FEW countries can truly be described as a "world in one country", but the claim that South Africa holds the mantle is no idle boast.
With its rich diversity of scenic splendor - from the pulsating rhythms of the bushveld, through deserts and along pristine beaches, to cosmopolitan cities - South Africa truly has something to offer every visitor.
However, the country's diversity is not only in the diverse habitats, vegetation and scenery.
With 11 official languages and dozens of dialects, the cultural milieu is unique, as is the nation's miraculous transformation from a pariah apartheid state to a democratic nation with one of the most liberal constitutions in the world.
Here, the traveler can enjoy cocktails from the deck of a luxury lodge, while the last herds drink at waterholes as the sun slips below the vast African sky.
And then the night comes alive with buzzes, clicks, grunts and growls, while above a myriad of stars blaze a trail across the southern skies.
Then there are those magnificent golden beaches of the Indian Ocean - lonely, waiting for a traveler's footprints across virgin sands. Or the crisp, white beaches of the Atlantic Ocean around Cape Town, where beautiful people hang out in a not-so-virginal display of flesh, fashion and flamboyance.
But what about the deserts, where perhaps for the first time in one's life, one can experience the sounds of silence? Or discover the unique creatures that inhabit and survive these arid plains, then to revel again in that "big sky" feeling. These small things are what memories are made of!
The traveler can get around South Africa in many ways - by luxury train, air charters, scheduled air flights or by traversing the fine network of roads across a country which is five times bigger than Great Britain.
And along the way, one will encounter a nation of people legendary for their hospitality - from traditional Khoi and San people to regal Zulus, crusty old Boers to sophisticated city mice of every color, creed and background. These are the people of the "Rainbow Nation".
So whether one wants to relax and soak up the sunshine, enjoy the social whirl, or follow a quest for sport or adventure, South Africa has it all - and more. With its landscapes, history, people and wildlife, it is a country which provides the traveler with an ideal safari destination.
SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL: FACTS & FIGURES
Full Name: The Republic of South Africa
Capital: Pretoria (official); Bloemfontein (judicial) and Cape Town (legislative)
Area: 1,221,037 sq km (471,443 sq miles)
Language: South Africa has 11 official languages, but English is the most widely spoken. Afrikaans (official), English (official), Tswana (official), Southern Sotho (official), Swati (official), South Ndebele (official), Xhosa (official), Zulu (official)
Best Travel Currency: USD, Euro, GBP, ZAR
Travel Seasons: All year, but the cooler, drier winter months between June and September is best for travel to the safari regions. Cape Town - which has a winter rainfall pattern - is best between September and April, when it is hot and dry.
For political, geographic, economic and other info on South Africa, we suggest
South Africa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia