Africa Landscapes from South Africa: The Scenery
Scenery to be amazed at
South Africa with a coastline of about 2800km is located in the sub-tropics between 22 and 35 degrees South latitude. In the interior it rises to a height of 3000m in the Drakensberg Mountains bordering Lesotho. The landscape varies dramatically from East to West. The East Coast is Sub-tropical and is warmed by the warm Mozambique Current and enjoys a mild climate with beautiful forests and coastal vegetation.
The West Coast has the cold Benguela Current flowing from south to north and is colder and drier. This results in desert and semi-desert and some of the most spectacular sand dunes in the world, especially in neighboring Namibia. The Western Cape enjoys a Mediterranean Climate and is famous for its vineyards and wines.
While South Africa can be divided into 22 physiographic regions these can be simplified into 5 for this article:
- The Coastal Belt varies from lush forest as found in Knysna and St. Lucia, to the dry Skeleton Coast in the west in Namaqualand. Sometimes the coastline consists of steep rocky sea cliffs and elsewhere long sandy beaches are kissed by blue waters of the surrounding ocean.
- The interior Highland is a plateau that lies above 1000m above sea level. Here the vegetation is mostly Savannah and Woodland. This is the maize producing area of South Africa and kilometers upon kilometers of maize fields greet the traveler in summer. Here the gold, platinum, coal and diamond mines are found.
- The Drakensberg (“Dragon mountain”) mountains run from north to south and in the south the Cape Folded mountains produce great scenery and opportunities for adventure sport.
- A large part of the interior comprises the Karoo, a semi-arid region that has a beauty of its own in its vastness and loneliness. Here sheep farms extend across the landscape and windmills fill dams for drinking water for the animals.A windmill pumps water for the local farmer whose house is built on traditional architectural styles.
- A region that I like to call simply the Bushveldt extends over several of these regions and this is where many of the great Game Reserves and Game Farms are found. Many of the Game Farms provide hunting opportunities while the Game Reserves allow photographers to also hunt with their big lenses and creative eyes.
When Sir Frances Drake, an experienced seaman and seasoned navigator, arrived at the Cape he called it “the fairest Cape in all the World” and thousands of visitors since then have concurred. The dramatic views from the top of Table Mountain or the scenic drive around Cape Point will be difficult to beat.
The so-called Wild Coast in the east between Port Edward and East London is breathtaking in its beauty. Although some of the less accessible places can only be reached by hiking (i.e. Otter Trail) a drive along the coast will provide views of breathtaking splendor. Further south towards Cape Town it is called the Garden Route and that includes place like the Tsitsikama Coastal Reserve, the Knysna Forest and some great beaches. In the forest the famous herd of Knysna Elephant still are sighted occasionally but the hiking trails offer rare birds and plants for the nature lover.
The Namaqualand Coast in the west in flower season must surely be rated as one of the natural wonders of the world. During August/September after good winter rains this semi-desert area comes alive with an amazing display of color. The sheer number of flowers is only bettered by the variety.
The Mountains that are never very far away have an attraction of their own. They rise into the blue African skies attracting Eagles to sweep along their crags on the thermals searching for food. Sitting on the edge of a mountain valley and watching the Vultures soaring from their nesting areas looking for food for their very hungry chicks amazes experienced bird watchers and novices alike. Mountain streams and clear lakes provide an opportunity for fishermen to test their skill against a Rainbow of Brown trout. Mountain climbers challenge themselves in ascending and descending the challenging climbing routes, while the less energetic just relax in Gods beautiful creation.
It is however the Bushveldt that sets South Africa apart from any other place in the world. The extensive Game Reserves and wildlife cannot be bettered. Unless someone has sat next to a campfire and heard the roar of a Lion or the call of a hungry Hyena they have not experience the African Landscape. Sitting on our deck chairs outside our tent during a quiet evening in the Kgalagadi National Park last August we watched a starry sky that stretched from horizon to horizon with amazement.Camping in the Kruger National Park or in one of the many Game reserves in different areas brings its own unique rewards. These are experiences that would be difficult to equal anywhere in the world.