South Africa

Photo courtesy <a href=''>miquitos</a> Photo courtesy miquitos

South Africa has the perfect blend of ingredients to provide the ideal backdrop for any event: value, adventure, wildlife, magnificent scenery, an efficient infrastructure and rich cultural diversity. Few regions in the world can match the diversity, beauty and excitement you’ll find in South Africa.

South Africa has an outstanding track record of hosting events of global significance, such as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, International Aids Conference, World Conference on Racism and various medical congresses, and was host country to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.

Exceptional South Africans

Among the more famous sons and daughters of South Africa are:

Nelson Mandela

Photo courtesy <a href=''>MastaBaba</a> Photo courtesy MastaBaba

South Africa’s most famous son, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, is a world icon of statesmanship and national reconciliation. He is best known for his long struggle against apartheid, a system of white domination and racial segregation. A co-founder of the African National Congress Youth League, Mandela also founded the Defiance Campaign of 1952, based on Mohandas Ghandi’s principles of non-violence. In 1964 he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the apartheid government and sent to Robben Island. After his released in 1990, Mandela was central to the multi-party negotiations that led to democratic elections in South Africa in 1994. On May 10 of that year he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president. To this day, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate continues to work for the children and the poverty-stricken masses of South Africa.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

South African Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu is more recently famous for chairing South Africa’s ground-breaking Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the late 1990s. Known throughout his long career as a vocal, charismatic anti-apartheid spokesperson and former head of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, Tutu is one of South Africa’s most-loved citizens.

Nadine Gordimer

Described by her peers as a “colossus of South African literature”, Nadine Gordimer was the first South African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. A prolific writer of novels, short stories, essays and journalistic articles, Gordimer was one of the voices of protest during the apartheid years. She continues to practise her elegant craft.

Ernie Els

Affectionately nicknamed the “Big Easy” due to his calm demeanour, Ernie Els took the international golfing world by storm when, as a 24-year-old, he won the 1994 US Open. He has since evolved into one of the world’s top-ranking golfers, boasting a total of 35 international crowns, including two US Open titles and one British Open title (2002). Els’s name ranks alongside those of other South African sporting greats, such as golfer Gary Player and swimmers Ryk Neethling and Pennie Heyns. 

The South African people

South Africa is fondly known as the “Rainbow Nation” due to its cultural diversity. The population of South Africa comprises people of the San (or Bushman), Nguni, Sotho-Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Indian, Afrikaner, English and mixed origins, as well as immigrant communities from all over the world. South Africa is a true cultural melting pot.

The South African people have managed a remarkable transition, from living in a racially divided society to one that is founded on democratic principals. The way South Africans have worked to overcome historical racial divides has been lauded throughout the world. The people of South Africa continue to work together to develop and promote their country, recognising and celebrating difference and the diversity of cultures, languages and religion.

Photo courtesy <a href=''>flowcomm</a> Photo courtesy flowcomm

At least half of South Africa’s population is now officially urbanised. Interestingly though, a trend is developing where young urban families move from big cities to rural towns to live life on a more sustainable scale and get in touch with the Earth, simultaneously revitalising the countryside.


Our country is home to two of the world’s most profoundly compassionate philosophies – ubuntu and Gandhi’s notion of “passive resistance” (satyagraha), which he developed while living in South Africa. Ubuntu stresses the fact that all people are fundamentally connected; that we are human because of each other: “I am because you are”.

The Cederberg Mountain range in the Western Cape is called the biggest art gallery in the world, thanks to hundreds upon hundreds of ancient San/Bushman paintings. Bushman paintings make up the earliest rock art on the planet – some are tens of thousands of years old.

The country is a rich tapestry of European and African peoples blended into a single whole, but retaining the richness of their heritage and past within the mould of a vision for the future. Apart from great musicians such as Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and Johnny Clegg, our country boasts poets and writers such as Laurens van der Post and Credo Mutwa, visionaries for peace and Nobel peace-prize winners.

Exceptional land 

  • South Africa has the oldest meteor scar in the world, called the Vredefort Dome, which is found near the Free State town of Parys. The meteor plummeted to Earth nearly 2-billion years ago, predating the heady days of oxygen and multi-celled life. 
  • The rocks around Barberton, in the Mpumalanga province, are some of the most ancient in the world – more than 3-billion years old. Because they are also the most accessible such formations, NASA scientists come here to gain an idea of how life might form on distant planets.
  • South Africa is home to many ancient hominid fossil remains and the area just north of Johannesburg, known as the “Cradle of Humankind”, is a World Heritage Site. 
  • There are only 12 countries in the world where the tap water is fit to drink, and South Africa is one of the top three in terms of quality. 
  • Where else is an entirely new species being recreated from scratch? The kwagga, an extinct zebra species, vanished in a frenzy of hunting in the 1800s. It was discovered that the DNA of the kwagga was almost identical to the common Burchell’s zebra, and the species is being brought back through careful breeding of stripe-challenged zebras. 
  • Blyde River Canyon is the third-largest canyon in the world and the largest green one. The Grand Canyon in the US is the biggest.
  • South African grasslands have 30 species per square kilometre, which is greater biodiversity than is found in rainforests. The Cape Peninsula has greater floral diversity than the whole of Europe.
  • South Africa has pioneered the principle of transfrontier parks in Africa and is a primary agent in focusing world attention on sustainability and the need for transfrontier parks that preserve our continent’s richness for all future generations.
  • South Africa pioneered heart transplant surgery. 
  • South Africa leads the world in diamond production and is a world leader in precious metal supplies – gold, platinum, palladium, vanadium and, of course, many other metals, such as iron, chrome, tin, zinc and copper.

Blyde River Canyon. Photo courtesy <a href=''>Irene2005</a> Blyde River Canyon. Photo courtesy Irene2005

© Cape Town Routes Unlimited

9 to 14 September 2012
Cape Town International Convention Centre
Cape Town, South Africa


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Did You Know

There are only 12 countries in the world that supply tap water that is fit to drink, and South Africa is one of the top three in terms of quality.