDS pandemic and the government's failure to take steps to address it. However, the ANC's social housing policy has produced some improvement in living conditions in many areas by redirecting fiscal spending and improving the efficiency of the tax collection system.

    Government and politics

    South Africa is the only nation in the world with three capital cities: Cape Town, the largest of the three, is the legislative capital; Pretoria is the administrative capital; and Bloemfontein is the judicial capital. South Africa has a bicameral parliament: the ninety members of the National Council of Provinces (the upper house); and the four hundred members of the National Assembly (the lower house). Members of the lower house are elected on a population basis by proportional representation: half of the members are elected from national lists and half are elected from provincial lists. Ten members are elected to represent each province in the National Council of Provinces, regardless of the population of the province. Elections for both chambers are held every five years. The government is formed in the lower house, and the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly is the President.

    Current South African politics are dominated by the African National Congress (ANC), which received 69.7% of the vote during the last 2004 general election and 66.3% of the vote in the 2006 municipal election. The main challenger to the ANC's rule is the Democratic Alliance party, which received 12.4% of the vote in the 2004 election and 14.8% in the 2006 election. The leader of this party is Helen Zille (elected May 6 2007). The previous leader of the party was Tony Leon. The formerly dominant New National Party, which introduced apartheid through its predecessor, the National Party, suffered increasing humiliation at election polls since 1994, and finally voted to disband. It chose to merge with the ANC on 9 April 2005. Other major political parties represented in Parliament are the Inkatha Freedom Party, which mainly represents Zulu voters, and the Independent Democrats, who took 6.97% and 1.7% of the vote respectively, in the 2004 election.


    The primary sources of South Africa law were Roman-Dutch mercantile law and personal law with English Common law, as imports of Dutch settlements and British colonialism. The first European based law in South Africa was brought by the Dutch East India Company and is called Roman-Dutch law. It was imported before the codification of European law into the Napoleonic Code and is comparable in many ways to Scottish law. This was followed in the 19th Century by British law both common and statutory. Starting in 1910 with unification, South Africa had its own parliament which passed laws specific for South Africa, building on those previously passed for the individual member colonies.

    Provinces, districts, and municipalities

    [[Image:South Africa Districts April 2006.png|thumb|350px|right
    |Map showing the provinces and districts (numbered) of South Africa.
    When apartheid ended in 1994, the South African government had to integrate the formerly independent and semi-independent Bantustans into the political structure of South Africa. To this end, it abolished the four former provinces of South Africa (Cape Province, Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal) and replaced them with nine fully integrated provinces. The new provinces are usually much smaller than the former provinces, which theoretically gives local governments more resources to distribute over smaller areas.

    The nine provinces are further sub-divided into 52 districts: 6 metropolitan and 46 district municipalities. The 46 district municipalities are further subdivided into 231 local municipalities. The district municipalities also contain 20 district management areas (mostly game parks) that are directly governed by the district municipalities. The six metropolitan municipalities perform the functions of both district and local municipalities. The new provinces are:

    South Africa is located at the southern most region of Africa, with a long coastline that stretches more than 2500 kilometres (1 550 mi) and across two oceans (the Atlantic and the Indian). At 470 979 mi² (1 219 912 km²), South Africa is the world's 25th-largest country (after Mali). It is comparable in size to Colombia. Njesuthi in the Drakensberg at 3 408 m (11,424 ft) is the highest peak in South Africa.

    Contrary to popular global belief, South Africa has a generally temperate climate, due in part to it being surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on three sides, by its location in the climatically milder southern hemisphere and due to the average elevation rising steadily towards the north (towards the equator) and further inland. Due to this varied topography and oceanic influence, a great variety of climatic zones exists.

    The climatic zones vary, from the extreme desert of the southern Namib in the farthest northwest to the lush subtropical climate in the east along the border with Mozambique and the Indian ocean. From the east, the land quickly rises over a mountainous escarpment towards the interior plateau known as the Highveld. Even though South Africa is classified as semi-arid, there is considerable variation in climate as well as topography.

    The interior of South Africa is a giant, rather flat, and sparsely populated scrubland Karoo, which is drier towards the northwest along the Namib desert. In contrast, the eastern coastline is lush and well-watered, which produces a climate similar to the tropics. The extreme southwest has a climate remarkably similar to that of the Mediterranean with wet winters and hot, dry summers, hosting the famous Fynbos Biome. This area also produces much of South Africa's wine. This region is also particularly known for its wind, which blows intermittently almost all year. The severity of this wind made passing around the Cape of Good Hope particularly treacherous for sailors, causing many shipwrecks. Further east on the country's south coast, rainfall is distributed more evenly throughout the year, producing a green landscape. This area is popularly known as the Garden Route.

    The Free State is particularly flat due to the fact that it lies centrally on the high plateau. North of the Vaal River, the Highveld becomes better watered and does not experience subtropical extremes of heat. Johannesburg, in the centre of the Highveld, is at 1740 metres (5 709 ft) and receives an annual rainfall of 760 millimetres (30 in). Winters in this region are cold, although snow is rare.

    To the north of Johannesburg, the altitude drops beyond the Highveld's escarpment, and turns into the lower lying Bushveld, an area of mixed dry forest and an abundance of wildlife. East of the Highveld, beyond the eastern escarpment, the Lowveld stretches towards the Indian ocean. It has particularly high temperatures, and is also the location of extended subtropical agriculture. The mountains of the Barberton Greenstone belt in the lowveld are the oldest mountains on Earth, dating back 3.5 Billion years. The earliest reliable proof of life (dated 3.2–3.5 Billion years old) has been found in these mountains.

    The high Drakensberg mountains, which form the south-eastern escarpment of the Highveld, offer limited skiing opportunities in winter. Many people think that the coldest place in South Africa is Sutherland in the western Roggeveld Mountains, where midwinter temperatures can reach as low as −15 degrees Celsius (5 Â°F). In fact, the coldest place is actually Buffelsfontein, which is in the Molteno district of the Eastern Cape. Buffelsfontein recorded a low of −18.6 degrees Celsius (-1.5 Â°F). The deep interior has the hottest temperatures: A temperature of 51.7 Â°C (125 Â°F) was recorded in 1948 in the Northern Cape Kalahari near Upington.

    South Africa also has one possession, the small sub-Antarctic archipelago of the Prince Edward Islands, consisting of Marion Island (290 km²/112 mi²) and Prince Edward Island (45 km²/17.3 mi²) (not to be confused with the Canadian province of the same name).

    Flora and fauna

    South Africa is one of only 17 countries worldwide considered Megadiverse. It has more than 20,000 different plants, or about 10% of all the known species of plants on Earth, making it particularly rich in plant biodiversity. South Africa is the third most biodiverse country in the world, after Brazil and Indonesia and has greater biodiversity than any country of equal or smaller size (Brazil being roughly seven times South Africa's size, and Indonesia more than 50% larger).

    South Africa's most prevalent biome is grassland, particularly on the Highveld, where the plant cover is dominated by different grasses, low shrubs, and acacia trees, mainly camel-thorn and whitethorn. Vegetation becomes even more sparse towards the northwest due to low rainfall. There are several species of water-storing succulents like aloes and euphorbias in the very hot and dry Namaqualand area. The grass and thorn savannah turns slowly into a bush savannah towards the northeast of the country, with more dense growth. There are significant numbers of baobab trees in this area, near the northern end of Kruger National Park.

    The Fynbos Biome, which makes up the majority of the area and plant life in the Cape floristic region, one of the six floral kingdoms, is located in a small region of the Western Cape and contains more than 9,000 of those species, making it among the richest regions on earth in terms of floral biodiversity. The majority of the plants are evergreen hard-leaf plants with fine, needle-like leaves, such as the sclerophyllous plants. Another uniquely South African plant is the protea genus of flowering plants. There are around 130 different species of protea in South Africa.

    While South Africa has a great wealth of flowering plants, it has few forests. Only 1% of South Africa is forest, almost exclusively in the humid coastal plain along the Indian Ocean in KwaZulu-Natal (see KwaZulu-Cape coastal forest mosaic). There are even smaller reserves of forests that are out of the reach of fire, known as montane forests (see Knysna-Amatole montane forests). Plantations of imported tree species are predominant, particularly the non-native eucalyptus and pine. South Africa has lost extensive acreage of natural habitat in the last four decades, primarily due to overpopulation, sprawling development patterns and deforestation during the nineteenth century. South Africa is one of the worst affected countries in the world when it comes to invasion by alien species with many (e.g. Black Wattle, Port Jackson, Hakea, Lantana and Jacaranda) posing a significant threat to the native biodiversity and the already scarce water resources. The original temperate forest that met the first European settlers to South Africa was exploited ruthlessly until only small patches remained. Currently, South African hardwood trees like Real Yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius), stinkwood (Ocotea bullata), and South African Black Ironwood (Olea laurifolia) are under government protection.

    Numerous mammals are found in the bushveld habitats including lion, leopard, White Rhino, Blue Wildebeest, kudu, impala, hyena, hippopotamus, and giraffe. There is a significant extent of the bushveld habitat in the northeast including Kruger National Park and the Mala Mala Reserve, as well as in the far north in the Waterberg Biosphere.

    Climate change is expected to bring considerable warming and drying to much of this already semi-arid region, with greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, flooding and drought. According to computer generated climate modelling produced by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) (along with many of its partner institutions), parts of southern Africa will see an increase in temperature by about one degree Celsius along the coast to more than four degrees Celsius in the already hot hinterland such as the Northern Cape in late spring and summertime by 2050.

    The Cape Floral Kingdom has been identified as one of the global biodiversity hotspots since it will be hit very hard by climate change and has such a great diversity of life. Drought, increased intensity and frequency of fire and climbing temperatures are expected to push many of these rare species towards extinction. The book takes much of the modelling produced by SANBI and presents it in an accessible travelogue-style collection of essays.

    South Africa houses many endemic species, among them the critically endangered Riverine Rabbit (Bunolagus monticullaris) in the Karoo.


    By UN classification South Africa is a middle-income country with an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange (the JSE Securities Exchange), that ranks among the top twenty in the world, and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centres throughout the region. South Africa is ranked 24th in the world in terms of GDP, corrected for purchasing power parity.

    In many respects, South Africa is under-developed; however, advanced development is significantly localised around four areas, namely Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, and Pretoria/Johannesburg. Beyond these four economic centres, development is marginal and poverty still reigns despite government efforts. Consequently the vast majority of South Africans are poor. However, key marginal areas are experiencing rapid growth recently. Such areas include: Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay; Rustenburg area; Nelspruit area; Bloemfontein; Cape West Coast; KZN North Coast amongst others.

    Large income gaps and a dual economy designate South Africa as a developing country. South Africa has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world. The white South African minority tends to be richer than the rest of the population. A decade of continual economic growth has helped to lower unemployment, but daunting economic problems remain. Other problems are crime, corruption, and HIV/AIDS.

    At the start of 2000, President Thabo Mbeki vowed to promote economic growth and foreign investment by relaxing restrictive labour laws, stepping up the pace of privatisation, and cutting unneeded governmental spending. His policies face strong opposition from organised labour. South Africa is also the continent's largest energy producer and consumer.

    The rand, the world's most actively-traded emerging market currency, has joined an elite club of fifteen currencies, the Continuous linked settlement (CLS), where forex transactions are settled immediately, lowering the risks of transacting across time zones. The South African rand (ZAR) was the best-performing currency against the United States dollar between 2002 and 2005, according to the Bloomberg Currency Scorecard.

    The volatility of the rand has affected economic activity, with the rand falling sharply during 2001, hitting an historic low of R13.85 to the U.S. dollar, raising fears of inflation, and causing the Reserve Bank to increase interest rates. The rand has since recovered, trading at R6.99 to the dollar as of January 2007 while the South African Reserve Bank's policy of inflation targeting has brought inflation under control. The stronger rand has however put exporters under considerable pressure, with many calling for government to intervene in the exchange rate to help soften the rand, and many others dismissing staff.

    Refugees from poorer neighbouring countries abound with immigrants from the DRC, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and many others representing a large portion of the informal sector. With high unemployment levels amongst poorer South Africans, xenophobia is a very real fear and many people born in South Africa feel resentful of immigrants who are seen to be depriving the native population of jobs, a feeling which has been given credibility by the fact that many South African employers have employed migrants from other countries for lower pay than South African citizens, especially in the construction, tourism, agriculture and domestic service industries. Illegal immigrants are also heavily involved in informal trading. However, many immigrants to South Africa continue to live in poor conditions, and the South African immigration policy has become increasingly restrictive since 1994.


    South Africa has a large agricultural sector and is a net exporter of farming products. There are almost a thousand agricultural cooperatives and agribusinesses throughout the country, and agricultural exports have constituted 8% of South Africa's total exports for the past five years. The agricultural industry contributes around 10% of formal employment, relatively low compared to other parts of Africa, as well as providing work for casual labourers and contributing around 2.6% of GDP for the nation. However, due to the aridity of the land, only 13.5% can be used for crop production, and only 3% is considered high potential land.

    Although the commercial farming sector is relatively well developed, people in some rural areas still survive on subsistence agriculture. It is the eighth largest wine producer in the world, and the eleventh largest producer of sunflower seed. South Africa is a net exporter of agricultural products and foodstuffs, the largest number of exported items being sugar, grapes, citrus, nectarines, wine and deciduous fruit. The largest locally produced crop is maize (corn), and it has been estimated that 9 million tons are produced every year, with 7.4 million tons being consumed. Livestock are also popular on South African farms, with the country producing 85% of all meat consumed. The dairy industry consists of around 4,300 milk producers providing employment for 60,000 farm workers and contributing to the livelihoods of around 40,000 others.

    In recent years, the agricultural sector has introduced several reforms, some of which are controversial, such as land reform and the deregulation of the market for agricultural products. Land reform has been criticised both by farmers' groups and by landless workers, the latter alleging that the pace of change has not been fast enough, and the former alleging racist treatment and expressing concerns that a similar situation to Zimbabwe's land reform policy may develop, a fear exacerbated by comments made by the country's deputy president. The sector continues to face problems, with increased foreign competition and crime being two of the major challenges for the industry. The government has been accused of not devoting enough time and money to tackle the problem of farm attacks as opposed to other forms of violent crime.

    Another issue which affects South African agriculture is environmental damage caused by misuse of the land and global climate change. South Africa is unusually vulnerable to climate change and resultant diminution of surface waters. Some predictions shows surface water supply could decrease by 60% by the year 2070 in parts of the Western Cape. To reverse the damage caused by land mismanagement, the government has supported a scheme which promotes sustainable development and the use of natural resources.


    South Africa is a nation of over 47 million people of diverse origins, cultures, languages, and beliefs. The last census was held in 2001 and the next will be in 2011. Statistics South Africa provided five racial categories by which people could classify themselves, the last of which, "unspecified/other" drew negligible responses, and these results were omitted. The 2006 estimated figures for the other categories were Black African at 79.5%, White at 9.2%, Coloured at 8.9%, and Indian or Asian at 2.5%. South Africa has a yearly population growth rate of −0.4%.

    By far the major part of the population classified itself as African or black, but it is not culturally or linguistically homogeneous. Major ethnic groups include the Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho (South Sotho), Bapedi (North Sotho), Venda, Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi and Ndebele, all of which speak Bantu languages (see Bantu peoples of South Africa).

    Some, such as the Zulu, Xhosa, Bapedi and Venda groups, are unique to South Africa. Other groups are distributed across the borders with South Africa's neighbours: The Basotho group is also the major ethnic group in Lesotho. The Tswana ethnic group constitute the majority of the population of Botswana. The Swazi ethnic group is the major ethnic group in Swaziland. The Ndebele ethnic group is also found in Matabeleland in Zimbabwe, where they are known as the Matabele. These Ndebele people are however in effect Zulu people because the language they speak is Zulu and they are the descendants of a faction under the warrior Mzilikazi that escaped persecution from Shaka by migrating to their current territory. The Tsonga ethnic group is also found in southern Mozambique, where they are known as the Shangaan.

    The white population descends largely from colonial immigrants: Dutch, German, French Huguenot, and British. Culturally and linguistically, they are divided into the Afrikaners, who speak Afrikaans, and English-speaking groups, many of whom are descended from British immigrants (see Anglo African). Many small communities that have immigrated over the last century retain the use of other languages. The white population is on the decrease due to a low birth rate and emigration; as a factor in their decision to emigrate, many cite the high crime rate and the government's affirmative action policies. In the first decade after the ANC took power, a million whites emigrated

    The term "Coloured" is still largely used for the people of mixed race descended from slaves brought in from East and Central Africa, the indigenous Khoisan who lived in the Cape at the time, indigenous African Blacks, Whites (mostly the Dutch/Afrikaner and British settlers) as well as an admixture of Javanese, Malay, Indian, Malagasy and other European (such as Portuguese) and Asian blood (such as Burmese). The majority speak Afrikaans. Khoisan is a term used to describe two separate groups, physically similar in that they were light-skinned and small in stature. The Khoikhoi, who were called Hottentots by the Europeans, were pastoralists and were effectively annihilated; the San, called Bushmen by the Europeans, were hunter-gatherers. Within what is known as the Coloured community, more recent immigrants will also be found: Coloureds from the former Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Namibia and immigrants of mixed descent from India and Burma (Anglo-Indians/Anglo-Burmese) who were welcomed to the Cape when India and Burma received their Independence.

    The major part of the Asian population of the country is Indian in origin (see Indian South Africans), many of them descended from indentured workers brought in the nineteenth century to work on the sugar plantations of the eastern coastal area then known as Natal. There is also a significant group of Chinese South Africans (approximately 100,000 individuals) and Vietnamese South Africans (approximately 50,000 individuals).


    As in many African countries, the spread of AIDS (acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome) is an alarming problem in South Africa with up to 31% of pregnant women found to be HIV infected in 2005 and the infection rate among adults estimated at 20%. The link between HIV, a virus spread primarily by sexual contact, and AIDS has long been denied by the president and the health minister, who have insisted that the many deaths in the country are due to malnutrition, and hence poverty, and not HIV. The government has recently, after much delay, devoted substantial resources to fighting this pandemic.

    AIDS is affecting mainly those who are sexually active, which means the demographics of the country are slowly changing. Most deaths are people who are also economically active, resulting in many families losing their primary wage earners. This is resulting in many 'AIDS orphans' who in many cases depend on the state for care and financial support. It is estimated that there are 1,200,000 orphans in South Africa.


    According to the latest 2001 national census, Christians accounted for 79.7% of the population. This includes Zion Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal (Charismatic) 8.2%, Catholic 7.1%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%, and other Christian 36%. Islam accounted for 1.5% of the population, Hinduism about 1.3%. 15.1% had no religious affiliation, 2.3% were other and 1.4% were unspecified.

    African Indigenous Churches were the largest of the Christian groups.
    It was believed that many of these persons who claimed no affiliation with any organised religion adhered to traditional indigenous religions. Many persons combined Christian and traditional indigenous religious practices.

    Islam in South Africa probably predates the colonial period, and consisted of isolated contact with Arab and East African traders. Many South African Muslims are described as Coloureds, notably in the Western Cape, including those whose ancestors came as slaves from the Indonesian archipelago (the Cape Malays). Others are described as Indians, notably in Kwazulu-Natal, including those whose ancestors came as traders from South Asia; they have been joined by others from other parts of Africa as well as white or black South African converts.

    Hinduism in South Africa dates back to British Colonial period primarily but later waves of continuous immigrants from India have contributed to sizeable Hindu population.Most Hindus are predominantly ethnically South Asians but there are many who come from mixed racial stock and many are converts with the efforts of Hindu missionaries such as ISKCON.>


    It may be argued that there is no "single" culture in South Africa because of its ethnic diversity. Today, the diversity in foods from many cultures is enjoyed by all and especially marketed to tourists who wish to sample the large variety of South African cuisine. In addition to food, music and dance feature prominently.

    South African cuisine is heavily meat-based and has spawned the distinctively South African social gathering known as a braai, or barbecue. South Africa has also developed into a major wine producer, with some of the best vineyards lying in valleys around Stellenbosch, Franschoek, Paarl and Barrydale.

    There is great diversity in music from South Africa. Many black musicians who sang in Afrikaans or English during apartheid have since begun to sing in traditional African languages, and have developed a unique style called Kwaito. Of note is Brenda Fassie, who launched to fame with her song "Weekend Special", which was sung in English. More famous traditional musicians include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, while the Soweto String Quartet performs classic music with an African flavour. White and Coloured South African singers are historically influenced by European musical styles including such western metal bands such as Seether. South Africa has produced world-famous jazz musicians, notably Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Abdullah Ibrahim, Miriam Makeba, Jonathan Butler, Chris McGregor, and Sathima Bea Benjamin. Afrikaans music covers multiple genres, such as the contemporary Steve Hofmeyr and the punk rock band Fokofpolisiekar. Crossover artists such as Johnny Clegg and his bands Juluka and Savuka have enjoyed various success underground, publicly, and abroad.

    The country's black majority still has a substantial number of rural inhabitants who lead largely impoverished lives. It is among these people, however, that cultural traditions survive most strongly; as blacks have become increasingly urbanised and westernised, aspects of traditional culture have declined. Urban blacks usually speak English or Afrikaans in addition to their native tongue. There are smaller but still significant groups of speakers of Khoisan languages which are not official languages, but are one of the eight officially recognised languages. There are small groups of speakers of endangered languages, most of which are from the Khoi-San family, that receive no official status; however, some groups within South Africa are attempting to promote their use and revival.

    Image:South africa 2.jpg|A South African boy holds up his school painting of a Cricket match

    The middle class lifestyle, predominantly of the white minority but with growing numbers of black, Coloured and Indian people, is similar in many respects to that of people found in Western Europe, North America and Australasia. Members of the middle class often study and work abroad for greater exposure to the world's markets.

    Despite considerable discrimination under apartheid, Coloureds tend to relate more to white South African culture rather than black South African culture, especially Afrikaans-speaking Coloured people whose language and religious beliefs are similar or identical to white Afrikaners. The exceptions are coloured individuals and families who were personally involved in the struggle against apartheid and who prefer to be called black. Such cases are generally in the minority.

    Asians, predominantly of Indian origin, preserve their own cultural heritage, languages and religious beliefs, being either Christian, Hindu or Sunni Muslim and speaking English, with Indian languages like Hindi, Telugu, Tamil or Gujarati being spoken less frequently. Most Indians live lifestyles similar to that of whites. The first Indians arrived on the famous Truro ship as indentured labourers in Natal to work the Sugar Cane Fields. There is a much smaller Chinese community in South Africa, although its numbers have increased due to immigration from Republic of China (Taiwan).

    South Africa has also had a large influence in the Scouting movement, with many Scouting traditions and ceremonies coming from the experiences of Robert Baden-Powell (the founder of Scouting) during his time in South Africa as a military officer in the 1890s. The South African Scout Association was one of the first youth organisations to open its doors to youth and adults of all races in South Africa. This happened on 2 July 1977 at a conference known as Quo Vadis.


    |Map showing principal South African languages by municipality. Lighter shades indicate a non-majority plurality.
    South Africa has eleven official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. In this regard it is second only to India in number. While each language is technically equal to every other, some languages are spoken more than others.

    According to the 1996 National Census, the three most spoken first home languages are Zulu (9.2 million), Xhosa (7.2 million) and Afrikaans (5.8 million). The three most spoken second home languages are English (2.2 million), Afrikaans (1.1 million) and Zulu (0.5 million). The four most spoken home languages are Zulu (9.8 million), Xhosa (7.5 million), Afrikaans (6.9 million) and English (5.7 million). The 1996 census does not include information about languages spoken elsewhere than at home.

    There are eleven official names for South Africa, one in each of the official national languages.

    The country also recognises eight non-official languages: Fanagalo, Khoe, Lobedu, Nama, Northern Ndebele, Phuthi, San and South African Sign Language. These non-official languages may be used in certain official uses in limited areas where it has been determined that these languages are prevalent. Nevertheless, their populations are not such that they require nationwide recognition.

    Many of the "unofficial languages" of the San and Khoikhoi people contain regional dialects stretching northward into Namibia and Botswana, and elsewhere. These people, who are a physically distinct population from other Africans, have their own cultural identity based on their hunter-gatherer societies. They have been marginalised to a great extent, and many of their languages are in danger of becoming extinct.

    Many white South Africans also speak other European languages, such as Portuguese (also spoken by Angolan and Mozambican blacks), German, and Greek, while many Asians and Indians in South Africa speak South Asian languages, such as Telugu, Hindi, Gujarati and [[Tamil lan

    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). The resulting Union of South Africa operated under a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races. The 1990s brought an end to apartheid politically and ushered in black majority rule.

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

    Population: 44,187,637
    note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2006 est.)

    Languages: IsiZulu 23.8%, IsiXhosa 17.6%, Afrikaans 13.3%, Sepedi 9.4%, English 8.2%, Setswana 8.2%, Sesotho 7.9%, Xitsonga 4.4%, other 7.2% (2001 census)

    Country name: conventional long form: Republic of South Africa
    conventional short form: South Africa
    former: Union of South Africa
    abbreviation: RSA

    Capital: name: Pretoria (administrative capital)
    geographic coordinates: 29 12 S, 28 10 E
    time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    note: Ca

    Economy - overview:
    South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; a stock exchange that ranks among the 10 largest in the world; and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. However, growth has not been strong enough to lower South Africa's high unemployment rate, and daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era - especially poverty and lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups. South African economic policy is fiscally conservative, but pragmatic, focusing on targeting inflation and liberalizing trade as means to increase job growth and household income.


    Adventure Mania  - Scuba Diving School and Dive Charter in Sodwana Bay South Africa

    African Dive and Wildlife Adventures  - Package and customised tours. Catering for handicapped divers as well.

    The African Diving Experience  - Includes information on equipment, diving locations, sharks, links, and photo gallery.

    African Odyssea  - Cageless shark diving on Protea Banks and combination dive/safari tours to Mozambique

    African Shark Eco Charters  - Information on shark encounters, research, images, and tours.

    African Watersports  - Deep, shark, wreck and shallow reef diving at Aliwal Shoal. Photos, newsletter, weather and details on area orientation are included.  - Dive resources.

    AHA Dive Centre  - Dive training, travel and gear sales. Arranges dive tours to various sites in Mozambique.

    Aliwal Dive Charters  - A dive charter company operating in Umkomaas.  - Information on scheduled PADI Scuba courses, dive conditions, prices, accommodation choices and things to do at Aliwal Shoal, in Umkomaas.

    Andy Cobb Diving  - Scuba diving, shark diving in South Africa and Zulu culture.

    AquaPlanet Dive Center  - Located on the south coast of KwaZulu Natal, with information on instruction, local dive sites, shark diving, accommodations and packages, and contact details.

    Big Two Tours  - Discover information on great white shark cage diving and whale viewing tours at Dyer Island, along with photos, contacts and online booking.

    Bubble Blowers  - A Cape Town-based dive school and dive charter company. A registered PADI Dive Resort, has both NAUI- and PADI-certified dive instructors and dive masters.

    Bud and Cath s Scuba Diving Academy  - Scuba Diving in South Africa. Courses, Travel and training.

    Cetus Scuba  - Cetus Scuba consists of a group of scuba divers (mainly NAUI) in Kempton Park.

    Dive South Africa  - Adventure scuba diving and wildlife safaris in South Africa and Mozambique. Great White cage diving, shark diving and wreck diving

    Dive South Diving and Wildlife Safaris  - Aventure scuba diving and wildlife safaris in South Africa and Mozambique. Great White cage diving, sharks, wreck diving, whales, dolphins, turtles and whale shark diving

    Dive the Big 5  - Specialists in shark, wreck, seal and tropical reef diving combined with African wildlife safaris.

    East Coast Fish Watch Project Website  - Learn about South Africa s fascinating marine fish and how to identify them while scuba diving.

    False Bay Underwater Club  - Scuba diving, spearfishing and underwater hockey club based in Cape Town, South Africa.

    Great White Shark Cage Diving Bookings Office  - Our site gives you a tour of Shark Cage Diving operators in Gansbaai. Bookings are made online and charged at operators prices without commission added.

    International Diving Academy  - Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, diving, exploring, training and working underwater.

    Jack s Dive Chest  - Commercial Diving School registered to train Class III/IV divers as well as diving supervisors.

    Marine Dynamics  - Offers Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai, South Africa.

    Meridian Dive Centre  - PADI 5 star dive centre, located in Durban. PADI, DAN and IANTD courses and full dive services.

    Oceans Africa  - Find information on diving and specialist tours in southern Africa.  - Comprehensive listing on diving and accommodation resources in Southern Africa.

    Pisces Divers Cape Town  - Cape Town PADI dive resort and charter operation. Specialities include reef dives, boat dives, wreck dives, deep dives and night dives.

    Post Office Divers  - PADI dive school, offering individualised scuba instruction and personalised diving tips.

    Pro Divers  - Diving, PADI courses, and environmental awareness programs.

    The Sardine Run - South Africa  - Offers unique scuba diving tours of the annual Sardine Run that takes place off the east coast of South Africa.

    Shark Lady Adventures  - Go diving with Kim McLean, pioneer of Great White Shark cage diving in South Africa.

    Shark Society  - Specialists in shark diving offer scuba lessons and diving in South Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique, Costa Rica and Mexico.

    Sports Safaris Africa  - Founded in 1995 with the express purpose of organising scuba diving holidays in Southern Africa.

    Unreal dive  - Diving operator with a strong focus on great white shark diving. Highlights include cage diving, the sardine run and a gallery of great white shark pictures.

    Whaler Dive Centre  - The Whaler Dive Centre. A dive facility situated in Umkomaas.

    White Shark Ecoventures  - Great white shark cage diving and viewing at Dyer Island, South Africa with a conservation oriented company.

    Latest discussion about Africa South Africa at
    hi anyone know if anyone is taking charters to the protea banks south afica thank you for your time

    I've just come back from a trip up the coast to Durban and was fortunate enough to be able to dive at the Aliwal Shoal. This is really an awesome dive site. The raggies are only expected to arrive in ...
    Nicky Taniwha via

    South Africa is one of the top diving destinations in the world and offers diving with great white sharks, raggid tooth sharks, dolphins, wreck dives and stunning reef dives. For more info visit my we...
    Zelna Dreyer

    This is a wreck off Selsey that I haven't heard of before. Has anybody dived it? Info please. Thanks Keith
    Keith Manning

    HI Looking for good shots for the Great White Shark on South Africa next December i mean for a photographer underwater. Thanks all Alberto

    Hi all The South African government want to ban all forms of diving (scuba, spearfishing, free diving and snokelling) in certain areas because the government has been unable to stop the poaching of wi...

    Anyone have a any Info, tips or reviews to help me plan a Great White Shark dive trip in South Africa. I was thinking about Gansbaai but don’t have a clue. Any help would be great, I want this to be m...
    Mr. Mach5

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