Geography of South Africa
South Africa situated at the most southern tip of the African continent. In total its land area is more than 1.2 million square kilometres, and measures some 1600 kilometres from North to South and approximately the same from East to West. South Africa 's border countries are from Namibia in the west, and Botswana on to Zimbabwe, through to Mozambique in the east, and lastly curve in around Swaziland before rejoining with Mozambique 's southern border, Lesotho is a small country, surrounded by South Africa. Within South African territory is Lesotho , a small mountainous country, between the Free State and KwaZulu Natal.
South Africa has some 2954 kilometres of coastline, ranging from the deserts of the Namibian border which are pounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the sub-tropical Indian waters of Mozambique . The Atlantic Ocean houses two islands which are South African territory, namely Marion and Prince Edward Islands, nearly 2000 kilometres from Cape Town.
The seas surrounding South Africa play a major part in the country's climate, the cold Benguela current pushes northwards from the Antarctic along the Atlantic coastline, bringing with it plankton which creates rich fishing grounds off of the south west coast. In contrast to the cold current from the Antarctic, a much warmer stream, the Agulhas current, moves southwards from the Indian Ocean, around to the south of the continent. The Eastern seas' steady evaporation provides generous rainfall while the Benguela current retains its moisture to cause desert conditions in the west.
There are two main rivers in South Africa , the Limpopo which runs along the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe , then flows through Mozambique to the Indian Ocean, and the Orange River which runs from the centre of the country along the Namibian border, and into the Atlantic Ocean . These rivers are both are both used for irrigation and drinking water, and so there are dams along their courses, the largest of which is the Gariep on the Orange River .
Several other smaller rivers run into the seas around South Africa is a country which has more than 20,000 different types of plants, or about 10 percent of all the known species of plants on earth, making it particularly lush. but of these none are navigable and none are large enough to be used as natural harbours, never the less busy harbours exist around the coast at Cape Town , East London, Richards Bay , Port Elizabeth and Durban .
In general, the coastal areas are narrow, and soon give way to mountainous escarpment, separating the coast area from the high lying inland plateau. In the eastern areas of South Africa the distance between the coast and the escarpment is much greater.
South Africa is classified a semi-arid country areas considerably differ from each other. The Karoo plateau is very dry, the landscape is sparse with rocky hills rising from the scrubland, and it becomes sparser as you travel north-west towards the Kalahari. The temperature in summer is incredibly hot, but frost and ice are not unheard of in the winter months.
The western side of the Karoo stretches further north than the eastern part, which gives way to the flat landscape of the Free State , which is also semi-arid but does receive somewhat more rain. North of the Vaal River the Highveld is better watered and is spared from the subtropical heat by its altitude. Winters here are cold but snow and ice are a rarity.
Travelling north eastwards we come to the Lowveld, given its name because of the drop in alltitude of the area. The Tropic of Capricorn cuts through the extreme north of South Africa causing the temperature in this area to rise. This is where the Kruger National Park is found and the famous Bushveld areas.
In contrast the eastern coastline from Durban to Port Elizabeth is lush and well watered, virtually never experiencing frost. The southern and south western coasts are much more Mediterranean in climate with wet winters and hot, dry summers. One climatic characteristic of the area is the wind, which blows throughout the year either from the south-east or the north-west.