Just south of Kimberley lies the delightful Mokala National Park, studded with camelthorn trees. Its open Kalahari plains offer easy sightings of rare beasts like tsessebe and roan antelope. It is especially rich in raptors – you’ll easily see the pale chanting goshawk and half-a-dozen others.

Did you know?

In a pinch, camelthorn seeds can be roasted, ground and used as a coffee substitute.

The tsessebe, say the experts, is the speediest antelope in the Mokala National Park.

Actually, it would outrun almost any wild ungulate anywhere in Africa – not that you would have guessed just by looking at it. This racehorse equivalent has high shoulders, a low-slung rump and a somewhat bemused mien.

It is also on the Red Data list of threatened animals. But at Mokala National Park, just outside Kimberley, the tsessebe is doing rather well.

In fact, this new park is home to a thriving host of Red Data species.

Take a drive along Matopi Loop and you stand a better than good chance of seeing black rhino, white rhino and those irresistible pixie-eared roan antelope.

Mokala was declared in 2007, after another national park near Kimberley, Vaalbos, was deproclaimed after a successful land claim.

The park is named Mokala after the Setswana name for the signature tree of this area, the camelthorn, or Acacia erioloba.

The older trees tower above in a characteristic umbrella shape, but you'll notice a few look as though thatchers have been at them.

These are the huge homes of sociable weavers, each one contributing a single strand of grass every so often. Inside, the birds are shielded from temperature extremes so typical of desert climates.

There may not be many predator mammals, but the park seems to attract more than its fair share of raptors. You'll hardly pass a day here without seeing a pale chanting goshawk or two.

Look out for martial eagles, and a range of vultures – including lappet-faced, white-backed and Cape vultures.

At night, with the Kalahari sky full of stars, keep an eye open for Cape eagle owls in the camelthorns.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

South Africa National Parks reservations
Tel: +27 (0) 12 428 9111
Email: reservations@sanparks.org

Mokala National Park
Tel: +27 (0) 53 204 0158

Wildebeeskuil Rock Art Centre
Tel: +27 (0) 53 833 7069
Email: dmorris@inext.co.za

McGregor Museum
Tel: +27 (0) 839 2700

How to get here

From Cape Town or Johannesburg, head for Kimberley on the N12. From Kimberley, drive 57km south-west to the Hayfield/Heuningnes crossing, then turn right onto a gravel road. You'll find the park entrance on your right, after about 21km.

There is also a small airport at Kimberley.

Best time to visit

Autumn (April and May) and spring (September) are extremely pleasant. Midsummer and midwinter bring extreme temperatures.

Around the area

Don't miss a visit to the charming diamond-rush city of Kimberley. The nearby Wildebeestkuil Rock Art Centre is also well worth seeing.

Length of stay

Stay at least 2 nights to truly feel the magic of this peaceful place.

Where to stay

Mokala has two rest camps where the accommodation is semi-luxurious to luxurious. A 70km drive away is Lilydale, a slightly more basic rest camp, with a restaurant open for groups.