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 Post subject: Buglette Red Dust and Diamonds Dec 2011
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:37 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Mokala December 2011

Going away in December is something we never do. ‘Too many crowds’, we say. ‘And way too hot.’
However, I’d recently acquired a new Subaru Forester and we were keen to give it a run. Scanning the Sanparks website to see what was available we hit on the idea of going to Mokala, a park we’d not yet visited. Plus, I’d never visited Kimberley before and that was less than an hour’s drive away.

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We booked chalet number 7 overlooking the waterhole at Mosu Lodge for four nights and set off from Cape Town on Boxing Day. Leaving at dawn we joined a stream of post-Christmas traffic flowing through the lush Hex River valley. ‘Enjoy the greenery while it lasts’, said SB (my partner, fondly known as Stinkbug). ‘It’s the last you’ll see for a long time.’
He was right. The emerald green vineyards faded to khaki brown all too quickly. The only distraction on the never-ending stretch of tar through the Karoo was a large rock monitor lizard trying to cross the road as it looked left, looked right and spat its forked tongue. Seeing us tearing towards it at speed, it hastily changed its mind and retreated. Weaver nests topped telephone poles like mushroom heads and, sadly, the only signs of wildlife were an ex-genet and an ex-bat eared fox on the tar being picked at by crows.

The golden grasslands shortly before the turnoff from the N14 to Mokala were dotted with hundreds and hundreds of ochre anthills. On closer inspection, I noticed that many had great gaping holes in their sides. Whatever it is that eats the ants or uses their meticulously crafted anthills for burrows must be plentiful in the area, I thought. (Any clues from Forumites as to who the culprits might be would be appreciated.)

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Mosu Lodge appeared as a pleasant splash of luxury in the bush. Well-equipped and tastefully decorated chalets with, thank the heavens, fully functional air-conditioning. Even a conference centre and an inviting swimming pool! A step up for us indeed as we usually hang out at campsites in a big ole Overlander.

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One slight drawback was that parking is only provided at Reception so SB had to haul our luggage to the chalet on a rather cumbersome trolley. As it rattled past our neighbours I’m sure they expected to see a party of at least six settling in next door.

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After hastily unpacking, we settled down, Amarula in hand, to watch the sunset parade at the waterhole. First to arrive was a plump, mud-coated warthog followed by three majestic male kudu, a lonely gemsbok (my favourite of all the antelope) and a herd of red hartebeest. The herd of about thirty was led by a stately buck that kept calling ‘nyip, nyip, nyip’, urging his troops on. As they neared the water, the young ones needed no further encouragement. They splashed about unheeded doing more playing than drinking.

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Supper was cold rotisserie chicken (our regular choice for the first travel day) with avo and left-over potato bake followed by an improvised dessert of Christmas cake drowned in Ultramel custard. Quick and easy with no pots to wash.

As the evening sky turned from pale pink to glowing orange more herds of both kudu and hartebeest followed the path to the water. Resident frogs and cicadas begin to warm up for the evening chorus, becoming noisier and noisier until we had to raise our voices to be heard. Just when we thought the parade was over a large grey mass emerged from the shadows and plodded down to the water’s edge. Like phantoms, three more buffalo materialized. The old bulls waded in knee-deep, their curved horns glistening in the glow of the floodlight.
At last it was time for bed and I could feel the stresses of 2011 already starting to fade away.

_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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 Post subject: Re: Red Dust and Diamonds
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2012 7:22 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Red Dust and Diamonds
Day Two (28 December)

I awoke to a rumbling sound. Lions at Mokala? Not possible, said my fuzzy brain. It took a moment to realize that the sound was coming from within the chalet. Rolling over, I saw that SB was lying on his back with limbs outstretched, snoring to the rafters. I pulled on my takkies and slipped outside. Too dark to see anything at the waterhole though so I returned to the chalet to put the kettle on. In the time it took to boil, it had suddenly become light. Through the front door I could see the hartebeest clan that had settled near to our chalet for the night, beginning to stir. Mothers rose and stretched before nudging wobbly babies to their feet.

Heading out of camp early, our first sighting was mamma warthog with a thirsty trio of piglets. The piglets had attached themselves to either side of her and were suckling ferociously.

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So enchanted were we that we failed to notice the buffalo nearby – probably the 4 dugga boys from the waterhole the night before.

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We watched them mowing the grass for awhile before moving on to the bird hide at Stofdam where the car that had been riding slightly ahead of us was already parked. The occupants took great glee in telling us that we’d just missed a black rhino. They’d managed to catch a glimpse of the rare beast before it darted into the thicket. ‘Never mind,’ said Stink Bug. ‘We still have a few more days.’

The waterhole was dry so all were saw were unidentifiable little brown jobs hopping in the sand and one interesting specimen in a tree nearby. (Could somebody please help with an ID? Is it a buzzard?)

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‘The waterhole must be a magnificent sight after the rains’, said SB, ‘but today it looks rather dismal.’
So, we looped round Doornlaagte, greeting tsessebe and red hartebeest round every corner. At first we were confused as to which was which but we soon distinguished the pale behinds and the curvy horns of the harties versus the more stern, black-faced tsessebe.

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Coming upon a drinking trough, we disturbed a handsome wildebeest digging wildly for sweeter water as puffs of red dust rose into the air.

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At Kameeldoring we left the car to stretch our legs and inspect the newly-installed braai grids and ablutions. We were commenting how quiet and peaceful it was, when I heard a loud snort to our right. This was followed by several angry grunts. I hot-footed it back to the vehicle. ‘Probably only a warthog’, chuckled SB. ‘I don’t care’, I replied. ‘Warthogs can be mean and nasty too.’

Arriving at Haak En Steek campsite, we were just in time to see several pale-rumped zebra arriving at the waterhole. (These are being bred to resemble the now-extinct kwagga.)

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Resting in the shade of an acacia tree, nibbling cherries picked in Ceres the day before Christmas, we spent two delightful hours being entertained at the waterhole. (The campsite is normally out of bounds to non-residents but we were fortunate to get the all clear to stay a while from the rangers as the place was empty.) Not more than five minutes went by without some animals coming to drink – impala, springbok, wildies, hartebeest, tsessebe, zebra, warthogs and even a large baboon.

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Some just appeared mysteriously out of the bush while others arrived with fanfare down one of the many well-trodden pathways. The real clowns were the tsessebe who with their posteriors raised, stuck their heads into the mud and slid their horns up and down, flinging great globs of mud over their backs until they were well- coated to protect themselves from flies and mites. We laughed as a young one tried to mimic its parent even though its stubby little horns were no longer than a few centimeters.

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A warthog duo also caused much mirth as they cavorted in the mud dispersing a cloud of white butterflies. They were joined by their four miniature offspring.

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For the grand finalé a regal kudu bull steeped onto the stage with horns that looked uncomfortable to carry around all day.

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Our drive back to camp was delayed by a large herd of buffs (more than thirty) as they crossed the road at a leisurely pace before allowing us passage. The young calves were inquisitive.

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That's not the end of Day Two but, alas, the working day begins. More later .. .

_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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 Post subject: Re: Red Dust and Diamonds
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:38 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Red Dust and Diamonds
Day Two continued

Twenty minutes were spent watching a tsessebe that we thought was about to give birth. Several times the creature arched its back and contracted its stomach, behaving in an all together peculiar manner. With so many newborns around we were sure another was about to join the world. We waited in anticipation, with video camera poised. Eventually the animal stepped out of the bush and it became embarrassingly obvious that it was a male of the species.
‘Probably just a serious case of constipation’, cursed SB.
‘Oh dear, there goes that award-winning video’, I chortled.

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We made our way back to camp, arriving in time to see a big old dugga boy emerging from the water after his midday bath. He loped off to find shade shining like a bronze statue.

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After lunch and a heat-induced siesta, we took a stroll around the camp. One minute SB was walking and talking next to me, next minute he was on his knees down in the dust. Knowing his thoughts on religion, I knew he couldn’t possibly be praying.
‘Damn squirrel holes, he muttered, they’re frigging booby traps.’
A matchstick meerkat popped up his head to see what the fuss was about and an ostrich hurried by.

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As evening drew in, storm clouds gathered. Thunder rolled, lightning flashed and a deluge followed causing rivulets to gush through the campsite. After half an hour, the sun popped out to bid the day a final farewell, casting a golden glow on the landscape.

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I watched a tortoise hobble through the puddles and cleverly bump its way under the knee-high electric fence around the waterhole. He’d obviously been through that routine a few times before.

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‘Time to light the fire’, declared SB.
No sooner were the coals glowing than down came more rain, albeit at a gentler pace. While SB struggled to braai the spek wors, I did battle with the stove inside. The storm had taken out two of the three phases of electricity supply so cooking was in slow motion. Eventually the polenta, laced with butter and corn kernels, was ready as was the tomato ‘sous’. SB wrung out his dripping shirt and we sheltered under our thatched gazebo to tuck into a late dinner which was rounded off with a refreshing mango and green grape fruit salad.

That's all for now folks . . . :D

_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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 Post subject: Re: Red Dust and Diamonds
Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:36 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Red Dust and Diamonds
Day Three (28 December)

On Wednesday morning we travelled to Lilydale in the northern part of the reserve, en route to Kimberley for the day. The self-catering chalets at Lilydale are perched on the edge of the escarpment, overlooking the Riet River. The scene reminded me of Olifants in the Kruger and I half-expected to look down and see elephants wading in the water below. Must admit, I was missing ellies.

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On the way to Kimberley, we passed a game farm with herds of black wildebeest, the better looking of the species with their long golden tails, and some funny looking buck which we identified as black (melanistic) and white (leucistic) springbok.

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Putting images of animals aside for a few hours, we toured the Big Hole which is one mighty enormous ‘gat’ in the ground. The depth of the hole extends way below the green water we saw at the surface.

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A video at the start of the tour painted the picture of what life in the diamond rush was like: thousands of hopefuls from all over the world perilously working their claims and living in unhygienic conditions with a scarcity of water and an abundance of dirt and disease. All in the frenzied quest to unearth sparkly stones deposited millennia ago by an erupting volcano. SB was happy to potter around the old mining equipment but I was eager to see the sparkly stuff even if they were only replicas. The best stones found at Kimberley are sitting tightly embedded in crown jewels all over the world.

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After a stroll around the old mining town, set up much like Gold Reef City, and a visit to McGregor’s museum, I was all ‘citied out’ and ready to return to the bush.

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We returned to Lilydale and meandered down to Mosu Lodge, stopping frequently to watch fluffy baby wildies, some with umbilical cords still dangling, nudging their mothers’ udders to stimulate the flow of milk.

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Nursery groups of mini red harties, numbering up to ten or so, frolicked unsupervised, occasionally dashing into the road in front of our vehicle. They were all gangly limbs as they disappeared into the bush.

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In two instances black-backed jackals shot out of the bush and made a run for it down the road before ducking back into the shrubbery – too quick for us to get a decent pic.

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Suddenly, SB hit the brakes and pointed wildly, unable to get the words out. There, 50 metres away, was a white rhino, or more accurately a red rhino in its coat of dried mud. It began to trot straight towards us picking up speed as it drew closer.
‘Looks like we better move the car– and fast’, I exclaimed.
‘Relax’, replied SB. ‘There’s no calf in sight. It’ll probably go past us’. And this he did, calmly crossing the road right in front of us, giving us a view of his rather impressive horns. I sent up a silent angel request to keep him safe and out of harm’s way.

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‘Well, that seals it,’ exclaimed SB. ‘The Magnum for the first rhino sighting is mine.’
‘Indeed’, I agreed, not relishing the thought of watching him enjoying his ice-cream treat.
‘Cheer up’, he said, seeing the look on my face. ‘You’ll have to find the black one again to earn your Magnum.’

Sadly, Blackie, as we nicknamed him, proved to be as elusive as the Higg’s Boson – that elusive particle that scientists are looking everywhere for in order to prove the Big Bang theory.

Rounding another corner, the Subaru came face to face with the Incredible Hulk, a shiny wet black buffalo bull. There was a tense stand-off before the buff took out it’s frustration on a nearby bush. After rubbing his face in the leaves to rid himself of excess layers of mud, he stomped off.

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Our last sighting before Mosu camp was a family group of Kudu browsing at the side of the road. Windows were quickly rolled down to snatch a few pics before they bolted. For some unknown reason, SB decided to whistle for them. They froze en masse and stared at him as he trilled away through his repertoire of Christmas Carols. I snapped away.
‘Now we know what the secret is’, SB chuckled. ‘Maybe they’re related to Rudolph.’

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With storm clouds hanging low, SB declared he wasn’t keen to risk braaiing in the rain again. So the fillet steak was sliced thick and pan fried in butter. Baby potatoes, baby gems, small onions and carrots were tossed into the same pot to cook and dinner was ready within twenty minutes.

Another satisfying day!

_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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 Post subject: Re: Red Dust and Diamonds
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2012 9:57 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Rookie, you were spot on with the ID of the Juvenile Steppe Buzzard. I posted the pic on the Raptor ID link and Wildtuin confirmed it. Well done! :clap:

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And VVV, must admit that 'Low Pigs Wife' doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Vlakvarkvrou! :lol: :lol:

_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Red Dust and Diamonds
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:25 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Day Four (December 29)

On the fourth day, I earned some Brownie points, if not a Magnum, by spotting a group of seven roan antelope including one gawky teenager. ‘Well done’, said SB, conceding defeat. ‘Even if they do look a bit like donkeys with their big pointy ears.’ His snide comments aside, I was excited. It was my first sighting of roan in the wild.

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Not far from the roan were a couple of blesbok.

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Several more blissful hours were spent at Haak en Steek waterhole with some major drama provided by two zebra stallions fighting for supremacy in the herd. Red dust puffed and swirled as they chased, kicked and bit one another. My heart thumped in my chest as they both writhed on the ground and I doubted either one would rise again. Eventually the defeated one charged off into the bush, watched by two bemused tsessebe. The victor trotted to the water’s edge, head held high, showing off to his harem of painted ladies.

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As we munched our sarmies (camembert and salami on rye with gherkins and baby tomatoes) we were lucky enough to see five species visiting the waterhole at once – zebra, tsessebe, wildies, warthogs and a single gemsbok.
‘Isn’t it great how animals get along’, I commented. ‘They simply go their own way without interfering with other species.’
Just then SB sneezed loudly.
The animals took off in unison and fled for cover. Within seconds the waterhole was deserted and we had to resort to watching glossy starlings flitting from tree to tree. Hearing a knock-knock-knock I looked up to see a spotted woodpecker wearing a bright red cap. (To all the Twitchers out there, I’d love to know its name.) A pair of crimson breasted shrike caught my eye but with a flash of scarlet they were soon gone.

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On the drive back to Mosu we spotted the carcass of a giraffe, its dried yellow patchy skin still intact. Apparently the hapless creature was struck by lightning some months ago. Rangers told us a quirky tale about an unlucky vulture. With no predators in the park to tear open the tough hide, the vultures gained access to the fleshy bits by tearing open the giraffe anus. Somehow, one bird managed to get itself trapped inside. This was observed by passersby and reported to the rangers who decided to cut open the belly of the carcass. After two hours the bird managed to free itself. ‘Bet it lost its appetite for giraffe meat after that’, quipped SB. (Apparently a video was made of the incident but I’m not sure if it has been posted on any public forum).

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We also came across the skull of a long-dead wildebeest which must have died from old age.

Shortly after leaving the carcass we spotted seven live giraffe, their heads gliding smoothly above the tree tops. They moved into an open clearing and paused momentarily to give us a photo opportunity before striding on with purpose. We hurried back to camp hoping to meet them at the waterhole but they veered off into the bush again.

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Bags needed to be packed so we decided against a braai and had pork fillets with onions, peppers, mushrooms and cream on a bed of rice noodles. Then it was a trek to the car with a fully laden trolley for SB.

********************
Well, now the hour is late and it’s time for sleep so night-night all. Thanks for sharing my journey so far. One more episode to come so keep that popcorn handy.
:popcorn:

_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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 Post subject: Re: Red Dust and Diamonds
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:04 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Apologies for the delay in wrapping this up but I was away last week. :redface:

Day Five (30 December)

On the 8 km drive from Mosu Lodge to the exit gate on our last morning we spotted most of the reserve’s antelope species – from the big boys (eland, kudu and gemsbok) to the abundant red hartebeest and tsessebe and the smaller blesbok, impala and springbok. Plus a timid steenbok – how lucky!

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The Subaru disturbed a huddle of junior wildies fast asleep in the middle of the road and we said our goodbyes to a couple of zebra, a small group of buffalo and three giraffe.

‘Not bad, hey, for a half hour drive,’ exclaimed SB.
"Yeah, feels as though the park has arranged a farewell parade for us," I replied. :D


And that wasn’t the end of it! On a game farm adjacent to Mokala we spotted a herd of sable, surely the most majestic of the antelope. The glossy black coats of the males glowed in the morning sunlight.

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By the way, can anyone help with an ID on this odd-looking chap? Sorry picture not great as he was rather far away.

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We hadn’t expected great things of Mokala but it proved to be a magical spot with plenty of game to keep us interested. :dance: In a way, it was a relief to be able to relax and not be on the constant search for cats, fearful that you’ll miss them, or that others will find them in a spot you’ve driven by only moments earlier.

Mokala (the Setswana name for a camel thorn) was proclaimed in 1986 and is Sanparks newest park. Game was relocated there when the nearby Vaalbos reserve was returned to the community in a land claim settlement. The fence between Lilydale and Mokala will be taken down shortly, enlarging the reserve.

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In terms of accommodation there is something to cater to all tastes with luxury and semi-luxury chalets at Mosu and Mofele, rustic camping at Haak en Steek and more comfy camping at Motswedi, where each camp site has its own designated ablutions – all brand-spanking new too.


Of course, we’d love to return to Mokala one day but with so many other exciting destinations on our wish list who knows if that will ever come about. As we headed for our next stop, Tankwa Karroo National Park, we felt content with our memories and the happy snaps we’d taken. :clap:

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Thanks for sharing this experience with us.

:gflower:

Trip report on the last leg of our journey to the Tankwa Karoo National Park to follow soon. (Look out for Tinkering in the Tankwa.)

_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


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 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Red Dust and Diamonds
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:08 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 2:09 pm
Posts: 88
Location: Cape Town, sometimes Jo'burg
Thanks to all for the comments. I'm glad word is spreading about what a gem Mokala is.

I posted the pic of what I thought was a black springbok on the Mammmal ID ang got confirmation from Lion Queen, Radman, Du Ques and Anne-marie. Also from Vlakvarksegat. Thanks for that!

Also Googled and found some interesting info on both the black and white springbok. What a dreadful shame that certain people choose to hunt these beautiful creatures!

_________________
Buglette's Trip Reports:
Introducing a Rookie to the KNP
Red Dust and Diamonds (Mokala)
Tinkering in the Tankwa
Loerie Stalking in the Wilderness
Scratching the Bottom of Africa
Golden Gate to Happiness
Rambling Round the Richtersveld


Top
 Profile  
 
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