South Africa presents a diverse and spectacular geography to the observer, ranging from fertile coastal plains in the south and east to semi-arid and desert conditions in the north. In order to understand the geography of South Africa, it is necessary to take note of the situation and layout of the country.
South Africa is situated below the tropic of Capricorn, at the southern end of the African continent, and therefore has a southern, eastern and western coastline. South Africa occupies a surface area of roughly 1 200 000 square km (470 000 square miles), and is bordered in the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. Lesotho, which is an independent sovereign state in its own right, is entirely enclosed by South Africa. Although the coast of South Africa is very long, it is also very rugged in places. Despite this fact, there are four major port cities (Cape Town, Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth). The eastern coast is washed by the cold Atlantic Benguela current, while the western coast is lapped by the warm Indian Ocean. Occasionally, an iceberg makes it way close to Cape Town, originating in the cold Antarctic waters.
The coastal zone is bordered by mountains, which form the edge of the inland plateau. While the south-western coastal zone is a winter rainfall area, the higher ground inland tends to have rain in summer, in the form of thunderstorms. The north-eastern coast, on the other hand, has a tropical climate, with warm, humid weather. The difference in altitude in the country is particularly marked when one considers that the altitude of Cape Town is barely above sea level, whereas that of Johannesburg is above 1 500m (5 000ft).
The centre of the country is dominated by the Karoo, a vast semi-arid region that was a lush swamp during the age of the dinosaurs. In the east the Karoo gives way to the high Drakensberg range of mountains. To the north, however, the Karoo fades into the arid Kalahari desert.
The country’s vast natural beauty makes it a very good tourist holiday destination, with everything from beach holidays to game safaris and glittering casinos. As the owner of a guest house, you need to research the attractions in your particular area, so that you can do the most to tap into the potential of the location, and maintain a steady stream of guests.