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Mokala NP: advice, etc

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j-ms
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Mokala NP: advice, etc

Unread post by j-ms » Mon Jul 09, 2007 9:16 am

Found on the SA Birdnet Archives

Subject: TR: Short visit to the new Mokala National Park (long and chatty)


Hi folks!

While visiting our folks near Hartswater, northern Cape, we quickly dashed off for a day visit (4 July 2007) to the latest addition to our national parks list, Mokala NP. What a pleasant surprise!! We predict that this park will become a birding hotspot in the Northern Cape .....

Mokala NP (Mokala is the Setswana for Camel thorn/Kameeldoring) has just recently been opened and is the "replacement" for the de-proclaimed Vaalbos NP, which never really got going due to prospecting rights in the park, a successful land claim and monotonous habitat (from a birding perspective). We visited Vaalbos about 8 years ago and were hugely disappointed, so it was with a sense of anticipation that we set of for Mokala NP, which is about 70km due south of where Vaalbos used to be. According to SANParks, they have done their homework on Mokala and the same fate as Vaalbos would not befall this gem of 20 000 ha.

Mokala is about 80 km south-west of Kimberley, but be warned: at this stage there is no signposting from the N12 and this resulted in us overshooting the turnoff to the park by more than 50km's! Even the Tourist Information desk in Kimberley initially gave us wrong directions. After Mokala we still had to show our teenage daughter the Big Hole in Kimberley and this 100km+ "detour" seriously impacted on our time in the park.

Directions: from Kimberley, take the N12 towards Hopetown for 58 km until you reach the Hayfield turnoff to the right. Take this gravel road (some stretches badly corrugated) for about 20km to reach the entrance to the park on your right. Ironically, after 3km on the Hayfield road, we started getting minute signposts indicating the remaining distance to the park! Hopefully the authorities would soon be putting up the necessary roadsigns on the N12.

The entrance gate is remotely controlled from the main office, which is 7km into the park in an easterly direction. One has to contact the office by means of an intercom at the gate.

The friendly and helpful staff provided some answers to our questions at reception. Apparently the park used to be a hunting/game farm and therefore there are some lovely infrastructure/facilities at the main reception in the form of two camps with semi- to luxury chalets, restaurant, swimming pool, conference centre, bar, etc. The chalets of Mosu Lodge overlook a waterhole where some excellent birding and game-viewing should be had. We did not have time to visit the other lodge, called Mofele.

The rest of the park is still in the process of being developed and road-markers have just been erected (the typical stone markers like in the KNP), but no names/directions have been attached to them yet, so one has to follow numbered beacons for the time being. All the routes are clearly indicated on a fairly detailed park map, with about 70km of accessible roads. As there are dangerous game in the park, one is not allowed to leave your vehicle, except in designated spots. The camps and campsite are not fenced, adding to the wild ambience.

The "Haak en Steek" campsite (referring to the scrubs) is rustic (no power) and has 5 shady campsites with a small ablution: toilet, basin, shower with gas geyser. There is a single chalet at the campsite. We met the park manager, mr Joubert, at the campsite and he feels that this campsite has huge potential, because it overlooks a waterhole and has a lovely, remote setting. We fully agree and are already salivating about something like a viewing hide on the waterhole.

The good diversity of habitats (e.g. thornveld, rocky koppies, arid scrubland, karoo grassland/plains, dry watercourses) in the park will surely add to its appeal and its birdlist. There are also some nice red sandveld, smacking of the kalahari.

We could not nearly cover all the roads and tracks in the 3 hours at our disposal, having reached Mokala only at 11:30 after all the searching for the park. The time of day, cool to cold weather and breezy conditions were not optimal for birding, but we still had a good time, recording 65 species in the park. We have no doubt that a list of 100 species is possible on an extended visit and the park should eventually boast a list of close to 200 species. The high endemicity of the species recorded should also add to the attraction. We saw 68 species and could easily have reached 80+ if we had more time and better conditions. So much more reason to return ...

A very southern Purple Roller on the access road set the tone for some nice avian highlights for us NFS/Gauteng highvelders. Soon after that we were delighted to find a confiding female Pygmy Falcon near one of the few Sociable Weaver Nests in the vicinity of the main office. Short-toed Rock-thrush were wall-to-wall, as were Kalahari Scrub Robin. One of these delightful little blighters foraged less than 2m away in the campsite. Karoo Scrub-Robin were also present in good numbers and we saw a single Rufous-eared Warbler in scrubland near the campsite. The ubiquitous Cape Wagtail was joined at the main camp waterhole by African Quailfinch and Red-headed Finch.

Grey Hornbills were plentiful and we were lucky to first hear and then see a single male Red-crested Korhaan. A brilliant crimson flash and then good views had us agape for the umpteenth time on seeing a Crimson-breasted Shrike. Can you ever get enough of these beauties? The somewhat melancholy call of Pririt Batis was in direct contrast to its lively foraging in the mid stratum, sharing foraging trees with the delightful Fairy Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Ashy Tit, Chested-vented Tit-babbler and Long-billed Crombec in a nice mixed party. Acacia Pied Barbet chose to do their own thing outside the bird parties. The fluttery and somewhat lopsided flight of Chat Flycatcher drew attention to this giant of the flycatcher family.

Larks were represented by Sabota, Bradfield's and Fawn-coloured. To the ornithologists out there: c'mon guys, surely Bradfield's Lark is an obviously different bird from Sabota, let's have them split again, please...

A large flock of Pied Starlings were just another addition to the endemic list. Only Buffy and African Pipits were seen, but there is nice habitat for Kimberley and Long-tailed as well and we would not be surprised if these will also feature on the park list as more birders visit.

The chilly conditions prevented big raptor sightings and in addition to the rather shrike-like Pygmy Falcon, the raptors were represented by Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, an immature Black-shouldered Kite and a single Greater Kestrel. Mountain Wheatear were common around the many rocky outcrops and a pair of Capped Wheatear was seen just before we took our reluctant leave of the park.

As you leave the park, you once again contact the office by intercom to get the gate opened. The box containing the intercom is locked, but there is an inconspicuous silver button (looking more like a big pop-rivet or a self-taping screw than a button) on the box cover that you need to press to activate the intercom. The last addition to the list before we left was Pied Crow.

Mammalian sightings included Warthog, Roan Antelope, Gemsbok, Kudu, Hartbees, Springbok, Impala and buffalo, but we dipped in giraffe and the 2 rhino species.
Currently buffalo and rhino are the only big 5 species in the park.

We did not have internet access at the time of writing, so we could not check on other vital pieces of info on the SANParks website, like central booking etc. The park can be contacted at 053-2040158, 053-2040164 or 053-2040168 and faxed at 053-2040176.

All indications are that Mokala is on the right track and would become a world-class facility. Birders should not miss this park on a visit to the arid western interior. We will definitely be back.....

Regards and good birding.

Dawie and Sarieta Kleynhans

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New park? Mokala National Park?

Unread post by wmi » Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:55 pm

Mokala National Park is listed as a new park but from the list Vaalbos is gone is this the same park? If i look at the location I should say yes!

Can someone help me out?

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Unread post by DuQues » Thu Jul 19, 2007 4:17 pm

Mokala is indeed the new Vaalbos.
A few links: official announcement, The general pages, and the announcement
Not posting much here anymore, but the photo's you can follow here There is plenty there.

Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c

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Unread post by SANParks » Thu Jul 19, 2007 4:18 pm

Hi wmi,

Yes, Mokala NP is the new Vaalbos.

Read here about Mokala NP:
http://www.sanparks.org/parks/mokala/

Read here about what happened to Vaalbos:
http://www.sanparks.org/about/news/2007/jan/mokala.php
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Unread post by Stoffel » Wed Mar 05, 2008 5:13 pm

I had the opportunity to visit Mokala for a short visit (2 hours 40 minutes) yesterday. Unfortunately I was very unprepared (no camera or binoculars) as I had to perform some work at Modderrivier - south of Kimberley. I finished my obligations by 12:00 and as my flight back to Cape Town only left Kimberley at 18:10, I decided to dash off to Mokala.

The first 10 km of the gravel road to the park's entrance was quite badly corrugated. But the last 11 km was in good shape as the grader was busy scraping the road.

The roads in the park itself were in reasonable condition for a sedan car (I drove an Avis VW Polo) - but if I was there with my pick-up truck I would have said that the roads were in good condition.

On the 6 km stretch between the gate and Reception I only saw a few gemsbok. Mosu (where reception is situated) looks quite nice, but I was not impressed with Mofele. The latter gave me the impression of a modern-like farmstead and in my opinion lacks the atmosphere of a typical "camp/lodge" in a National Park.

I was advised by the very friendly personnel at Reception to do the Matopi- and Tsessebe Loops. This was a good recommendation. I saw one of the biggest herds of red hartebeest (with young ones) that I have ever seen in any park. Quite a few warthog were seen, as well as kudu, impala and springbok. I found the springbok in the park to be extremely wild. A single blesbok was seen (very far away), but the highlight of my short visit was to see roan antelope on two occasions and a lot of tsessebe (with calves). I also saw duiker and steenbok.

Unfortunately the buffaloes eluded me again (I have never seen them in Vaalbos during my two visits there either). The same applies for rhino.

I thought that Vaalbos was beautiful, but in my opinion Mokala beats it by far regarding topography, type of vegetation (although somewhat similar) and the feeling of vastness.

Haak-en-Steek rustic camp should be an exceptional experience to stay at - especially if you have it for yourself. When I was there yesterday, only one little tent, with two chairs outside, was pitched under the camel thorns. I made a resolution yesterday that I would like to experience Haak-en-Steek for myself.
Last edited by Stoffel on Wed Mar 05, 2008 7:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post by DuQues » Wed Mar 12, 2008 2:56 pm

A newsarticle was posted on the frontpage.
Not posting much here anymore, but the photo's you can follow here There is plenty there.

Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c

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Unread post by SandyB » Mon Apr 07, 2008 12:31 pm

Hi there,

Yes, we stayed at Haak-en Steek and if you like rustic it is great. They have 1 rustic chalet there that can sleep 4 comfortable wich has it's own enclosed lapa...very nice and a bathroom. We stayed in the chalet. It is fully equiped for self-catering.
Then there are 5 camp sites under beautiful thorn trees (Haak-en Steek). There are ablutions with the basics, 1 shower, a toilet and a basin - one for men and one for women.
The camp is situated right next to a waterhole, so set up your tri-pod, get out your binocs, grab a cold beer and relax. The animals come to you!!
The camp is not enclosed (fenced), so it is best to stay close to the camp after dark. There is electricity.

I do have pics, but am still sorting through them to post some of the best ones (2400 pics for the entire trip). Mokala was our last stop over of an 18 day trip that started in the Richtersveld. I will try and do a full trip report with pics, once I am settled and have some more time on my hands.
SandyB :)

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Unread post by Dave Moore » Sat May 03, 2008 7:36 pm

Naomi c
I was just reading about you wanting to take your caravan to Mokala. We were there yesterday and I must say that knowing your caravan and tow vehicle, If you could get it to Mapungubwe then you can get it to Haak en Steek campsite. We drove all the loops at Mokala and saw many different kinds of sedans on the roads. The road to the park from the tar road is about 25km of good gravel road. There was the odd area which was a bit rough but if you take it easy then it should be fine. I met an elderly man from Kakamas who was absolutely enthralled with the park and he was driving an old merc which he said handled all the roads with no problems. He told me he had been to the waterhole near the campsite as well. We did not go right up to the campsite but I would be very surprised if the road was any different to all the others. The park itself is absolutely beautiful, the only problem was the lack of animals. I was told that there had been some game capture going on the previous week, and also that it was previously a hunting farm? The animals which we did see, except the buffalo, all ran off at high speed when we approached them. Even the ostrich made a bee line for the horizon! But as mentioned, we were very happy to see buffalo. We stayed in a lodge nearby called Lilydale Lodge which will become part of Mokala apparently. It does not appear on the website yet but if you phone a lady called Patricia at Mokala itself, she will help you. It has twelve two sleeper self catering units and the setting is lovely. It overlooks the Riet river. The staff are very helpful. We saw a few Gemsbok and Red Hartebeest and these did not run away.

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Unread post by Jakkalsbessie » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:50 am

Mark,

Mokala is a great park and you will really enjoy it!

To answer your questions:
Haak en steek camp is very small... just one 'rustic' cottage (with 2 sleeping areas - for 4 people) and the rest is camping spots.
So no office or sighting boards or anything like that. It does have a stunning waterhole infront and when you sit on the bed you look onto the waterhole
Also lots of trees and shade and a nice boma.
Remember this is still a very small and new park, so no unfortunately no picnic spots or birdhides etc.
So you must stock up on everything before you get there (you can buy wood at the offices at Mosu lodge)

And yes a Polo will be 100% - only times when these roads become a nightmare is during the rains, but usually they then close the 'tricky' roads.

Hope you have a great time!
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Unread post by Jakkalsbessie » Tue Jul 22, 2008 8:32 am

Giraffe wrote:Hi Mark and Jakkalsbessie,

We are also visiting Mokala NP in September and made reservations for a bungalow at the Mosu Lodge.

In our reservation confirmation it's mentioned that it's not self catering and braai facilities are not available, but that there is a restaurant available.

Hi Giraffe, you will have a great stay Mosu lodge is very nice and yes as you say it is not self catering and have a beautiful restaurant and pool.

Haak en steek camp is only self catering and I must admit that was the only thing that bothered me a bit about Mokala - that there are no 'in between' options or picnic spots... say for instance when in Haak en Steek (like we were) you have to pack lunch or go all the way back to camp to make brunch (or for a 'toilet break').

Mark... maybe you must only book your December week after your September trip
I know you are a true nature lover like me and can probably stay in the bush for long times without entertainment... just saying... Mokala is really VERY small and have limited roads... you can easy drive all the roads in 1 day (don't know if they have new roads now with Lilydale being part of the park).
And in December with all the rains some roads may even be closed... then a week can be very long
Also remember that staying in Haak en Steek you will have to take all supplies with for the week - there is no where to stock up on things like bread etc.
(maybe stay 3/4 days in Mokala and 3/4 days in Augrabies... which is an easy drive from Mokala and also stunning)

I know both of you will have a great time! Mokala is really special and quite different to other SanParks!
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Unread post by MarkWildDog » Wed Jul 23, 2008 3:22 pm

Thanks a million for the very detailed info, JB. A great help!

We've decided for a day trip first to have a look around and if good we'll then book a couple of days at Mosu. My mother isnt such a fan of driving around looking for animals, unless we spot a steenbok so i think the park will suit us just fine.

Do you possibly know how long of a drive it is from bloem? 2hrs? 2 and a half?

Jumbo

Unread post by Jumbo » Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:38 am

What is the travelling time from Mokala to PTA?
We have to drive up from George to PTA in September and are considering making Mokala a stop-over (unfortunately only for one night, tho)

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Unread post by Dave Moore » Thu Jul 24, 2008 1:26 pm

Jumbo,
Just checked on my Mapsource and it looks like its about 620km from Mokala to Pretoria. So you are looking at around 6 1/2 hours or so. The park is about midway between Hopetown and Kimberley. Strangely it still doesn`t appear on the latest version of Mapsource so if you are using a gps you will have to direct yourself according to the information which you will find on the Sanparks site. The turnoff is at Heuningneskloof and it is all signposted.


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