Introducing South Africa

From breathtaking views to famous historical sites - discover some of South Africa's renowned locations

By South African Tourism

The Cape Peninsula
At Africa’s southern tip, the Cape Peninsula extends some 30 miles from Cape Town in the north to the Cape of Good Hope at its southwestern-most point, where we are now.

Ancestors of the Khoikhoi, a nomadic herding people, may have lived in the region for hundreds of years before European settlement.

The first European settlers were employees of the Dutch East India Company, which in 1652 established a fort at the foot of Table Mountain, where Cape Town is now located.

The Cape of Good Hope

In 1487, Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias set forth to discover the southern limits of Africa. He first saw the Cape of Good Hope in May 1488, on his return voyage to Portugal. Some say that Dias named it Cape of Storms and that John II of Portugal later named it the Cape of Good Hope; others say that Dias himself called it the Cape of Good Hope.

Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve
Established in 1939, the nature reserve encompasses the southernmost tip of the Cape Peninsula, including the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. Now part of Table Mountain National Park.

Now part of Table Mountain National Park, the reserve is home to hundreds of species of birds, various kinds of antelopes, baboons, and Cape Mountain zebras.

False Bay
The western coast of Cape Peninsula faces the Atlantic Ocean; its eastern coast faces False Bay. Due to the Indian Ocean's influence, the water here is 10°F/5.6°C warmer than the Atlantic coast and are home to an array of marine species including whales, dolphins and great white sharks.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Found just 8 miles south of Cape Town center, next to Table Mountain National Park the botanical garden was established in 1913. It is one of the world’s largest botanical gardens. Of its 528 hectares, only 36 are cultivated. On the remaining land, native fynbos and forest grow naturally. Kirstenbosch was the first botanical garden to be dedicated primarily to the indigenous flora of one country and now, with Table Mountain National Park, it forms part of the Cape Floral Region Protected Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Climate
The southwest coast of South Africa has a Mediterranean climate; hot, dry summers and short, cool, wet winters. Sheltered on side of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch sees more rain than elsewhere on the peninsula, with an average of 42 rainy days in the winter months (June, July, August).

The Flora
The Cape Floral Region has been recognized as one of six floral kingdoms in the world. Where other floral kingdoms encompass entire continents, the Cape Floral Region is found only along the southwestern coast of South Africa.

Despite its relatively tiny area, the biodiversity of the region is extraordinary and distinct. Of its 1,500 floral genera, 30 percent are native to the region alone. Fynbos vegetation, characterized by evergreen shrubs, predominates.

Table Mountain
The eastern slopes of Table Mountain (named from its distinctive flat top, as viewed from Cape Town) rise above Kirstenbosch.

Its sandstone cliffs are remnants of a once massive mountain chain, formed by the continental collisions that created Pangaea hundreds of millions of years ago.

Robben Island

From 1948 until the adoption of a new constitution in 1994, the policy of apartheid (an Afrikaans word meaning ‚”apartness”) sanctioned racial segregation and discrimination against non-whites throughout South Africa. During this time (from the mid-1960s to 1991), South Africa’s maximum-security prison was located on Robben Island. 

Many anti-apartheid leaders were imprisoned there, including future South African president Nelson Mandela, from 1964 until 1982. Robben Island is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, whose buildings‚ bear witness to the triumph of democracy and freedom over oppression and racism.

Maximum-Security Prison
Robben Island was used as a prison from the time of Dutch settlement. Strong ocean currents made it difficult for prisoners to escape. The maximum-security prison was built in the early 1960s.

In addition to a hospital, kitchen, dining hall, and administration sections, the prison includes several general cells and an isolation block with about 90 single cells.

Many anti-apartheid leaders were held in these isolation cells. After 1991, political prisoners were no longer held on Robben Island. Today, several of these former political prisoners lead visitors on tours of the island where they once were inmates.

Table Bay and Murray's Bay Harbor
Robben Island is located 6 miles north of Cape Town, in Table Bay. Until the Dutch began to settle the Cape, the island served as a stopping place for European sailors.

Visitors to the island now disembark at Murray’s Bay Harbour, at the same quay where prisoners once arrived.

The Buildings and Slate Wall
The caretaking and presentation of Robben Island is now the responsibility of Robben Island Museum, a public entity. This responsibility is considerable: hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the island every year.

The buildings that these visitors first pass upon arrival to the island are where prisoners once visited family or met with lawyers. Like the maximum security prison itself, the wall was built by prisoners in the 1960s. It blocks the view of Table Mountain.

Ellis Park Stadium

South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup, holding the final in Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg. In South Africa, rugby is predominantly a white Afrikaner sport. During the apartheid era, black South Africans typically rooted for whoever was playing against the national team, the Springboks...

...But Nelson Mandela, elected president in 1994, seized the opportunity to unite the country, both black and white, to cheer for the Springboks on their home turf in the World Cup.

Nelson MandelaOriginal Source: Paul Weinberg / South Photos

Author John Carlin, who wrote a book about this event, calls Mandela’s achievement‚ ”the most unlikely exercise in political seduction ever undertaken.”

The Pitch
Mandela courted both sides. He had tea with Francois Pienaar, the Springbok captain. He persuaded his black supporters that (as he later put it to Carlin), ”the Boks belonged to all of us now”.

Rugby World cup final (1995-06-24) by Paul Velasco /Picture net AfricaThe Nelson Mandela Foundation

Then, in the minutes before South Africa met New Zealand in the World Cup Final on June 24, 1995, Mandela went on the pitch wearing the green Springbok jersey.

Joel Stransky (1995-01-01)Original Source: To download a photograph click here

The Stands
More than 60,000 spectators, the vast majority of them white, sat in the stands that day. As Mandela shook hands with the players, the crowds chanted, "Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!”

South Africa went on to a 15‚ 12 victory in extra time. “We didn’t have the support of 63,000 South Africans today” said Pienaar afterward. “We had the support of 42 million.”

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