Category Archives: Northern Cape Province

Mokala Scenery

We’ve already shown you so many of the animals and birds that call Mokala home that you must by now be convinced of the fact that this National Park is one of South Africa’s conservation gems. That sensational faunal diversity however would not have existed had it not been for the wide range of vegetation, habitats and landscapes that Mokala comprises, and now in this final post about our April 2018 visit it is fitting that we showcase that aspect.

One of our highlights from this trip was having a front row seat to one of the most awe-inspiring experiences one could hope to have in Africa: a powerful thunderstorm rolling over the parched plains, smelling the red dust rise into the air as big drops of cool rainwater smacks into the dry soil. Soul stirring stuff.

And finally a few shots of our favourite place to stay while visiting Mokala: the rustic Haak-en-Steek Cottage.

If you’d like to learn more about Mokala National Park, why not have a read through the detailed post we did about the Park in 2016.

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A rich assortment of animals at Mokala

Just as with the birds we showed you 2 days ago, Mokala National Park has an incredible variety of four and six legged creatures on show.

The large mammals are the easiest to see and photograph. During our 4 day visit in April 2018 we recorded over 750 different sightings of 30 different kinds of mammals!

The white rhino is the biggest of the animals in Mokala. Here they are shy and elusive and we were very happy to see a few of these endangered creatures.

Remember those mud-loving buffaloes we showed you a few days ago? Well that wasn’t our only encounter with Mokala’s growing population of African buffalo and we were very fortunate to come across several more herds and a few loners while exploring the Park.

Mokala’s giraffes are shown off to great effect in the open landscape dotted with their favourite Camel Thorn and Umbrella Thorn trees.

Mokala is certainly one of the reserves with the greatest variety of antelope in South Africa, many of which are rare in other national parks. Amongst others we managed to see black and blue wildebeest, blesbok, eland, gemsbok, grey duikerimpala, kudu, mountain reedbuckred hartebeest, steenbokwaterbuck, tsessebe, sable and roan antelope.

Not forgetting that we’ve already shown you loads of photos of Mokala’s springbok and plains zebras.

Mokala also has a wide variety of smaller mammals that are easier to overlook; Baboons and vervet monkeys, ground squirrels, warthogs, meerkats and yellow mongooses all crossed our path from time to time.

Mokala’s insects, amphibians and reptiles make you work harder for sightings of them, but for those who go to the effort there’s an astonishing variety of less conspicuous creatures waiting to entertain and enthrall!

If you’d like to learn more about Mokala National Park, why not have a read through the detailed post we did about the Park in 2016.

Bird Watching at Mokala

Mokala National Park owes its diversity of bird species both to its location at the transition between South Africa’s arid west and wetter eastern regions, as well as the diversity of habitats protected within its borders. To date, more than 200 species of birds have been recorded within this relatively new Park and we, not considering ourselves very proficient birders (yet) managed to tick a respectable 70 of those. These are just a few of the feathered friends we made at Mokala during our visit in April 2018.

If you’d like to learn more about Mokala National Park, why not have a read through the detailed post we did about the Park in 2016.

Mokala’s Pale Zebras

When the last Quagga mare died in Amsterdam Zoo in 1883, it was thought that this uniquely South African species of zebra was hunted into extinction, never to be seen again. Where once thousands of Quaggas, with their striped forequarters and brown backs and buttocks roamed the Karoo their distinct “kwa-ha-ha” calls would never be heard again. Over a century later however it was realised, through DNA analysis, that the Quagga was a localised race of the still extant Plains Zebra, and the Quagga Project came into being to try and bring them back through selective breeding. With each subsequent generation showing more and more Quagga-like characteristics, one day we may again see true-to-form Quaggas roaming their native country in vast numbers.

The area in which Mokala National Park is located would have been populated by zebras that were intermediate in appearance between the Quaggas and more “traditionally” patterned Plains Zebras, and thus when the Park was proclaimed it was decided to specifically stock it with zebras that had a lesser degree of striping, especially on their backs and haunches. These pale-rumped zebras are certainly an endearing feature of the Park.

If you’d like to learn more about Mokala National Park, why not have a read through the detailed post we did about the Park in 2016.

 

How Vulture W428 is helping to conserve its species

On arriving at Haak-en-Steek Cottage at Mokala National Park on the 27th of April 2018, we found this young White-backed Vulture waiting to welcome us. Thanks to the tag fitted conspicuously on the wing it was easy to identify him / her as “Vulture W428”, and of course we wanted to find out more about this bird.

Mokala’s Park Manager put us in contact with Angus Anthony of the EWT’s Vulture Monitoring Project, thanks to whom we learned that Vulture W428 is one of 56 chicks that were tagged on their nests on Dronfield, a farm just north of the city of Kimberley in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, in October 2017. Once they become independent, these juvenile White-backed Vultures may roam very widely – even as far afield as Angola! Obviously Vulture W428 is a little less adventurous and likes staying closer to home. This may be because there’s a vulture feeding station on Dronfield, where there’s presently a growing population of about 100 breeding pairs of White-backed Vultures.

Research projects like these are invaluable in protecting South Africa’s dwindling vulture populations. Reporting sightings of tagged birds allow researchers to follow their movement and breeding patterns, glean information about their behaviour (do they mate for life, do pairs return to the same nest annually, etc) and calculate their life expectancy. Thanks to the tags it could be established for instance that young vultures return from their explorations to breed at Dronfield when they’re 4 to 5 years old, but then the question is whether the same holds true for other breeding colonies? This is vital information, considering that the IUCN recently reclassified the White-backed Vulture as Critically Endangered due to a rapid and enormous decline in their populations.

If you are lucky to see one of these tagged vultures while travelling through South Africa (or one of our neighbouring countries), please do share that information with the EWT – what may seem like a little piece of information may be vital to their continued survival. The kind of information the researchers are hoping for include the location (gps co-ordinates would be handy), date and time of the sighting, the colour and code of the tag, comments about the bird’s behaviour at the time (feeding, roosting, nesting, flying, solitary or with other vultures, etc), if possible the species and whether it is an adult or juvenile, and of course your own contact details in case they have follow-up questions.

This is a fantastic way to contribute to the protection of our natural heritage!

If you’d like to learn more about Mokala National Park, why not have a read through the detailed post we did about the Park in 2016.

 

Mokala’s multitude of Springbok

The Springbok is by far the most commonly encountered large mammal in Mokala National Park – during our four day stay in April 2018 we had over 200 springbok sightings ranging from solitary rams to enormous herds. Thankfully they are such beautiful animals that one could never tire of them, and the sprinkling of black and copper coated individuals made for fascinating comparisons with the more standard liveried animals.

Our most exhilarating encounter with Mokala’s Springbok was with these two mature rams contesting for ownership of a prime territory right in the middle of the road!

If you’d like to learn more about Mokala National Park, why not have a read through the detailed post we did about the Park in 2016.

Muddy fun at Dries se Gat

“Dries se Gat” is one of our favourite waterholes in Mokala National Park, not only because I share a name with it but also because there always seem to be something interesting happening there.

During our latest visit to Mokala we arrived at the waterhole just as a big herd of 100+ buffaloes were making their way to the water, and could spend quite a bit of time watching the animals interact with each other while slaking their thirst and enjoying a mud bath.

If you’d like to learn more about Mokala National Park, why not have a read through the detailed post we did about the Park in 2016.