The newest national park in South Africa is Mokala, about 80kms south-west of Kimberley. Proclaimed in 2007, it is the park which effectively took over from the old Vaalbos National Park, which was claimed back by the original land owners in 1998.
South African National Parks started looking for a nearby property that could replace Vaalbos, and in 2005 a hunting property was bought from private owners. The park has grown significantly since then, as SANParks has bought up surrounding farms, and now is about 28 000 hectares in size. It’s still a smallish area, and there are plans to buy up more farms eventually.
Because it’s a new park, and the land had been farmed, visitors will notice old farm buildings and degraded veld in some areas, but what it lacks in “wilderness” it more than makes up for in interesting animals.
Mokala is unofficially known as the park “where endangered species roam”, for breeding and reallocation to other national parks and game reserves. Here you’ll find sizeable populations of roan and sable antelope, while the buffalo are all disease-free, and you’ll also see tsessebe and blue wildebeest. White and black rhino also exist.
And although there are no large predators like lion, cheetah or leopard, the antelope and animals are more relaxed than other game reserves. Early one morning field guide Stefan Prins and I went out looking for sable, and when we found them grazing in a grassy area, we got out and walked slowly towards them. Instead of running away, they watched us and let us get to within about thirty metres of them, before walking away slowly. Amazingly, several of them were youngsters. To see so many sable together, and in such a relaxed state, was very rewarding.
Stefan told me that there are plans to introduce cheetah at some stage, but only if authorities are certain that they won’t impact on the endangered antelope species.
We both chatted about leopard, and how it was likely that one came through now and again, but no-one has seen their spoor for a long time, so chances are they are not regular visitors. There are jackal and caracal however, as well as bat-eared foxes and aardwolf. And Mokala is known for its sightings of aardvark, which thrive in this part of the world.
“Mokala” means “camel-thorn” in Setswana, and it was chosen as the name of the park, because it’s this tree (Faidherbia erioloba) which characterizes much of the landscape. The park falls between the Karoo and Kalahari, and is an interesting mix of landscapes and species.
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