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South African Travel Information

South Africa has become one of the world's most desirable travel destinations. The country offers international tourists a multitude of activities, attractions and events. South Africa is home to many peoples and cultures, modern cities and remote wilderness areas. "A world in one country" is a phrase which is often used to describe South Africa.

African Sky Safaris & Tours offers information relating to the country, its national parks and private game reserves. The provinces which make up South Africa are also discussed, as is the country's weather and other information African Sky deems useful when planning travel to South Africa.

Cities and Towns of South Africa

South Africa is a well-developed country with a few cities and a large number of towns which provide the economic, cultural and social infrastructure in the areas in which they are located. African Sky offers safaris and tours which include visits to some of the most notable cities and towns of South Africa. In the southern part of South Africa you will find the Western Cape Province. This province is home to the oldest and most historically preserved towns of South Africa. Especially notable cities and towns in this region include Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Swellendam, Knysna and George.

In the northern part of South Africa, you will find the city of Johannesburg in the Gauteng province. It is the economic heart of the country and the African continent. Gauteng is also home to the capital city of Pretoria, which houses the administrative functions of our government and offers a few unique experiences of its own. The cities and towns of KwaZulu-Natal most frequently visited by tourists include Durban and the coastal towns of Umhlanga and Ballito. The dense indigenous vegetation and magnificent sandy beaches which line the shores of the Indian Ocean endow the towns of KwaZulu-Natal with a special character.

Mpumalanga is a holidaymaker's paradise. The hot, steamy climate and the good soil makes the capital city of Nelspruit a top citrus fruit producer. There are many accommodation establishments in Nelspruit, as it is the gateway to the Kruger National Park. There is an airport in Nelspruit as well as daily train services. White River, a farming and tourism center, lies about 20km north of Nelspruit and travelers love the variety of curio stores. White River is also a good base for visiting the Kruger National Park.

In the Free State, Bloemfontein is a popular stopover city for those traveling from Gauteng to Cape Town. The city has plenty of museums and monuments for those interested in culture. Its botanical garden is home to many Karoo plants as well as interesting birds and reptiles. Clarens is a fabulous weekend getaway, lying in the magnificent Maluti Mountains of the eastern Free State. The village is an artist's haven, but it is the exquisite countryside that draws adventurers to it.

The province of Limpopo is regarded as an adventure destination, offering many 4x4 and wilderness trails. The Kruger National Park also forms part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Tzaneen, the second largest town in Limpopo, has a subtropical climate and has made the area significant as a fruit and vegetable producing area. The Letaba River offers magnificent views of Magoebaskloof, George's Valley and Wolkberg.

Rustenburg and the Magaliesberg are important towns in the North West. A number of establishments and places of interest like the Magalies Meander offer city dwellers the chance to experience true country hospitality.

South Africa's Climate

South Africa's climate is generally quite pleasant and the country is a sought-after destination for all those seeking sand, sea and sunshine. The country's subtropical location accounts for the warm temperate conditions typical of South Africa, making it a popular destination for foreign tourists. The country has abundant sunshine and dry conditions. 'In between' months like April and May are considered the best months to travel to South Africa.

During this time of the year, the hot summer weather has come to an end and the winds are lighter than the rest of the year. South Africa is surrounded by the ocean on three sides - the west, south and east. The warm Mozambique current and the cold north-flowing Benguela have an effect on the weather and the South African climate. The difference in temperature between the currents account for differences in the climate as well as the vegetation between the west and east coasts. Durban on the east coast has higher temperatures and rainfall than Port Nolloth on the west coast.

Frost often occurs over the interior ridge during cold, cloudless winter nights, while its occurrence decreases towards the north and the coast is almost frost-free. For more information on South Africa's climate, visit the official website of the South African Weather Service, which will provide specific information on the period during which you plan to travel in South Africa.

South African History

The 17th and 18th centuries in South Africa brought about an extension of the economic world order. Traveling from the Cape of Good Hope to the interior, the European settlers met with the indigenous peoples, who brought with them an African tradition from the north. At the time this area was sparsely inhabited. The 19th century saw the beginning of British colonialism, which resulted in the Great Trek of the Dutch settlers to the north of the Orange River. This migration brought Western civilization to the interior of South Africa. Dutch, French and German music and songs are still characteristic and part of the Afrikaner culture.

Unfortunately, African tradition clashed with Western civilization, and on many occasions warfare was the result between European authorities and the various African peoples. English as well as Afrikaans literature gave different viewpoints, and their contradictions and ideas were spread to the Western world. Wars took place between the Xhosas and the Cape Colony, boundary wars between the British and Afrikaners against the Basotho, inter-tribal warfare amongst the Zulus, the Tswanas and the Matebele under the leadership of Mzilikazi during the difaqane.

It is not a myth that large areas of the interior of South Africa were emptied by the difaqane, allowing Europeans to settle there after the intertribal wars were ended by the Battles of Blood River (1838) and Mosega (1837). The discovery of diamonds and gold during the latter half of the 19th century marked the beginning of the influx of large numbers of foreigners, capital and Western amenities. Urban development in specific islands of prosperity laid the basis for economic upliftment of all peoples in this part of the world.

Notwithstanding the want for peace, cultural differences amongst the different population groups prohibited the formation of a unitary state in Southern Africa, although British rule intended such a country under the British flag. The 20th century was marked by World Wars I and II and, as an aftermath of these wars, a struggle between the two language groups, Afrikaans and English, which resulted in a whites-only government in the Union of South Africa from 1910 and the Republic of South Africa from 1961.

Under white Afrikaner majority rule, recognition of the vast cultural differences amongst the population groups gave rise to the idea of separate development, duly discredited world-wide as apartheid. Supported the world over, the struggle enabled the African National Congress (ANC) to come to power in 1994, uniting South Africa for the first time as a democratic nation. The 20 years which have followed our first democratic elections have seen great improvements in various areas such as social development and economic prosperity and South Africa has once again taken its rightful position on the world stage.

South African Mammals

South Africa is home to 299 different species of mammal. These mammals are protected in a great number of different national parks and private game reserves throughout the country. The most notable of the mammals of South Africa are the Big Five, which are found in fairly large numbers in different parts of the country. The lion, buffalo, leopard, rhino and elephant are the most stately and awe-inspiring of the mammal species found in South Africa.

Visitors to the wilderness areas of South Africa can also delight in viewing the diversity of antelope species which the country is home to, from the elusive nyala which favors the thickets of KwaZulu-Natal to the gemsbok which is found in great numbers in the vast spaces of the arid Kalahari. Each of the mammal species are unique with different habitat requirements. The antelope found in South Africa range in size from the tiny blue duiker, which weighs no more than 3kg, to the mighty eland ,which can way up to 800kg.

In the waters of the South African coast, large ocean mammals like the Southern Right whale can be seen from the months between June and November, when they leave the waters of the Southern Ocean to calve and rear their young in the calm bays of the southwestern coast. A few species of dolphin are also prevalent in the waters around South Africa.