All about the Geography of South Africa, facts, figures, maps and more.
Learn more about the geography of South Africa
with interesting data and information about the lay of the land. The basic outline is easy, in
essence it consists of three main features, each one comprising a huge variety of scenery and
The main feature is an immense high plateau covering most of the country,
encircled by the second feature, the coastal lowland regions.
The third feature consists of a series of mountain ranges rising quite abruptly
along the inland perimeter of the coastal lowlands, separating them from the high plateau.
This last one is well-known as The Great Escarpment, with mountain heights
ranging from 2,000 to 3.300 meters.
The interior highlands of South Africa are part of the African plateau
extending north right up to the Sahara desert regions.
With its total land area of 1,219,090 kilometers South Africa is one-eighth the
size of the US and one-third the size of Europe
Learn more about the geography of South Africa watching this video
You will find South Africa at the southern tip of the African continent,
stretching north to south for approximately 1,600 km (994 mi) between 22 and 35 degrees latitude,
and east to west also for about 1,600 km (994 mi) between 17 and 33 degrees longitude.
The Tropic of Capricorn slices through the extreme north of the country at 23
degrees 26’ 22” latitude.
The official geographic coördinates for the country are: 29 00 S and 24 00 E
The interactive possibilities of the map below are quite stunning. Put the
cursor of your mouse on any spot on the map you like to explore and follow the instructions
underneath the map.
You will be able to zoom in on the major towns and cities as close as street
level. If you then click on the map button in the right hand
South Africa's entire land surface area comprises 1,219,090 sq km (460,693
sq mi), 40 percent of it lies 1210 m (3970 ft) above sea level with as highest point Mount Njesuthi
in the Drakensberg mountains at 3,446 m (11,396 ft) above sea level.
Included are the Marion and Prince Edward islands which became part of South
Africa in 1947 and are situated in the Atlantic ocean 1,920 km (1,193 mi) south-east of
All together it makes South Africa the 26th largest country in the world. But
to get a better idea, think in terms of the combined size of France, Italy, Germany, Holland and
Belgium together or for our American visitors two times the size of the State of Texas.
The population of the country based on the 2011 Census, comes to a total of
51,770,560 people, comprising the following ethnic groups: Black 79,2%, white 8,9%,
coloured 8,9%, indian 2,5% and others 0,5%. For 2013 the population figure is estimated
to become 52,981,991 people.
The average population density based on the 2011 census figures is 42,4 per
km2 or 109,8 per sq mile.
Click on the image below to enlarge it and click to enlarge again
Satellite view of South Africa showing the major topographic features
The total circumference of South Africa is approximately 6,320 km. Besides a
coastline of 2,798 km (1,738 mi) with the Atlantic ocean to the west and the Indian ocean to the
east, South Africa has common borders with the republics of Zimbabwe 225 km (139 mi), Mozambique
491 km (305 mi), Namibia 967 km (600 mi), Botswana 1,840 km (1,143 mi) and the kingdoms of Lesotho
909 km (564 mi), and Swaziland 430 km (267 mi).
The kingdom of Lesotho is an enclave within South African territory. The same applies for the
kingdom of Swaziland, except for a small stretch of border that it has with Mozambique.
South Africa has nine provinces and three capitals. The provinces each with its
provincial capital are, Gauteng - capital Johannesburg (7), Limpopo - capital Polokwane (9),
Mpumalanga - capital Nelspruit (8), North-West province - capital Mmabatho (6), Free State - capital
Bloemfontein (5), Eastern Cape - capital Bisho (3), Northern Cape - capital Kimberley (2), Western
Cape - capital Cape Town (1) and Kwazulu-Natal - capital Pietermaritzburg (4). The numbers
correspond with those on the map below.
The national capitals are, Pretoria (administrative capital), Cape Town
(legislative capital) and Bloemfontein (judicial capital).
Map of South Africa showing the country's provincial structure Geography of South Africa
South Africa's coastline of 2,798 km (1,738 mi) features only a small number of bays and but one
natural harbor, Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape.
The other major ports, following the coastline clockwise are Richardsbay and Durban in
Kwazulu-Natal, East London, Port Elizabeth and Mosselbay in the Eastern Cape and Cape Town in the
Western cape. A total of 98 % of all South Africa's exports are conveyed by sea through these seven
The two most distinctive promontories on our country's coastline are the Cape peninsula, with
the Cape of Good Hope at its southern tip and Cape Agulhas at the most southern tip of the African
continent. Cape Agulhas is the place where the two oceans, the Atlantic ocean and the Indian ocean,
Wilderness beach near George Geography of South Africa
The Orange, Vaal and Limpopo are the three main rivers in South Africa. The
longest of the three is the Orange river, which has its source in the Kingdom of Lesotho where it
is called the Senqu river. With its westernmost section forming the border with Namibia, it flows
north-west for about 2,100km (1,300 mi) towards the Atlantic ocean.
The Vaal river has its origin in the Drakensberg mountains in the Mpumalanga
province. It is 1,120 km (695 mi) long and flows south west to where it unites with the Orange
river of which it a tributary.
The Limpopo river rises in the Witwatersrand region, where it is called the
Crocodile river. It flows in a circular route of about 1,700 km (1,056 mi), first to the Botswana
border in the north east, where it turns east forming the border with Botswana and Zimbabwe to
where it enters the country of Mozambique, finally emptying itself in the Indian ocean.
The only natural lake to be found in South Africa is the Fundudzi Lake which is
situated in the Soutpansberg mountains in the far north-east of the Limpopo province. Besides
Fundudzi there are no true natural inland lakes of any significance in South Africa. Rivers are the
main source of water.
What you will find in our country are many large artificial lakes or dams for
the storage of the country's water supplies. They are formed by constructing huge dam walls in the
flow of rivers to regulate their natural variable flow and the transfer of water between catchment