South Africa is home to an astonishing variety of flora and fauna. Indigenous plant life includes some 23,000 species of flowering plants (including 728 species of trees) and some 900 species of bird, representing 22 of the world’s living orders.
The country is divided into six natural vegetation regions.
(a) The Mediterranean winter rainfall area in the south-western Cape is characterised by Fynbos vegetation.
(b) To the east lie natural temperate forests and subtropical coastal forests.
(c) Behind the mountains that divide the coast from the inner plateau lies a desert and semi-desert landscape, characterised by shrubs and grassland.
(d) The central highland consists of natural grassland and sparse clumps of trees.
(e) The coastal stretches are characterised by subtropical humid conditions.
(f) Sparse desert flora characterises the vegetation of the west coast.
South Africa is the natural habitat of many species of wildlife, both carnivore and herbivores. Most famous are the Big Five: Elephant, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros.
The country has a long history of protecting its natural heritage. The country is home to some 800 game reserves and 16 National Parks and hundreds of privately owned wildlife sanctuaries. They are set among such different landscapes as grassy veld, mountains, beaches, forests and deserts. Large tracts of land, wilderness areas, have been established to protect their original, natural character. Romantic and adventurous safaris into the bush are a much sought after experience by visitors and residents alike.