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South Africa is a large country covering 1 233 404 square kilometres which has been divided into nine individual provinces.These range from the largest being the Northern Cape with 372 889 square kilometres to Gauteng with only 16 548 square kilometres. South Africa is bordered by Namibia, Bostwana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It also includes two independent countries which are the Kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland.
The country was divided into the current nine provinces in 1994 under the new democratic constitution. Prior to this, it was only divided into four provinces, being the Transvaal, Orange Free State, Natal and the Cape. The country is led by a president, currently Jacob Zuma. Zuma is the head of the Africa National Congress (ANC), which has been the elected party since the post apartheid elections in 1994.
English is the lingua franca of South Africa, despite this, there is a variation between the home languages of the individual provinces. Three main examples of this is that in KwaZulu-Natal, isiZulu is spoke by around 78% of people, in the Eastern Cape, isiXhoso is spoken by 80% while in the Western Cape, Afrikaans is the main language spoken by 49.7%.
Similar to many other African countries, there is a distinctive social stratification about South Africa's population. Population numbers are the generally well proportioned between the different provinces with the main exception being Gauteng. Gauteng is the smallest of the provinces, yet it has the third highest overall population, and the highest population density with an average of 675 people per square kilometre.
South Africa has three capitals: Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (administrative) and Bloemfontein (judicial).
South Africa's currency is the rand.
An important aspect to remember when travelling from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere and South Africa, is that the seasons are the opposite way around. It is winter in South Africa whilst it is summer in the Northern hemisphere.
South Africa is known for its long sunny days, with wide open blue skies and starry nights. This is especially evident in the Northern Cape. Most of the nine provinces have summer rainfall, except for the Western Cape, which experiences winter rainfall.
Tap water is usually of high quality and safe to drink in urban areas. It is advised to drink bottled water in remote areas, which is included in the costs of the trip.
Animals and Plants
In 1998 Conservation International declared South Africa one of the 17 megadiverse destinations in the world due to its rich biological diversity. There are countless National and Private game reserves which are home to animals such as the "Big Five", but also the numerous antelope, and smaller animals such as meerkats, honey badgers and bush babies. The oceans around the country are also rich in wildlife including the great white shark, the African Penguin and several dolphin species.
The South African electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ. Plug sockets through the country use triple round pin plugs.
South Africa’s three major international airports are OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg); Cape Town International Airport; and King Shaka International Airport (Durban). In addition to these, there are also a number of smaller, regional airports.
Many Western European countries and the USA do not require a visa to enter South Africa. You can either use the provided link to see if you require a visa (http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/immigration-services/exempt-countries) or please contact your nearest South African diplomatic mission. South Africa requires a valid yellow fever certificate from all foreign visitors and citizens over one year of age travelling from an infected area or having been in transit through infected areas. Infected areas include Zambia and Angola in southern Africa.
Throughout South Africa there are many world-class private hospitals and medical centres while many state hospitals also offer excellent care. Most of South Africa is malaria-free, with the exception of the Kruger National Park or low-laying regions of northern KwaZulu-Natal, which means prophylactic medication should be used in these locations. Please consult with your doctor before travelling to check if you require any more vaccinations in preparation for your trip.
Keep valuables locked away and don’t wear expensive watches or jewellery, flash expensive cameras, or walk in deserted areas. Keep car doors locked and windows closed at all times. If you are unsure of a situation, please speak to your guide.
All security measures will be taken while on the trip, but of course no guarantees can be made. It is advisable to you take out a travel health insurance and a bicycle insurance for the duration of the trip for in the unfortunate event that something does happen.