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At the southernmost end of the African continent lies a country of diverse cultures and beautiful natural splendour. With hundreds of different cultures mingling in a country that encompasses bone-dry deserts, lush coastal plains, ore-rich mines and endless savannah, it is no wonder South Africa is known as the Rainbow Nation.
South Africa is large country that spans over 1 219 912 km². Within its borders live 48.8 million residents not counting refugees. Black Africans make up the majority of the population with 79%. This is not a homogeneous group, however, but includes peoples from various different ethnic backgrounds both native to South Africa and not. The white population makes up 9.6% of the population and are descended from various European lines. The coloured, or mixed race, people make up about 8.9% and are primarily of San descent. The Asian population, both Indian and Far Eastern, account for the last 2.5% of the population.
These different peoples all have their own cultures within the large South African culture that binds the people together. This diversity is also why South Africa is one of the countries with the most official languages: a total of 11! The official languages of South Africa are Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. While not official, Fanagalo, Khoe, Lobedu, Nama, Northern Ndebele, Phuthi, San and South African Sign Language are also recognised as languages of South Africa and in locations where they are prevalent have the status of an official language.
Within all these languages, English is the most common language for business and education even though only a small majority of about 8% of the population actually speak English as a first language.
Like its people, South Africa's geography is a mixture of different landscapes that flow into one another. The eastern reaches of the country start at the southern edge of the Namib desert and move east through the Kalahari and south through the Karoo. Heading further south the rainfall increases to form the lush Garden route. Following the coast to the west and Table Mountain, the weather changes into an African Mediterranean with wet winters and warm, dry summers. Here the famous fynbos grows in profusion and the grapes for famous South African wines grow fat in the African Sun.
From the coastal plain of the east coast, the land rises up into the Drakensberg and over a rocky escarpment into the high plateau of the Highveld. The plateau drops off to the north into the lower areas of the bushveld where mixed dry forests are home to multitudes of African wildlife. South of the Highveld the land turns lush and green in the foothills of mountains.
Summers in South Africa are hot with frequent thunderstorms in the afternoons – especially on the northern plateaus where the air is dry. Winters are mild with cold nights. Along the coast, the winter brings wind lashed rains. South Africa is also one of the few places in Africa where one can find snow in winter that is not just on the peaks of mountains.
South Africa is a premier place to see the Big 5 and many other African wildlife. From the comfort of luxurious lodges or rugged camps, visitors can come face to face with some of the most iconic animals of the African wilds. But, South Africa is a country steeped in history and visitors can visit the sites of the first human civilisations in Africa, the magnificent Table Mountain, the verdant woodlands of Knysna and rustic villages where people combine modern luxury with traditional simplicity.
South Africa is not just an adventure, it's an experience.