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JJust 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.
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.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Mokala National Park
Tel: +27 (0)53 204 8000
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.
Things to do
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.
What to pack
There is no petrol station in the park, so fill up before entering. Bring a headlamp or torch for walking around at night. Always pack insect repellent and sunscreen.