South Africa's nine provinces are as diverse and unique as the country itself, ranging from towering peaks to unbroken stretches of semi-arid desert.
The 'world in one country' is split into nine distinct provinces, each with its own provincial governing body. Our South African tours, safaris and honeymoons visit almost all of the country's provinces, save for the Northern Cape where distances are vast and destinations sparse. Below is a summary of each province's unique features. Should you wish to know more about a specific area, do not hesitate to reach out to us for information.
The Eastern Cape province is South Africa's second largest province. The areas of the province differ to such an extent in relief, climate and vegetation that each region has its own character. In the north are the plains of the Great Karoo, in the northeast the Drakensberg Mountains and the coast is home to the beautiful Wild Coast. The eastern interior is covered with grasslands while typical Karoo vegetation occurs in the dry northern parts and savanna on the central western plateau. Addo Elephant National Park and the various beaches in the area are fast becoming some of South Africa's favorite travel destinations. It does not matter whether you are after a holiday at the sea or in the bush - due to its sheer diversity, you will almost certainly find what you are looking for in the Eastern Cape. While East London and Port Elizabeth are perfect getaways for families, the idea of holidaying in the Karoo is becoming more popular. Graaff-Reinet is known as 'the gem of the Karoo'. The town is laid out around the 1886 Dutch Reformed Church, a real landmark as you enter the town. And who can resist the charming beauty of Hogsback with its distinct English country character? It is here that you will find St Patrick's on the Hill, one of South Africa's smallest places of worship. The peaceful coastal resort towns of Kenton-on-Sea and Port Alfred will provide you with unforgettable beach holidays and are a water sport enthusiast's paradise.
The Gauteng province may be South Africa's smallest province, but a large percentage of the South African population live in Gauteng. Johannesburg is the capital of Gauteng and is part of the larger Witwatersrand urban area. Pretoria, the other metropolis, is the administrative capital of South Africa. Benoni, Boksburg, Germiston, Krugersdorp, Soweto, Springs and Vanderbijlpark are the other main urban areas in Gauteng. Gauteng can be seen as the heart of South Africa, as its mines, factories and services deliver more than 30% of South Africa's gross domestic product. Although gold mining is not the main role player in the economy of Johannesburg anymore, it still delivers approximately 500 tons of gold annually. Gauteng is in a summer rainfall area, where thunderstorms occur in the late afternoons from November to March. The annual rainfall of Johannesburg is 515mm per year. Although Gauteng is quite close to the equator, the temperatures are moderate because of the high altitude above sea level. Johannesburg is 1763m above sea level and experiences sunny winter days with cool to cold temperatures during winter nights.
The KwaZulu-Natal province is often called the “Garden of South Africa”. Tropical and subtropical regions fall within the boundaries of this beautiful province which has for years been a favorite amongst the travelers of South Africa. A visit to KwaZulu-Natal should include the Drakensberg, a mountain range 1046km long that lies on South Africa's western border with Lesotho. The uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a world heritage site well known for its beautiful mountain scenery and San rock paintings, also lies within this area. Some of the peaks in the Drakensberg Mountains are higher than 3000m and are often covered with snow in the winter. The Greater St. Lucia Lake (also a world heritage site), the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Mkuze Reserve and Ithala Park are some of the large conservation areas you can visit while you travel through KwaZulu-Natal. The subtropical and tropical vegetation is often very dense because of the humid conditions. Beautiful beaches are found on the coastline, which borders the Indian Ocean on the eastern side.
The KwaZulu-Natal province is the second largest contributor to the South African economy. Pietermaritzburg and Ulundi are joint capitals of KwaZulu-Natal. Other important urban centers include Durban, Pinetown and Richards Bay. Forestry, sugar, tropical and subtropical fruit, dairy products and cattle are the main agricultural industries of KwaZulu-Natal. Tourism and marine services are the most important tertiary activities. IsiZulu, English and Afrikaans are the main languages spoken. Many diverse flavors contribute to KwaZulu-Natal's blend of culture, which is historically influenced by British colonialism, Indian slavery and the interaction between the Zulus and the Boers.
The Limpopo province garners its name from the Limpopo River, which forms South Africa's northern border. Limpopo is known for its contrasts - there are mountains, lush forests, plantations as well as wilderness areas and farms. A large portion of the Kruger National Park is in Limpopo, and together with game farms and private game reserves, visitors will find a great deal of game in Limpopo and this is what makes it such a popular travel destination. Limpopo is the gateway to Africa, as it borders the countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Polokwane, once known as Pietersburg, is the capital city. Other important urban centers include Bela-Bela (Warmbaths), Makhado (Louis Trichardt), Makopane (Potgietersrus), Mussina (Messina), Phalaborwa and Thabazimbi. The population of 5.5 million mainly speaks Sepedi, Xitsonga and Tshivenda. The Limpopo Province falls in the summer rainfall region of South Africa. Thunderstorms occur often in the late afternoons from November to March. Polokwane's annual rainfall is 478mm. The winters are temperate with cool nights, while the summer temperatures in the low-lying areas are high to very high.
Mpumalanga means 'area of the rising sun'. The Kruger National Park and many private game reserves are situated in the Mpumalanga province. The Transvaal Drakensberg runs from north to south through Mpumalanga and forms part of the great escarpment. The terrain of Mpumalanga varies. On the western side of the escarpment, you will find the Highveld, with its grasslands and on the eastern side the Lowveld, with its subtropical savanna plains. Tourism is an important part of the economy of the Mpumalanga province. Coal mining, petroleum manufacturing, steel factories and forestry also contribute to the BNP. The population of 3.3 million speaks SiSwati, IsiZulu, IsiNdebele and English. The capital city is Nelspruit. Other urban centers include Middelburg, Witbank, Bethal, Barberton, Ermelo, Piet Retief, Secunda and Standerton. You will find that summers can be very hot in Mpumalanga, especially in the Lowveld. Winter temperatures are moderate to high. On the Highveld, the winter nights can be quite cold, with frost. The annual rainfall of Nelspruit is 767mm and often occurs in the form of thunderstorms.
The Northern Cape province lies east of the Atlantic Ocean. Its capital, Kimberley, is located more than 900km from the shoreline. Its surface area makes the Northern Cape province one of South Africa's largest provinces, but it carries the smallest population. The Orange River is the only prominent geomorphologic phenomenon - the landscape otherwise is very flat and, because of the low rainfall, the vegetation is very sparse. The largest part of the Northern Cape province falls within the Nama-Karoo biome - low shrubland and grass. The Augrabies Falls National Park was established to preserve the impressive waterfall and ravine of 18km. One can see large salt pans on the west central plains when one travels the Northern Cape province. The Orange River supplies much-needed water and irrigation schemes alongside the river produce cotton, maize, peanuts, lucerne, dates and grapes. The dry coastal plain, known as Namaqualand, turns into a wonderland of wild flowers each spring, which is a worthwhile reason to travel to the Northern Cape province.
The North West province lies on the border of Botswana in the north and Witwatersrand in Gauteng in the east. When traveling through the North West province, you will find grasslands and savanna vegetation which are ideal for cattle farming. Maize, peanuts, sunflowers and wheat are produced by crop farmers. Tobacco, cotton, subtropical fruit, oranges, peaches, vegetables and flowers are also produced in North West. The platinum mines of the Rustenburg region are the largest producers of platinum in the world. Gold, diamonds, marble and fluorspar are also mined in North West. Most industries are mining-related. The North West province falls within the summer rainfall region of South Africa. The rainfall decreases from east to west. Mafikeng's annual rainfall is 539mm per year. The rainfall occurs often in the form of late afternoon thundershowers. The summers are warm to very hot, while the winter days are sunny and temperate and the winter nights are cool to cold. Visit the Sun City entertainment resort, one of the country's most popular tourist destinations.
The Free State province lies between the Vaal River in the north and the Orange River in the south. This province lies central on the interior plateau of South Africa and is characterized by its grass plains and dolerite hills. On the south-eastern border are the mountains of Lesotho. The eastern highlands are well-known for their beautiful sandstone formations in hues of yellow, brown, orange and pink. Some of South Africa's most valued San rock paintings are found in the Free State. Bloemfontein is the capital of the Free State. It also houses the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa. The Free State province is in the summer rainfall region of South Africa. Bloemfontein receives 559mm rain annually. The summers are temperate to warm, and the winters are dry and sunny, but the winter nights are cold.
When traveling in the Western Cape, you will find an area where agriculture flourishes in sheltered valleys. Rivers such as the Berg, Breede and Olifants sustain wheat, fruit and wine production. Travel to the Western Cape to see the floral kingdom, locally known as fynbos, which contains more plant species than the whole of Europe and is one of the six floral kingdoms of the world. The Knysna-Tsitsikamma region hosts the country's largest indigenous forests. Tourism contributes 13% of the GDP of the Western Cape. The population mainly speaks Afrikaans, English and IsiXhosa. Cape Town is the largest and the capital city of the province. Other important urban centers include Stellenbosch, George, Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Hermanus, Paarl, Wellington, Mossel Bay, Worcester and Beaufort West. The western and southwestern parts of the province enjoy a Mediterranean climate, with dry, warm and often windy summers and cool wet winters. The annual rainfall of Cape Town is 515mm. The coastal plain in the east gets rain throughout the year, with the highest rainfall in winter. The plants in the Karoo are adapted to dry conditions due to the small amount of rain.
Travel to South Africa for a remarkably diverse vacation experience.
Botswana is one of the top African travel destinations for an authentic safari.
Namibia travel typically focuses on exhilarating desert safari activities.
Zambia is home to the Victoria Falls and outstanding safari areas like South Luangwa.
Travel to Zimbabwe for a superior perspective of the astonishing Victoria Falls.
Mozambique travel comprises remote beaches and distant archipelagos.