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About South Africa
Historically, South Africa was the pariah of the world under its infamous apartheid regime, but caught the imagination of all with Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, followed by the peaceful, first democratic elections in 1994. Since then, it has become one of the top travel destinations, blending elements of both ‘Africa of old’ with modernity. On one hand, one can escape to wild, remote areas and experience exceptional game viewing and true wilderness. Then, just an hour’s flight away, there are modern cities and hotels that compete with the best in the world. With 11 official languages and a diverse range of cultures and ways of life, it is no wonder that Mandela has named South Africans “the rainbow nation”.
When it comes to wildlife and scenery, South Africa has a plethora of places to see, including a number of World Heritage Sites and incredible game reserves. One of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town is built amongst an entire, unique Cape Floral Kingdom, one of only six Plant Kingdoms that cover the Earth. There are more naturally occurring, different species of flowers just around Cape Town than there are in the whole of North America or the whole of Europe! On the other side of the spectrum are the deserts and arid areas, including the world’s first National Park that traverses the borders of two countries, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
The coastline of South Africa is enormous, offering superb scenery, such as sandy beaches and sheer, fynbos-covered cliffs of the Garden Route, as well as amazing wildlife opportunities, from southern right whales breaching off Cape Town to pristine coral reefs on the KwaZulu-Natal Coast. The pride of South Africa’s natural heritage is the Kruger National Park. At 2 million hectares and over 300km long, this enormous area encompasses a savannah landscape with 147 mammal species, over 400 bird species and numerous reptiles, amphibians and insects.
This diversity is echoed in its peoples. Ancient rock art is a silent testimony to the vanished culture of the first human inhabitants – the San or Bushman people – and the powerful civilisations of Mapungubwe and Thulamela who traded with Chinese and Arab traders a thousand years ago remain entrenched in the ruins of their rock-walled hilltop cities. Later the subregion became a stepping stone between Europe and the spices of the East, and then its own mineral riches were discovered. At the beginning of the 21st century this is a country filled with a colourful mixture of people and cultures, a heady history and not least, a natural heritage that has South Africans defining their land as “a world in one country”.