Name: Republic of South Africa
Population: 55 million
Capital: Cape Town (legislative), Bloemfontein (judicial), Pretoria (executive)
Language: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Northern Sotho, Venda, Tsonga, Swati, Ndebele
Currency: South African Rand
Time Zone: UTC +2
South Africa is a vast country with an incredible variety in landscapes, people, traditions, languages, cuisines and more. The country is often referred to as the “Rainbow Nation” due to its population diversity. The country is also renowned for its wines, so make sure not to miss these while you are here!
While big cities such as Cape Town and Johannesburg can look quite first worldly, most of the country has remained underdeveloped. This is a perfect example of the economic inequality that exists in the country.
South Africa is an ideal destination for those interested in nature and it is incredibly varied in terms of landscapes. The country boasts a large number of National Parks such as Kruger, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which is located in the desert, Addo Elephant National Park, Simangaliso Wetland Park and many more. It is also a great place to spot the “Big Five” (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and White/Black rhinoceros) as well as a wide range of other species.
All in all, South Africa is an ideal place to start if you wish to travel in southern Africa and get a good insight into the region.
The climate in South Africa ranges from area to area. The southwestern corner of the country receives a Mediterranean climate, the northeastern regions are subtropical, the interior plateau is quite temperate and even a small area in the northwest has a desert climate.
Winter: South Africa is situated at a high altitude and during winters, temperatures can get very low. The coldest months are June, July and August.
Summer: During the summer months, most of the country receives rainfall and thunderstorms during the afternoon are not uncommon. Rain is heavier and more frequent in the eastern part of the country than in the west. The only exception to this rule is the Western Cape area, where rain is more common during the winter.
South Africa is often dubbed the “Rainbow Nation” due to its multicultural diversity. While 80% of the population is made up of Black South Africans, they all belong to different ethnic groups. To add up to this, South Africa is extremely diverse due to its colonial past. A large number of Afrikaans (descendants of Dutch settlers) reside here, as well as many British descendants. Moreover, in 1600s, Germans, Portuguese and French Huguenots brought in a large number of slaves from India and what is now Indonesia. Islam and Hindu traditions are also a huge part of daily life in South Africa.
South Africa is so diverse that there are eleven officially recognized languages in the country, English being one of them. Another one of the official languages is Afrikaans, which is derived from Dutch.
The food in South Africa is one of the highlights of most visitor’s time in the country. A great variety of restaurants serve both modern and traditional food. It is almost impossible to write about the cuisine of South Africa in brief as it is incredibly varied due to its multicultural sources. The diversity of dishes is a great reflection of the cultural differences in the country. To summarize a bit, let’s divide it into two categories:
Traditional cookery, which is mostly prepared by indigenous people and roots back to the precolonial period. The food is generally cooked over an open fire and meat is one of the main ingredients, either stewed or grilled. Typical dishes include morogo, chakalaka, amadumbe and don’t forget to try tripe, a traditional treat that is considered a regional delicacy in the Cape.
Settlers cookery, which was introduced during and after the colonization periods. A popular style of South African cuisine is called “Cape Dutch” and is characterized by its use of spices. A famous dish, which is often regarded as the national dish, is babotie. It consists of spiced minced meat baked with an egg topping.
South Africa is well developed in terms of inland air travel, with airports in all major cities. Numerous domestic airlines operate within the country and it is often the fastest way to get around albeit not the cheapest.
Bus is a great alternative to get around the country, although distances are often great. Major companies such as Greyhound and Intercape Mainliner operate between major cities with stops along the way.
Another option for you is Baz Bus, which offers a hop-on-hop-off service along popular tourist routes from one major city to another major city. It will also pick you up and drop you off at many accommodation options (including hostels and guest houses).
Trains are a another alternative to travel around the country, with a national rail available. Budget options are available as well.
For more information on South Africa check out the South Africa Tourism Board website here.