South African Tourism Board
Private Bag X 16 Pretoria 0001
Tel: (012) 3470600 - Fax: (012) 454889
South Africa

South Africa - the ultimate destination

Nestling at the southern tip of the African continent South Africa is one of most exciting tourism destinations in the world, known for its spectacular scenery, magnificent wildlife and incomparable climate. Close on 3,000 kilometres of coastline, majestic mountain ranges, towering forests and sparkling lakes provide ideal holiday venues, while picturesque villages and bustling cosmopolitan cities provide a host of other leisure options.

The scenic splendour of South Africa ranks as the number one attraction for many tourists. A visit to the southwestern Cape and the Garden Route is always a hit. Blessed with everything that is most impressive in nature, the encompasses spectacular mountains, a prodigious floral kingdom, quaint fishing harbours, broad white beaches and a sapphire sea. Cape Town is still regarded by many as the fairest city in all the world. Also Table Mountain and the winelands with their distinctive Cape-Dutch architecture never fail to impress.

Equally impressive are the magnificent Drakensberg mountains which run like a jagged spine from north to south - an unforgettable sight in every season and a must on any holiday itinerary. The floral spectacle of Namaqualand in spring when fields of brightly coloured flowers transform the otherwise drab countryside and the spectacular Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga will enthral even the most well-travelled visitor while the rugged beauty to the northern Cape and the water wonderland of Lake St Lucia frequented by thousands of flamingos and pelicans in season must not be overlooked. The tranquil beaches, rocky shores and charming seaside resorts which line the coastline from Mozambique in the east to the mouth of the Orange River on the west coast are ever-popular, year-round holiday destinations.

As a destination for ecotourists and adventure travellers, South Africa has few rivals. Renowned for its conservation efforts long before it became fashionable, the country boasts a large number of game reserves inhabited by a wealth of animals and close on 900 bird species. Covering a total area of some 8,000,000 hectares these reserves, of which the best known is the Kruger National Park, will introduce you to the essence of Africa. The excitement of encountering the 'Big Five', often in the space of one day, is something one doesn't easily forget. And once you've spotted elephant, lion, buffalo and rhino, the many other species will be no less impressive. Whether you choose to rough it close to nature or join the jet set on safari in luxurious private game reserves, an incomparable experience awaits. For those who seek outdoor adventure, ballooning, bunjee jumping, white water rafting, mountaineering, microliting, hiking and hunting are but some of the options available.

And then, of course, there are the people - friendly, hospitable folk from diverse cultural heritages with their unique and wonderful lifestyles. Experience the magic of the South African cultural kaleidoscope as reflected in the history, art, architecture, music and theatre of the land. Cultural villages expose you to customs and ancient rituals, traditional handicrafts and the fascinating African way of life. The country's multicultural mix is also reflected in its cuisine. Traditional Cape Malay dishes, spicy Indian curries as well as African, Italian, French, English Portuguese, Greek, German, Chinese and Japanese gastronomic delights feature on menus throughout the country.

For those in search of an urban adventure cities as sophisticated as anywhere in the world provide a host of leisure options including exciting shopping opportunities and a lively night life. Accommodation is varied and the standard high. Whether you require idyllic rural surroundings or the fast life of the urban jungle, a wide range of top-class accommodation is available and you can be sure of a warm welcome and service, excellent food and fine wines.

Getting to South Africa is simple. The country is well-served by national carrier and various international airlines. Once there, comprehensive and reliable public road, rail and air transport is available. You may even prefer the romance and nostalgia of steam. South Africa is one of the few remaining countries where steam locomotives are still in use on a large scale. The handsomely restored vintage steam locomotives and beautifully refurbished coaches of Rovos Rail provide luxury on wheels along particular tourist routes. The world-famous Blue Train runs between Pretoria and Cape Town and Pretoria and Nelpruit, gateway to the Kruger National Park.

Whether you choose to relax close to nature, soak up the sun, enjoy the cultural and urban delights of this many-faceted country, South Africa has everything you're looking for - and more. In its landscapes, people, wildlife and quality tourist infrastructure, there is no equal on the continent.

Physical geography

The Republic of South Africa covers an area of 1,123,226km2. It is bounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, its land boundaries being South West Africa (Namibia), Botswana, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.


The greatest single factor climatically is that over 40 per cent of the total area lies more than 1,220m above sea level. The average number of hours of sunshine per day throughout the year varies from 7.5 to 9.4, compared with 3.8 in London and 6.9 in New York. The days are sunny all year round and winter compares favourably with the European summer as far as temperatures are concerned. Mean annual temperature: 17-21 °C.

Economic geography

The deposits of manganese ore in the Northern Cape are the largest proven reserve base in the world. South Africa also has substantial reserves of other industrially important metals and minerals. In 1994 mining contributed about 8.7 per cent to the gross domestic product, while mineral export sales accounted for 48.1 per cent of the export revenue. Gold is the main source of foreign currency and South Africa is the world's largest producer of gold, with an annual production of more than 600t. Wool is South Africa's second largest agricultural export after maize. Agriculture, forestry and fishing combine contribute to five per cent of the GDP.


The total population statistics, according to the 1995 mid-year estimates is 4t 244,000 including the former homelands - Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Ciskei and Venda.

A brief history

1652: Hollander Jan van Riebeeck establishes victualling station at Table Bay for ships of the Dutch East India Company. 1688: First Huguenot settlers arrive from France. 1814: Holland cedes the Cape to Britain. 1820: 5,000 British settlers arrive at Port Elizabeth to stabilise frontier of Cape Colony. 1836: Great Trek from Eastern Cape into interior. 1857: Settlement of 'German Legion' in Kaffaria. 1867: First diamond discovered near Hopetown. 1886: Gold discovered on the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg founded. 1899-1902: War between Britain and the Republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State. 1910: Constitution of the Union of South Africa. 1961: South Africa became a Republic on 31 May. 1976: Soweto riots, 1990: ANC, PAC and the South African Communist Party SACP are unbanned. Nelson Mandela is released from prison after 27 years. 1994: ANC: wins the country's first non-racial election and Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as SA's first black president, South Africa rejoins Commonwealth, reclaims its seat it the UN General Assembly.


Some 80 per cent of the population in South Africa professes the Christian faith. Other major religious groups are the Hindus, Muslims and Jews. The largest grouping of Christian churches is the African Independent Churches. The Dutch Reform churches are next which according to a census, represent more than three million people. The Roman Catholic Church is the third largest denomination, other established churches include the Methodist Church, the Anglican Church, the various Lutheran and Presbyterian churches and the Congregational Church.

Languages spoken by nationals

South Africa has 11 official languages: English, Afrikaans, Ndebel, North Sotho, South Sotho, Swai, Tsona, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. English is widely spoken throughout the country (except in the remote rural areas) and is regarded as the country's lingua franca. English will be found on road signs and official notices.


Standard Time in South Africa throughout the year is two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time, one hour in advance of British Standard Time and mid-European Time, and seven hours in advance of Eastern Standard Time, USA.


The currency unit in South Africa is the Rand, denoted by the symbol R, and R1 = 100 cents.

Official holidays (all offices and shops closed)

New Year's Day, 1 January - Human Right's Day, 21 March - Good Friday, 28 March - Family Day, 31 March - Freedom Day, 7 April -Workers' Day, 1 May - Youth Day, 16 June - National Women's Day, 9 August - Heritage Day, 14 September - Day of Reconciliation 16 December - 25 December, Christmas Day - 26 December, Day of Goodwill.

If any of these 12 public holidays fall on a Sunday the following Monday shall be a public holiday.

What one should not fail to see

Gauteng: Johannesburg, Gold Reef City, Heia Safari Game Ranch, Pretoria, Magaliesberg, Union Buildings, Cullinan Premier Diamond Mine.

Kwazulu Natal: Durban, South Coast, Pletermaritburg, Battlefields, Drakensburg Resorts, Itala Game Reserve, Phinda Resource Reserve, St Lucla Game Reserve Mumalana: Kruger National Park, Botshabelo Ndebele Village, Pilgrims fest, Blyderivierspoort Nature Reserve, Blyde River Canyon, God's Window.

Western Cape: Cape Peninsula, Winelands, Fruit Route, West Coast National Park, Hermanus, Wilderness National Park, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Swartberg Pass, Oudshoorn.

Eastern Cape: Port Elizabeth, Tsilsikamma National Park, Addo Elephant National Park, Grahamstown, Graaff Reinat, East London, Wild Coast.

Northern Cape: Kimberley, Augrabies Falls, Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, Springbok, Namaqualand.

North-West: Sun City and Lost City, Pilanesberi Game Reserve, Hartebeespoort Dam.

Northern Province: Kruger National Park, Potgietersrus Nature Reserve, Maoebaskloof, Hans Merensky Nature Reserve, Soutpansberg.

Orange Free State: William Pretorius Game Reserve, Highlands Route, Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

Tribal life

Gatauteng: Johannesburg: Hela Safari Ranch - African Dancing and Authentic Zulu Kraal accommodation; Lesedi Cultural Village - Visitors meet families of different tribes.

Mpumalanga: Botshabelo - Historical South Ndebele Village. Kwazulu Natal: Eshowe, Shakaland - Accommodation in Zulu huts, learn about Zulu traditions.

Freestate: Basotho Cultural Villa, learn about the customs, traditions and culture of the South Sotho people.

Northern Cape: Cedabera. Kaqqa Kamma Game Reserve, see the lifestyle and homes of the few remaining SA Bushmen.

Most favourable seasons for sojourns and touring

KwaZulu Natal: Sub-tropical climate. Coastal areas most popular seasons December/January, July/August, Easter. Drakensberg also popular, Seasons December/January and Easter.

Western Cape: Coastal region most popular seasons - December/January and Easter. Whale route popular in the winter. Eastern Cape: Coastal region most popular seasons - December/January and Easter.

Northern Cape: Wild Flower areas in the east are most popular in spring - August to September. Orange Tree State: Ficksburg Cherry Festival November and Golden Gate National Park -December/January and Easter.

Gauteng: Popular all year round, Johannesburg is a gateway to South Africa.

Mpumalanga: Game parks are popular all year round, particularly Kruger National Park. Eastern part (besides KNP) popular during holiday seasons.

Northern Province: game parks are popular all year round, particularly Kruger National Park. Northern areas popular during holiday seasons.

How to dress

Clothing is similar to that of southern Europe.

Main holiday resorts

Natal: South and North Coast. Sub tropical climate. Most popular: December/January - July/August - Easter.- Mountain Areas - Drakensberg. Most popular: December/January and Easter - Cape Province: Coastal Region from East London to Cape Town. Most popular: December/January and Easter - Orange Free State: mountain region on the Lesotho border, 'Golden Gate National Park'. Most popular: December/January and Easter. Transvaal: north and northeastern areas popular all year. Reservations always essential for the Kruger National Park: Park open throughout the year.

Main holiday sports

Coastal regions: swimming, surfing. water skiing, fishing, bowls, golf, tennis, yachting, squach. Inland: swimming, water skiing, fishing, bowls, golf, tennis, squash, horseback riding and hiking.

The climate allows all sports all year round.

What to eat and drink

Although eating habits in South Africa do not differ radically from those in European countries, the range of typically South African dishes will interest and intrigue the visitor.

The delectable Bobotie and Sosaties are spicy reminders of a food which the Cape Malays brought with them from the East. Biltong is a reminder of the pioneering days when meat - preferably venison - was dried. The wines rank among the world's best and are inexpensive.

What to buy

Tribal beadwork articles carved from indigenous woods; semi-precious stones, hand-woven mohair rugs, animal skins and articles made from these; also many high quality goods ranging from Swakara (Persian lamb) furs to gold and diamond jewellery.

Frontier formalities

Passports and visas

All visitors must possess a valid passport. Details of Visa requirements may be obtained from the nearest South African embassy or consular representative.

Health regulations

Vaccinations against cholera and smallpox are not required, but travellers from a yellow fever zone must have a valid certificate. Visitors to Mpumalanga, Northern Province and Northeast of Kwazulu Natal areas must take anti-malaria tablets.


On entry, goods must be declared to customs officials. Goods to the value of R 500. per person, but no more than the quantities mentioned below, are admitted free per person: 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 250gr tobacco, two1itres wine, one litre pirits (including liqueurs and cordials), 500ml. perfumed spirits and toilet waters.

Currency regulations

On entry there is no limitation on bringing into South Africa foreign bank notes, traveller's cheques or other instruments of payment, providing the amounts are declared. On leaving, the amount initially declared on entry, is the limit which applies to exportation. National bank notes issued by the South African Reserve Bank are limited to SAR500 per person on entry. For export, visitors are advised to limit their South African currency to SAR500 and less, as authorised dealers abroad are unlikely to accept South African Bank notes since dealers in South Africa will not repurchase such notes from foreign banks.

Main travel routes

Most tourists arrive at Jan Smuts International Airport and spend their first night in Johannesburg. DF Malan Airport in Cape Town and Louis Botha Airport at Durban are, however, also International airports. The usual itinerary includes visits to Kinherley, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Zululand, the Drakensberg Mountain resorts, Pretoria, Eastern Transvaal and Kruger National Park. Tourists arriving by sea at either Cape Town or Durban can join the circular tour of the Republic without difficulty.


Many interesting routes and rambles, eg, Jazz route, Whale route, Cheese route, many flea markets - arts and crafts, organic produce, antiques... Explore SA Culture Campaign 1997-1998.

Representatives abroad

South African Tourist Board offices abroad:

UK, Ireland and Scandinavia: No 5 & 6 Alt Grove, London SW19 4DZ, UK Tel: (181) 944 808, Fax: (181) 944 6705. E-mail:

Taiwan, Hong Kong: Room 1204, 12th Floor, Bank Tower Building, 205 Tun Hua North Roads, Taipei 10592, Taiwan ROC. Tel: (2) 717 4238, Fax: (2) 717 1146.

Germany: Postfach 101940 Frankfurt 60019, Germany, Tel: (69) 929 1290, Fax: (69) 28 0950, E-mail: 100705,

Canada: 4117 Lawrence Avenue East, Suite 2, Scarborough, Ontario M1E 2S2, Canada, Tel: (416) Z3 0563, Fax: (416 283 5465, E-Mail:

Japan; Akasaka Lions Building, 1-1-2 Moto Akasaka, Minato-Ku, Tokyo 107, Japan, Tel: (3) 3478 701, Fax: (3) 3418 7605, E-Mail.

Switzerland: Seestrasse 42, CH 8802 Kilchberg, Zurich, Switzerland Tel. (1) 7151815, Fax 7151089, E-Mail:

Italy: Via Durini 24, 20122 Milan, Italy Tel: (2) 794100, Fax: (2) 754 601

Israel/Turkey: PO Box 3388, Tel Aviv 61033, Israel, Tel: (3) 527 2950, Fax (3) 271858, E-Mail:

Eastern USA: 500 Fifth Avenue, 20th floor, Suite 2040, New York, NY 10110 USA, Tel: (212) 730 229, Fax: (212) 764 1980, E-Mail: satourn@aol com

Western USA: Suite 1524, 9841 Airport Bouevard, Los Angeles CA 90045, USA, Tel: (310) 641 444, Fax: (310) 641 5812

France: 61 Rue La Boetie, 75008 Paris, France, Tel: (1) 456 1097, Fax: (1) 456 10196

Benelux countries: Postbus 7360, 1070 AJ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Austria: Stefan-Zweig-Platz 11, A-1170, Vienna, Austria, Tel: (1) 4704 5110, Fax (1) 4704 5114

Zimbabwe: PO Box HG 1000, Highlands, Zimbabwe, Tel: (4) 7 6487, Fax: (4) 78 8489

We have been able to publish the present tourist information on South Africa thanks to the co-operation of South African Tourism Board.