South Africa is situated at the southern tip of Africa and has the Indian Ocean on the East and South East coastline and the Atlantic Ocean on West and South West coast. The Indian Ocean carries the warm Agulhas Current that travels close to the east coastline and results in warm ocean waters and a sub-tropical climate on this coast. The Atlantic Ocean carries the cold Benguela current that flows northwards up the coast starting at Cape Point. The Benguela current is rich in nutrients and where the two currents meet off the coats there is a richly productive ecosystem that sustains a vast array of marine life, including pelagic birds.
The eastern region of the country, from the escarpment to the east coast is a wide coastal belt up to 220km wide in parts. The inland area of this region is called the Natal Midlands, undulating hilly terrain with the Drakensberg Mountains forming the escarpment border to the west of this coastal belt. The Drakensberg Mountains reach an elevation of over 3000m where it borders Lesotho.
Drakensburg Mountains. The picture above is of Giants Castle in the Central Berg of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site, and is home to the Eland and Bearded Vulture.
Moving inland off the relatively narrow coastal belt there is a mountainous escarpment (The Great Escarpment) that leads to the high inland plateau called the Highveld, at elevations of about 1500m. To the North and Northeast the land drops off in elevation to about 500m above sea level and this is called the Lowveld. The Lowveld is known for its high concentrations of game, including the larger mammals like African Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Big Cats and herd grazers such as Zebra, Wildebeest and various antelope species.
The inland west of the country is dominated by the Great Karoo, a semi-desert region ranging from 1600m to 600m above sea level in the Lower Karoo.
South Africa is a well developed country with a generally good infrastructure and, due to the large range of geography and ecosystems, has an abundance of Game and Nature Reserves that cater for all safari holiday tastes and preferences….from 5 Star luxury lodges to basic camp-sites for those that like to rough it a bit and get that one step closer to nature.
With a land surface area of 1,1 million km2 – representing just 1% of the earth’s total land surface – South Africa contains almost 10% of the world’s total known bird, fish and plant species, and over 6% of the world’s mammal and reptile species (http://www.botany.uwc.ac.za/envfacts/facts/biosa.htm)
Approximate Species Counts
Birds – 840
Mammals – 300
Amphibians – 124 ( 6 new species have recently been described)
Reptiles – 240
Insects – over 10 000
Fish – 220 freshwater and 2000 marine fish species
Plants – over 20 000 flowering plants