About South Africa
South Africa lies between 22 and 35 degrees south, flanked on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the east by the Indian Ocean, whose waters meet at the country's most southern tip, Cape Agulhas.
The long coastline stretches more than 2 500 kilometres from a desert border in the north-west, down the icy and treacherous Skeleton Coast to Cape Agulhas, then up along rolling green hills and wide beaches fronting the warm Indian Ocean, to a border with subtropical Mozambique in the north east.
The 470 km2 of the Cape Peninsula, including Table Mountain, is home to 2 256 different plant species - more than the whole of Great Britain, an area 5 000 times bigger! The 60 km2 of Table Mountain alone supports 1 470 species.
The Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Dias, first rounded the Cape in 1488, and named it the Cape of Storms due the stormy weather that was constantly experienced off the tip of Africa. It was quickly renamed Cape of Good Hope by King John II of Portugal.
Africans in the region simply call it "Ikapa Lodumo" (Cape of Fame) due to the attractions as a destination for tourists worldwide. Sir Francis Drake named it "The Fairest Cape". It was also named the "Cape of Storms" by Portuguese mariners who frequently visited the peninsula. "The Cape of Good Hope", "The Tavern of the Seas" or simply "The Cape".
When Jan Van Riebeeck First landed in the Cape in 1652, one of his first establishments was a refreshment station for passing ships. A settlement that grew and became a colony in it's own right. The exploration and settlement of the interior of the country started from here and the Western Cape played an important role in the history of South and Southern Africa.
Jan van Riebeecks statue, which stands on the Heerengracht, is approximately where the commander and his party landed. Previously known as Roggebaai (Rocky Bay), it later boasted an esplanade and a pier. In the 1940's these were demolished, the land was reclaimed and became known as "The Foreshore".
Each year Southern Right whales migrate into the coastal waters of the Western Cape to calve and nurse their young. The animals, often mere metres from the shore, provide unsurpassed whale watching opportunities between June and November.
Humpbacks migrate through the region between May and December each year, while Bryde's whales are found slightly further offshore all year round. At least 37 species of whales and dolphins can be found in the waters off South Africa.