Geography, nature and similar stuff!

Monday, 12 April 2010 14:34 administrator
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The official slogan of the South African Tourism Authority is “A WORLD IN ONE COUNTRY!”.

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And that it indeed is. Geographically, climatically, culturally, ethnically, linguistically, and of course economically - it is a land of remarkable contrasts and extremes. Deserts to lush forests; sub-zero mountain snow conditions to sweltering Lowveld humidity; bahmitzvahs to age-old sacred initiation ceremonies; Muslim to Rastafarian; ancient San dialects to Afrikaans; first world opulence to grinding third world poverty - it’s all there.

It’s a remarkably beautiful country - and also a very ugly one, as it grapples with the violent after-effects of one of the most horrendous socio-racial experiments in history. The poverty and squalor is mind-numbingly depressing; the physical beauty is awesome.

But the constant realisation of how close the country came to the abyss - and the remarkably peaceful transformation to democratic bastion of the African continent - is nothing short of miraculous. Since 27 April 1994 - the first democratic elections in the country - South Africa has become a reference point on how problems facing nations can be resolved peacefully. It’s an exciting, invigorating, sometimes horrifying, often sublime experience to visit South Africa.


The country can be divided into three separate geographical regions : interior plateau; coastal strip; and the escarpment that separates them. It lies fully within the southern temperate zone (“below” the Tropic of Capricorn, with the most southerly point at Cape Agulhas being 35 degrees south) - and its average annual temperature, therefore, is moderate and mild. Over most of the country, rain falls in the hot summer months (October to March) in the form of huge convectional thunder storms. Only the south-western corner has a Mediterranean climate, with frontal rain falling in the winter.

The South African coastline covers 2 954 km between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The warm Mozambique current flowing south-west down the east coast makes for lush, sub-tropical conditions; on the west coast, the cold, north-flowing Benguella current produces a semi-desert and desert world.

The area of South Africa is 1 219 090 square kilometres - larger than Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Holland together. The country’s premier game reserve, the internationally renowned Kruger National Park, is larger than Wales and Israel respectively!

The country is rich in grassland, savanna and forest - but the greatest portion is dry thornveld and semi-desert. The average rainfall is 464 mm - little more than half the world average. All of South Africa’s rivers together provide less than one eighth of the water of the Mississippi alone!


South Africa’s richest heritage, however, might be said to lie in its vast variety of natural life. It has more kinds of mammals than North and South America combined!! It is home to :

· the largest land mammal in the world (the African Elephant)

· the world’s tallest creature (the Giraffe)

· the largest antelope (the Eland)

· the largest bird (the Ostrich)

· the heaviest flying bird (the Kori Bustard)

· the “Big Five” - Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhinoceros and Buffalo.

There are over 900 species of birds in South Africa - 10% of the world’s selection in only 1% of its land surface!

23 000 different plants - of which 19 000 are endemic - grow in the country. It is the richest region in the world in terms of species to area - 1.7 times richer in these terms even than Brazil! Within South Africa is the Cape Floral Kingdom - the tiniest in the world, but also the richest, with 8 500 species, 6 000 of them found nowhere else on earth. Of these, the most famous is the Protea - the country’s national flower.


Set to become South Africa’s major foreign currency earner by the end of the first decade of the new millennium - eventually replacing gold - tourism has boomed since the demise of the apartheid regime. Since being re-admitted into the world in the early 1990’s, the country’s famed scenic beauty, sunny climate, good communication links and fascinating history are attracting droves of foreign tourists.

According to statistics provided by the World Tourism Organisation, South Africa is the number 1 tourist destination in Africa. More importantly. it attracts the highest tourism spending in Africa - i.e. it is the top end of the tourist spectrum (those with more money to spend) who travel to the country. South Africa attracted more than 55% of the 23,3 million tourists who visited Africa during 1997, translating into a growth of 8,16%. In monetary terms, tourist revenue earned the country US$2 297 million in 1997. At this stage, the largest national groups who travel to South Africa as tourists are, in order : British; German; American.

Of course, another very important factor in luring foreign visitors to the country is that it is a very reasonably-priced holiday destination. With the collapse of the South African Rand over the last 20 years or so - in the 1970’s it was one-to-one with the Pound, and stronger than the US Dollar - one’s money goes an enormously long way in South Africa.Tourism is actively promoted by the new South African government. Every 33 new tourists create 1 direct and 2 indirect jobs. And of course there are the accompanying spin-offs : the development of infrastructure services; the generation of investment; the earning of foreign exchange; the upliftment of communities; and the provision of valuable funds for conservation.

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 February 2012 09:31

Travel Quotes

Travel Quotes
Thursday, 12 August 2010

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

"The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa - for he has so much to look forward to."
Richard Mullin.

"Tourists don't know where they've been; travellers don't know where they're going."
Paul Theroux.

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey.

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land.”
G.K. Chesterton.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”
James Michener.

“The journey not the arrival matters.”
T. S. Eliot.

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”
Mark Twain.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding – The Four Quartets.

“Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is worst of all.”
Brian Jackman.

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