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South Africa Travel Information
Background and History of South Africa
South Africa is an exhilarating, spectacular and complex country. It has become a favorite holiday destination, due to its constantly improving infrastructure, mild climate and amazing wildlife.
As a backdrop to all this, South Africa continues to go through huge upheavals as it comes to terms with democracy. Democracy ended the `apartheid` era, but government still has to contend with pressing problems like increasing crime, housing backlogs, poverty and AIDS. It is both an invigorating and challenging time for South Africa, and a great time to visit and observe this metamorphosis first hand Southern Africa has an old and rich history, guaranteed to enthrall tourists with its stories of racial conflict and reconciliation.
Today, South Africa is viewed as a single nation who has realized its dream of unity and common purpose. Tourists are able to interact with different cultures who successfully overcame massive obstacles and tremendous diversity. Each culture has a story to tell, and people are generally quite happy to share their personal view and experiences of South Africa`s history.
Dutch settlers in Cape Town established control over the southern tip of South Africa about 300 years ago by driving out the Khoikhoi (also known as Hottentots) and San (Bushmen).
The British gained control of the Cape of Good Hope at the end of the 18th century. Beginning in 1836, partly to escape British rule and partly out of resentment at the recent abolition of slavery, many Afrikaner farmers (Boers) undertook a northern migration that became known as the "Great Trek." They came into contact with the Zulu tribes, who were coming from the east. A series of wars broke out, ending in the defeat of the Zulus at Blood River.
1878: The British also fought the Zulus and defeated them the following year
1899 - 1902: The British and the Afrikaners engage in the South African War (also known as the Boer War). The Afrikaners are defeated
1910: The British and Boer lands were united to form the present-day South Africa
1912: The South Africa Native National Congress was founded in Bloemfontein. It eventually became known as the African National Congress (ANC). Its goals were the elimination of restrictions based on colour and the enfranchisement of and parliamentary representation for blacks. Despite these efforts the government continued to pass laws limiting the rights and freedom of blacks
1948: The National Party (NP) won the all-white elections and began passing legislation enforcing an even stricter policy of white domination and racial separation known as "apartheid" (separateness)
1960`s: 69 protesters were killed by police during a protest in Sharpeville and 180 injured. The ANC and Pan-African Congress (PAC) were banned, forcing them to go underground and fight apartheid through guerrilla warfare and sabotage. Nelson Mandela and many other anti-apartheid leaders were convicted and imprisoned on charges of treason
1990: State President F.W. de Klerk, who had come to power in September 1989, announced the unbanning of the ANC, the PAC, and all other anti-apartheid groups. Two weeks later, Nelson Mandela was released from prison
1994: The country`s first non-racial elections were held, resulting in the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president
1997: Nelson Mandela stepped down as President of the ANC. Thabo Mbeki assumed the leadership, and won the presidency of South Africa after national elections in 1999.
Mbeki shifted the focus of government from reconciliation to transformation, particularly on the economic front. He started focusing on bringing economic power to the black majority in South Africa, as well as political power.
People and Cultures
South Africa is one of the most diverse and enchanting countries in the world. Exotic combinations of landscapes, people, history and culture offer a larger-than-life experience for the traveler in search of a truly unique and inspiring experience.
Until 1991, South African law divided the population into four major racial categories: Africans (black), whites, Coloureds, and Asians. Although this law has been abolished, many South Africans still view themselves and each other according to these categories.
Africans comprise about 78% of the population and are divided into a number of different ethnic groups. Whites comprise about 10% of the population. They are primarily descendants of Dutch, French, English, and German settlers who began arriving at the Cape in the late 17th century. Coloureds (9%) are mixed-race people primarily descending from the earliest settlers and the indigenous peoples. Asians (3%) descend from Indian workers brought to South Africa in the mid-19th century to work on the sugar estates in Natal.
There are 11 official languages in South Africa. They are -
South African Culture
With a dynamic fusion of African, European and Asian influences, South Africa is a hotbed of originality and creativity. This is particularly evident in the music, which ranges from indigenous township rave music, known as kwaito, to world-renowned African jazz by such legendary talents as Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba.
Theatre, too, is alive and well, with sophisticated venues in each city presenting everything from the classics to homegrown drama, dance and comedy. A range of galleries, shops, studios and street side stalls exhibit traditional African art as well as contemporary fine art. But its people are South Africa`s greatest asset - and it is the interplay between its various cultures and the heritage of the individual and shared histories, which shapes the nation.
South African cuisine utilizes the natural bounty of the land and oceans in a heady mix of European, Asian and African ingredients and styles.
Geography of South Africa
South Africa`s vast landscape includes savannahs, snow-covered mountains, forests, tropical swamps, endless beaches, tranquil rivers and bustling urban epicenters.
It has a moderate climate, mostly semiarid. It is subtropical along the east coast, with sunny days and cool nights.
South Africa`s Economy
South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources. It has well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors. Its modern infrastructure supports an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region.
South Africa`s economy is in many areas highly developed. However, the exclusionary nature of apartheid and distortions caused in part by the country`s international isolation until the 1990s, have left major weaknesses. The economy is now in a process of transition as the government seeks to address the inequities of apartheid, stimulate growth, and create jobs.
Business, meanwhile, is becoming more integrated into the international system, and foreign investment has increased dramatically over the past several years. Still, the economic disparities between population groups are expected to persist for many years, remaining an area of priority attention for the government.
Yellow Fever Vaccination
International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever is required upon arrival if traveling from a country that is a yellow fever endemic area (that is mainly the yellow fever belt of Africa and South America). We recommended that you have the required inoculations four to six weeks before you travel to South Africa, as a yellow fever inoculation certificate only becomes valid 10 days after inoculation!) .
Malaria exists in rural areas and game parks. Namely Kruger National Park, The Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo as well as the Northern part of KwaZulu-Natal, especially during summer months.
Consult your doctor or a specialist travel clinic for the latest advice concerning malaria prophylaxis, as it changes regularly.
Whether you take oral prophylaxis or not it is strongly suggested to take the following precautions:
- Always use mosquito repellent
- Wear long pants, closed shoes and light long-sleeved shirts at night
- Sleep under a mosquito net in endemic areas (The anopheles mosquito, which carries malaria, operates almost exclusively after dark).
- It is advisable to avoid malarial areas if you are pregnant.
Hepatitis B inoculations are recommended for children up to the age of 12 who have not completed the series of injections as infants. Booster doses for tetanus and measles can also be administered as precaution.
For further detailed and most updated information please contact your nearest Travel Clinic.
Medical facilities in cities and larger towns are world-class but in the more rural areas the clinics and hospitals deal only with primary health needs.
Contact the South African Home Affairs pages for further up to date information on whether or not a visa is required.
The general requirements needed to enter South Africa include:
- A valid acceptable passport or travel document good for a sufficient period to cover the intended stay.
- A valid visa, if required.
- Sufficient funds.
- A return or onward ticket
- Yellow fever certificates are required if the journey starts or entails passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America.
ORTI International Airport
O.R. Tambo International Airport being the Transport Hub of Southern Africa with more than 17 million passengers each year. With more than 18,000 people employed by various companies at ORTIA thus contributing an important role in the city`s and Gauteng province`s economy. The airport boasts an impressive infrastructure and has expanded by thousands of square metres from its modest origins.
O.R. Tambo International Airport is undergoing a R3 billion overhaul to gear up for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, ever-increasing passenger numbers and new-generation aircraft.
Cape Town International Airport
Cape Town International Airport is South Africa`s second largest airport. Its service ranks among the highest in the world and has earned the World Travel Award for Africa’s leading airport for the last seven years running. As a tourist’s first encounter with South Africa, often en route to the numerous attractions of the Western Cape, the airport plays an important representative role. Substantial progress has been made with the new terminal development at CTIA known as `Terminal 2010`.
The Road infrastructure in South Africa is good, so driving is optional mode of transport in the central areas , so driving is a viable option but do keep in mind South African is a huge country so journeys need to be planned carefully to avoid long traveling distances.
Most of South Africa’s national roads are tarred and in good condition, the more rural the road, the more likely it is to be pot-holed and poorly surfaced. In many of these rural areas are not fenced so you come across dogs, chickens, sheep and even horses or cows on the road , so be aware and avoid driving through these areas at dark as well as for safety reasons.
Many of the national roads between the major cities are toll roads. So check the toll fees before you leave, and make sure that you have either a credit card or cash to pay. Toll fares for a light passenger vehicle vary from R2.50 to R46.00.
Current map and road information can be obtained through (AA) Automobile Association of South Africa.
Public Transport is not most reliable form of transport. We recommend you confirm and book your transport with private transport companies in advance or before your travels. Taxi’s are available at airport and major city centres.
South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road and our vehicles are right hand drive cars. All distances, speed limits (and speedometers) are in kilometres.
Any valid driver’s license is accepted provided it bears the photograph and signature of the holder and is printed in English.
South African petrol stations are not self-help: an attendant will fill the car, check oil and water and tire pressure and, if necessary, clean the windscreen – for which he or she will expect a tip of two or three rand.
South African Accommodation Standards
South Africa offers a wide variety of accommodation to suit everyone’s interests and budgets.
From 5 stars graded hotels to the more budget conscious 2 Star hotels, Game Lodges, Country Lodges, Bush Lodges, Bed and Breakfast establishments and Self Catering.
Most are graded and passed through the Southern African grading council.
Major Cities and Attractions
Cape Town – “Mother City” VA Waterfront, Robben Island, Table Mountain, Cape Peninsula and surrounding Winelands.
Johannesburg – “Jozi” Cultural Villages, Gold Reef City , Art and Craft Markets, The Cradle of Human Mankind , Hartebeespoort Dam and nearby Sun City and Los City Kingdom.
Pretoria - Union and Govermental Building City Centre, Cullinan Diamond Mining, Dinokeng (North of Pretoria) Game Reserve
Durban & surrounds – Ushaka Marine World, Deep See Fishing, Zulu Cultural Experiences, Game Reserve, Midlands Meander and Battlefields.
Mpumalanga – Kruger National Park, Panorama Scenic Route, Animal Rehabilitation and Wildlife Centres, Walking Safaris and Big 5 Experiences
Limpopo – Mapungubwe Heritage Site, Big 5 Safaris in the Waterberg and Welgevonden Reserves and Cultural Experience
Northern Cape - Kalahari Desert Experiences and 4 x 4 and adventure trails
Eastern Cape – Malaria Free Big 5 Game Reserves and Coastal Adventures and Activities.
The more internationally known and popular wildlife reserves are highly recommended.
- Great Kruger National Park and neighboring Lowveld reserves
- Marakele National Park
- Welgevonden Game Reserve
- Madikwe Game Reserve
- Pilansberg Game Reserve
- Shamwari Game Reserve
- Addo Elephant Park
- Hluluhwe and Umfolozi Game Parks
- Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park and Mkuze Game Reserve
- Ponglola Game Reserve
- Tswala Desert Reserve
- Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
- Garden Route Game Reserves – Wilderness, Tsitsikamma
- Phinda Game Reserve
Short List of preparations and important information:
To help you pack and prepare for your Journey here is a Short List to assist you and bringing your attention to the important facts to remember:
- Passports and visa if applicable in order for travel.
- If traveling to Malaria Area – recommended prophylaxis to be taken
- Set your watches - South Africa operates two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year, making it an hour ahead of Central European Winter Time, seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Winter Time and seven hours behind Australian Central Time.
- Money unit is the Rand ( R ) with 100 cents making up R1. Foreign Currency can be exchanges at local banks and Bureau De Changes. Most Major international credit cards are widely accepted unless you are traveling to more remote areas.
- Taxes - (VAT) Value added tax is charged on most items. Foreign Tourists can have their 14% VAT refunded provided the value of items purchased exceed R250. VAT is refunded at the point of departure – receipts are required.
- Electricity supply is 220/230 volts. Most plugs have tree rounds pins but some plugs with 2 smaller pins can be found on appliances. Bring your adapters should you require.
- Drinking tap water as a rule is safe to drink in South Africa as it is treated free of harmful microorganisms, however drinking water it is more frequently becoming a habit of purchasing bottled water.
- Tipping, most restaurants do not add a service charge to bills (but first check) therefore is customary to leave 10 to 15% tips. Parking and Petrol attendants are also often tipped small change of whatever you may have (R2/R5) and is always appreciated.
- What to wear - Summer months – lightweight (cottons and Linens), short sleeve clothes are best, although do pack a light jersey /jacket for cooler evenings. Raincoats/umbrellas needed for summers as well as Cape winters. Warm clothing required for winter months.
South Africa offers a range of diverse options, from rustic cultural experiences to 5 star world class services, the cradle of humankind and the hub of Africa - here we are in all our glory!
Travel safely and welcome to our wonderful world!
Please don't hesitate to contact us directly, we have visited here previously and are able to provide you with up to date information at any time.