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24 September 2014

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South Africa


Fast Facts

  • 1.2 million square kilometres - about five times bigger than the UK
  • 44 million people, with an average life expectancy of 42 years
  • 11 official languages: Xhosa, Zulu, English, Afrikaans, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana and Venda
  • 21.5% of the adult population is HIV-positive
  • 50% of the population lives below the local poverty line
  • 10% of the population are internet users, and 75% own a mobile phone
  • 362,099km of roads, of which 20% are paved

Lay of the land

South Africa consists of a vast semi-arid interior plateau, rimmed by hills and a narrow coastal plain that is sub-tropical in the east. The country is the third most biologically diverse in the world, so there is a huge range of plants and animals to see.

And on the way...

Cape Agulhas - the most southerly tip of Africa and the end of Charley and Ewan's epic journey. It marks the official dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans (although the Cape of Good Hope is better known), and is notorious among sailors for its winter storms and huge waves.

Other highlights

The Cederberg Mountains - located 300km north of Cape Town, these are notable for dramatic rock formations and rock art by the San people, evidence of the earliest human inhabitants in the area.

Namaqualand - an arid and barren region for nine months of the year, but between August and October the rains transform the landscape with a sea of wildflowers.

Richtersveld National Park - located in Northern Cape province, temperatures in South Africa's only desert can reach over 50 degrees celsius. Life depends on moisture from the early morning fog, known locally as 'Malmokkies' or 'Ihuries'.

Table Mountain, Cape Town - breathtaking views, a time for Ewan and Charley to relax and take it all in.

The people

Major ethnic groups within South Africa's 80 per cent black population include Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho, Bapedi, Venda, Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi and Ndebele, all of which speak Bantu languages. The white population descends largely from Dutch, German, French and British colonial immigrants, divided into Afrikaners and English-speaking groups. After decades of apartheid, South Africa is now a democratic country, but remains a society with huge inequalities.

Did you know...

One of the cornerstones of South African society is the concept of 'ubuntu', from the Zulu phrase 'umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu', meaning 'a person is only a person through other people'.

South Africa is to host the 2010 football World Cup - the first time the tournament will be held in Africa.

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