Mokala is a malaria-free national park off the N12 near Kimberley, and a perfect stopover between Cape Town and Joburg.
Although Mokala is the Setswana word for a camel thorn tree, the park is best known for its endangered species like roan, sable and tsessebe, not to mention aardvark and aardwolf. Turn your stopover into a two-night stay and enjoy these activities.
Also read: first time camping in Mokala National Park
1. Stay in a tree house
The Kameeldoring tree house roosts in the branches of – you guessed it – a camel thorn tree. Best of all, it’s 14km away from your nearest human neighbours and overlooks a private waterhole. Here you might get a visit from buffalo, eland, giraffe, warthog, kudu, gemsbok, wildebeest, red hartebeest, springbok, steenbok and meerkat. Watch the sunset through the branches, braai on the deck and fall asleep to the sounds of nature all around.
Tip: There’s a minimum two-night stay. Book ahead on tel 0532048000 but be warned that it’s very popular.
Also read: 7 dreamy treehouses for a faraway break
2. Join a guided sunset drive
Going on a guided sunset drive is a chance to see the landscape soften as the sun sets. It’s also your best chance to see owls, genets and hares, as well as black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox or African wild cat. You may even spot the elusive nocturnal aardvark or aardwolf. (I’ve only seen an aardvark once and it was on a sunset drive at Mokala a few years back.) Our guide Henry van Wyk also helped to unravel the differences between Mokala’s various thorn trees – camel thorn, umbrella thorn, black thorn and more.
Tip: The vehicle will have a spotlight so take your camera and long lens along for the ride.
3. Visit the interpretation centre
Mokala’s interpretation centre just a few kilometres from Mosu Lodge is well worth a visit. Posters and displays tell of the geological and climate background of the area and depict the lives of the Khoi, San, Griqua and Tswana in the old days. Learn how the arrival of trekboers, farmers and missionaries as well as the discovery of diamonds changed things and led to conflicts like the Griqua wars and the Anglo Boer War. Two well constructed dioramas give insight into the life of some of Mokala’s creatures, such as warthog, springbok, steenbok, aardvark and porcupine.
Tip: The interpretation centre is air-conditioned so it’s a great place to visit in the heat of the day.
4. Go birding
There are some 150 bird species in Mokala. Keep your eyes peeled for everything from African fish-eagle, kori bustard and secretary bird to pygmy falcon, redbilled oxpecker, sociable weaver and violet-eared waxbill. Don’t forget to take a break at Stofdam bird hide for a chance to spot crimson-breasted shrike, swallow-tailed bee-eater, malachite kingfisher, long-billed crombec, white-backed and lappet-faced vulture, as well as kudu, roan or sable coming for a drink.
Tip: You can sleep over in the rustic Stofdam hide if you book ahead on tel 053-2048000.
5. See San rock engravings
If you’re keen on culture and heritage, get a guide to take you to see San rock art in the park. It’s unusual because the San are usually associated with rock paintings and these are engravings, more usually made by the Khoi. But they match the style and subject matter of the San – i.e. animals – rather than the geometric designs of the Khoi.
Tip: See the Official Information Guide to Mokala at reception or ask your guide for more about these engravings and their significance.
If you have three or more nights to spend, discover another 15 things to do at Mokala National Park.
More details on Mokala National Park
Tel 0532048000 (including bookings for the tree house and Stofdam bird hide)
Bookings for all other accommodation in the park: Tel 0124289111, sanparks.org
To follow more of my adventures, see my African travel blog.