Antarctica is the fifth largest of the seven continents. It is situated over the South Pole almost entirely south of latitude 66°30′ south (the Antarctic Circle). It is a very rough circular shape with the long arm of the Antarctic Peninsula stretching towards South America. There are two large indentations, the Ross and Weddell seas and their ice shelves.The nearest other land masses are South America 1000 km (600 mls) away across the roughest stretch of water in the world – the Drake passage, Australia is 2500 km (1550 mls) away, and South Africa 4000 km (2500 mls) away.
The total surface area is about 14.2 million sq km (5.5 million sq mls) in summer, approximately twice the size of Australia, half as big again as the USA and fifty times the size of the UK.
In the winter Antarctica doubles in size due to the sea ice that forms around the coasts. The true boundary of Antarctica is not the coastline of the continent itself or the outlying islands, but the Antarctic Convergence.
Table Mountain is South Africa’s best-known landmark, but what many don’t know is that it is also a hiker’s paradise with numerous trails, amazing views and plenty of interesting facts to learn. Oh, and it’s part of a national park. And all this in the heart of the Mother City.Table Mountain, probably the most photographed landmark in South Africa, is now one of the New7Wonders of Nature.
South Africa’s most famous landmark, Table Mountain, is more than just a pile of rock in the bay. A protected national park, it has some remarkable features that make it a great destination for nature-lovers, deserving of more than just a quick cable car ride to see the view from the top.
The mountain forms part of Table Mountain National Park, which is globally recognised for its biodiversity, and contains truly unique fauna and flora. The park encompasses the Table Mountain chain stretching from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south and the seas and coastline of the peninsula.
It is primarily an open-access park with only a few points where conservation fees are payable including Cape Point, Boulders (where you’ll see penguins), the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and Silvermine.
The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway was the solution to the arduous walk and climb to the top. Since its opening in 1929, more than 22 million people have taken the trip to the top of Table Mountain. The new cableway was upgraded and officially reopened on 4 October 1997.
At the upper cable station you will find a restaurant and a curio shop as well as a network of footpaths to explore the table top.
There are plenty of hiking trails from the Camps Bay side of the mountain, as well as from the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, and even from the city centre itself.
You can walk or climb the mountain, or even abseil down it, depending on your expertise and fitness levels, but be warned. Although the mountain may look tame on any given day, each year it claims lives as people set off under-prepared for a sudden change in weather. Always hike in a group and carry water and warm clothing with you. Better still, hire a guide or ask an experienced hiker to take you along.
Built on rocks in a small enclave within the Sperrgebiet (restricted Diamond Area) is the quaint harbour town of Luderitz with its curious array of historical German– style buildings built during the diamond rush.
Set around the sparkling bay, with their gables, winding stairwells, verandahs, turrets and bay and bow windows, these buildings have a unique character of their own.
The most striking is Goerke–Haus, a former magistrate’s residence built in 1909. The Lutheran Church on the hill above the bay, known as the Felsenkirche, was built in 1912. Its stained glass windows were donated by Kaiser Wilhelm 11. Both buildings are open to visitors at specific viewing times.
Luderitz was the first German settlement in the former Deutsch – Sudwest–Afrika. It was named after a Bremen merchant, Adolf Luderitz, who began trading operations in the harbour. Luderitz persuaded Bismarck to place the territory under German protection, which was done in 1884.
A replica of the cross erected in 1488 by the Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias can be seen at Dias Point. The local museum portrays the unusual history of the town. Luderitz has an arts and crafts center, as well as a weaver where wall hangings and carpets of karakul wool are made.
Other than the tarred road from Keetmanshoop, Luderitz can be accessed by gravel road, passing through Maltahohe and Helmeringhausen. It is along these less-travelled roads that some of Namibia’s most spectacular scenery can be seen.
The Luderitz area is home to a wide variety of aquatic birds. Large numbers of flamingos, cormorants and seagulls inhabit the shallow lagoon. When sailing in the bay, seals and dolphins can be seen playing in the water.
The rocky coastline has many uncrowded beaches and numerous small bays and reefs to explore. For anglers favoured species are galjoen, steenbras, dassie and rock lobster.
Popular windsurfing areas are Grosse Bucht and Grosse Lagoon. A Snoek Derby takes place during the long weekend in May, and a board–sailing competition during the Easter weekend.
For golfers there is an interesting desert course, described by locals as “rocky with oiled greens”. Clubs can be hired at the local golf club.
It is no unusual sight to see a jackal trotting along the beach, a group of springbok close to the sea, or an occasional brown hyaena.
An attractive plant is the Bushman’s candle, its pink flowers contrasting vividly against the black rock. Unusual species of dwarf succu-lents grow in the area, such as the small but intriguing lithops, colloquially known as Hottentot’s buttocks.
A tour operator based in Luderitz offers visitors the unique opportunity of entering the Diamond Area to visit Bogenfels, the 55 m high rock arch which juts into the sea, the modern diamond mine and old ghost town at Elizabeth Bay and the seal colony at Atlas Bay.
Visitors can also explore the ghost town of Pomona and the legendary valley of Maerchental (fairy – tale valley), where early prospectors collected diamonds by moonlight.