South Africa's incredible biodiversity is due to its unique physical features. Most of the country is situated on a high-lying plateau, between two very different oceans.The Indian Ocean, on the east, is warmed by the Mozambique or Agulhas Current which flows down from the tropics, while the Atlantic, on the west coast, is cooled by the icy Benguela Current which comes up from the Antarctic. These two different oceans, the prevailing wind and the topography of South Africa combine to create lush forests and subtropical savanna on the east coast, gradually changing to desert or semi-desert on the west coast. And, right in the southwest, influenced by swirling cyclonic weather systems travelling up from the low latitudes, the area around Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, windy summers and cool, moist winters, creating a unique floral assemblage. Each of these biomes has its own special attraction and observant visitors to our reserves and national parks will notice the incredible variety of wonderful plants and trees as well as the animals.
Vegetation Zones in South Africa
The Vegetation Zones:Kalahari Savannah
The largest zone is the Kalahari Savannah, which consists of grasslands and small groups of trees. The Kalahari Savannah covers most of Botswana, Namibia and part of South Africa.
The second largest zone is the Karoo Schrubland area, which covers most of South Africa. The Karoo Schrubland is rugged in some parts, with canyons, valleys and a few perennial rivers. Many species are restricted to this zone, including Kaokoland, Damaraland, Richtersveld and Namaqualand. Mixed Woodland
The largest game parks in this region are found in the Mixed Woodland vegetation area, which consists of grass, tree and mountainous vegetation areas. This is a type of savanna that is identified by relatively short trees, including Acacia and broad-leaved species.
Generally occurring at altitudes below 1 500m, Bushveld includes much of the lowveld of Mpumalanga. It offers a wide range of species, but few are restricted to this biome. Fynbos
The fynbos vegetation zone in the Cape is one of the 6 Floral Kingdoms of the earth. This type of vegetation is unique to South Africa and is the smallest vegetation biome in the world. It covers a very small area in the south-western Cape and it is home to more than 7000 plant species.
Dominated by large evergreen trees, Forests contain few mammals but many birds. The coastal and lowland forests occur along the eastern seaboard, while montane forest occurs in specific pockets at about 1 200m.