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GENERAL INFORMATION

 

INTRODUCTION TO SOUTH AFRICA
After many years of international isolation, the world is discovering South Africa outside of politics and gold. Travellers are surprised and captivated by its natural scenic beauty, cultural melting pot and excellent food and wine. The opportunity to view abundant wildlife, flora and birds in extremely comfortable, even luxurious conditions, are unequalled. For those interested in ecotourism, it is an ideal destination with 3000 km of white sandy beaches, mountains, savannas, forests and many adventure activities.

South Africa also boasts sophisticated cities, 21st century technology and remote villages where time seems to have slowed. The cultural diversity is unique, European ancestry mixes with the traditions and legends of Africa and the mysticism of the East.

TRANSPORT
60 international airlines connecting South Africa with the world, countless domestic and regional flights and an excellent road network ensure that your South African tour will be comfortable and stress free. Apart from the scheduled flights, there are numerous charter companies.

A unique and unforgettable experience is a trip in the luxurious Blue Train or Rovos Rail.

In general, taxis are not easily available in the streets. Always ensure that the counter is set to zero.

Our tours are conducted in comfortable, air conditioned vehicles.

GEOGRAPHY
South Africa lies in the extreme south of the continent. It is divided into 9 provinces, covering a surface area of 1 219 099 km2, or more than twice the size of France.

The coast line stretches 2945 km from the cold Atlantic Ocean in the west to the warm Indian Ocean in the east. The sandy beaches are surrounded by forest in the east and desert in the west.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
The government follows a British inspired parliamentary system. However, it differs from those of other Commonwealth countries. The president of South Africa is the Head of State and the Head of Government. He is elected by a bicameral parliament consisting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. In practice, the president is the leader of the majority party.

The National Assembly has 400 members, elected through a proportional representation system. The National Council of Provinces has 90 members who represent each of the 9 provinces and also have representation in the major cities.

Each of the provinces has a Provincial Legislature and an Executive Council headed by the Premier.

PEOPLE
The cultural diversity corresponds to the wealth of other aspects of South Africa. There are at least 20 ethnic groups who have enriched. There are 11 official languages, two of European origin: English is used as the common language of communication between all South Africans. Afrikaans, derived from Dutch, is used by the boers and coloureds. The other official languages are: Ndebele, South Sotho, North Sotho, Tswana, Swazi, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.

Christianity is the dominant religion, traditional African religions, Islam and Hinduism are also practised.

At the beginning of the 21st century the population count was around 45 million inhabitants, 75% black, 14% white and the rest mostly coloured and Indian.

ECONOMY
South Africa is the economic power house of Africa, producing 28% of the continent’s GDP. It is also the dominant force in terms of infrastructure and the financial sector, the banking system is amongst the 10 most developed in the world. The modern industrial and financial sectors are supported by power stations and a sophisticated communications and transport network.

Since the beginning of democracy in 1994, the government has instituted and followed a policy to reduce inflation, the budget deficit, taxes, interest rates and unemployment whilst endeavouring to increase investment and the GDP. Whilst they have been successful in many areas the growth of the GDP and foreign investment has been slow.

In order to stimulate growth and create new jobs, the government needs to attract foreign capital. At present, the high cost of transport, labour and communication is discouraging investment. Furthermore, high crime, whilst having decreased, does not inspire confidence.

In the past, the South African economy has been based in the mining and agricultural sectors. Today, industry and finance are the front runners contributing twice as much as mining to the GDP. However, the country’s mineral wealth is still of vital importance to its economy and responsible for 30% of foreign earnings.

HISTORY

Hominoid fossils, found in the Kromdraai and Sterkfontein, caves prove that the prehistoric ancestors of man lived here 3 million years ago. This has led to scientists labelling the region as the Cradle of Humanity.

Until 1000 AD, Southern Africa was inhabited by scattered populations of hunter-gatherers known as the Khoisan of the Stone Age.
The Bantu cattle herders and agriculturalists descended from Central Africa, settling permanently in the region from 1200. This more advanced people displaced the more ancient khoisan.

When the first Europeans arrived in the Cape, they encountered the Khoisan. Not wanting to submit to European domination, nor to the Bantu tribes, the peaceful khoisan moved to the arid deserts of the Kalahari and Namibia.

1488 The Portuguese explorer, Bartholomieu Dias circumnavigates the Cape for the first time opening a sea route between Europe and the East.
1652 The Dutchman, Jan van Riebeck, establishes a permanent refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope for the Dutch East India Company marking the arrival of the first white colonists.
1910 The Union of South Africa is established.
1948 The National Party wins the general elections and implements a series of racist laws known as apartheid, segregating the country along racial lines.

The anti-apartheid movements, in particular the African National Congress (ANC), initiate campaigns of resistance, strikes and sabotage in response to the oppressive regime.

1990 The National Party government lifts the ban of the ANC and other left wing organizations and liberates Nelson Mandela after 27 years in prison. The apartheid legislation is gradually abolished.
1994 The first multiracial democratic elections are celebrated. The ANC has a landslide victory and has remained in power since.

FAUNA
South Africa is home to about 5.8% (300 species) of mammals in the world, including the 3 largest: elephant, rhinoceros and hippopotamus, the tallest: giraffe, the fastest: cheetah and the smallest : the pygmy shrew.

The wildlife is preserved in approximately 30 national parks and countless private reserves. Consequently, the country protects the last major population of black and white rhinos. It is also the best place to see the big five: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, buffalo and elephant. The reserves are located in diverse habitats varying from dunes to subtropical forests. The Kruger National Park has more species then either other park on the continent.

FLORA
South Africa’s floral wealth represents 10% of the total number of species worldwide. With 22 000 species, it has more then the United States which is seven times larger. The blend of tropical and temperate climates has created 5 major habitat zones: fynbos, forests, Karoo, pastures and savannah. The fynbos of the Western Cape is one of the six floral kingdoms of the world, furthermore, in proportion to its size, it is the most prolific with 8600 species, including the large Protea family.

BIRD WATCHING
With more than 900 species, over half of which are found in the Kruger National Park, the country is truly a birding paradise. Nysvlei is one of the most amazing places in the world for birds. An impressive number of species can be found in the Drakensberg Mountains and the Nature Reserves of the Cape. 8% of the world’s bird population is found in South Africa.

 

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