On two occasions I was privileged to visit the former Vaalbos National Park near Barkly West. Personally I reckon that Vaalbos was one of the most underrated smaller National Parks we had. Unfortunately, due to a legal lands claim, the park had to be deproclaimed. But thanks to the availability of almost similar habitat, Mokala National Park was proclaimed south of Kimberley.
To me Vaalbos held a certain mistical nostalgia. The beautiful design of the chalets certainly strengthened this mysterious mood. While staying there, it was as if you could expect a diamond digger to approach you anytime. The following two photos were taken during my last visit (May 2005) and is just to refresh memories of how the charming little chalets looked.
I could not help to experience a lot of sceptisism waiting for Mokala's opening. I visited the park on an unplanned half-day visit a few months ago (without a camera). But fortunately I was able to fit in another day visit last week (14 January) - and this time a little better prepared with my camera. I hope to give my co-forumites a bit of a pictorial glimpse of this beautiful part of our country.
The turn-off (from the N12) is approximately 60 km south of Kimberley. From there you have to travel another 21 km of dusty gravel road (some parts quite rough) before you reach the park's entrance. Using the bell of the intercom system, the electric gate is opened by reception, which is about 6 km further at Mosu Lodge.
Most of the accommodation (if not all) used to be part of a lodge for hunters, as the land was previously used as a hunting farm. The rest camp (lodge) is extremely well attended to - typical SANParks style.
Most of the accommodation (unfortunately) does not cater for self-catering. However, for those who like to be spoiled and pampered and don't want to prepare their own food, a very neat restaurant is available. A well-maintained swimming pool is in front of the restaurant - I believe it's to be a wellcome relief during the hot Northern Cape summer months.
Mosu Lodge does have two self-catering units. Thanks to the friendly permission granted by Sue White (Service Manager ?), I was allowed to peep into an unoccupied unit.
As can be concluded from the chimney, the self-catering units have a nice fireplace inside to warm up the cold winter nights of the Northern Cape.
On my way to the game viewing area I had this view of Mosu Lodge.
Mokala is situated in an area with some exceptional topography. It was clear that the park received some nice rain a while ago as the trees and surrounding grass was green and lush. The characteristic trees in the park really impressed me. Unfortunately my restricted photographic abilities do not allow me to do justice to the loveliness of this environment.
Game was plentiful. I was privileged to see some majestic kudu bulls, but could not succeed in taking good photos of them as they occurred mainly in the dense bushy areas. This one (not as splendid as the most) at least posed for a while before it also disappeared amongst the thick bushes.
I don't know whether I was lucky (of even unlucky for finding only one) to see this roan antelope.
Tsessebe's were to be found everywhere. But are they difficult guys to take a picture of. They tend to just show you their back-sides. This one (like many others) enjoyed the mud pools and was covered in mud from its hooves to its horns.
I saw many blue wildebeest (unfortunately no black ones). In most cases it seemed as if about every cow had a calf.
Haak-en-Steek campsite is for the guys who do not need (or want) the luxuries of Mosu. It is an unfenced little camp next to a small dam. Warning signs advise you that rhinos (both black- and white-) as well as buffaloes are around. A single rustic hut (accommodating four persons) with own shower and toilet and a nice lapa next to it, is the only fixed accommodation in Haak-en-Steek. Five camping sites (no electricity) with simple but neat ablution, are the only other facilities in Haak-en-Steek. I reckon this is a place where one can really become peaceful.
On my way back to the entrance gate I was astonished when I found more than a hundred Cape Vultures and two Marabou Storks at this windmill.
I also saw quite a few giraffe and red hartebeest.
Other game I saw included springbok (all of them very very wild), impala, gemsbok, steenbok and warthog. Both visits to the former Vaalbos, as well as my previous short visit to Mokala, did not deliver any sightings of buffalo or rhino (as a matter of fact my avatar on this forum is of a buffalo in Vaalbos taken by my brother-in-law). I thought that I will once again leave without seeing any of them. But a mere 1 km from the gate I saw these three buffalo.
Now I am really planning on a thorough visit to Mokala. I will not consider visting the park with my caravan as the road between the N12 and the entrance gate (in my opinion) is not suited for a conventional caravan. The roads in the park is quite okay for a caravan. I will rather go with my tent to Haak-en-Steek although people with bush caravans or -trailers can do so easily.