Getting ready for a South African tour, but not quite sure what goes where? If it’s your first time preparing for a trip to SA, the geography can be a little confusing. You may be wondering if Cape Town is the capital. Or if the Karoo is a province. And how we keep the lions from interfering with traffic. All kidding aside, here’s a little geography lesson. We promise to keep it brief.
Where is South Africa?
The Republic of South Africa is pretty easy to find on a map. It’s way down below at the bottom of the African continent. It shares borders with the African countries Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The country has a very long coastline – 2789 km along the Indian and South Atlantic Ocean. These two oceans meet at the tip of Africa. This unique geographical location can cause extreme weather conditions and it’s why the Cape Peninsula near Cape Town is sometimes called the Cape of Storms.
Good to know! South Africa and Southern Africa are two different things. South Africa is a country. Southern Africa refers to the entire southern region of the African continent. This generally includes Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
What’s up with the three capital cities? And where are the major airports?
Leave it up to a headstrong nation to choose no less than THREE capitals. Pretoria is the executive capital. Bloemfontein is the judicial capital. Cape Town is the legislative capital. It won’t be important to your travels, but it does make for some interesting dinner conversation. South Africa’s two major airports are Cape Town International in Cape Town (Western Cape), and OR Tambo International in Johannesburg (Gauteng).
How is the country divided up?
South Africa has nine provinces. Each province has its own democratically elected body of representatives. It also differs widely in terms of economy, climate and landscape. Here is a quick, very simplified look at the nine provinces:
But wait, what is the Karoo? And where is the Garden Route?
If you’ve read through our South African tour itineraries, you would have noticed a few regions that aren’t provinces. This can be a little confusing, we know. To clarify, as with any other country, there are parts of South Africa that are referred to as a whole, without that area actually being a legislative unit.
For instance, on tour we visit the Garden Route. This is a stretch of the south-western coast of South Africa. It reaches from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape. It is called the Garden Route because this area is very green and there are lots of forests, which are rare in South Africa. We also travel to the Karoo, which is even harder to define, because its boundaries aren’t set in stone. Instead, the term refers to a vast area of land that shares common characteristics in terms of geology and climate. Simply put – it’s arid and dry, with extreme temperatures. We realise this doesn’t sound very appealing. But you’ll see, the Karoo is an acquired taste. It gets under your skin with its stark beauty.
So there you have it. Cape Town is one of three capital cities. The Karoo is semi-desert natural region, not a province. And the lions are mostly safely contained in our national parks. Although they break out now and again to keep things interesting! Keep your eye on the blog as we share more info about South Africa and what you can expect on tour. There’s plenty to get excited about, and we look forward to telling you more.