Northern Cape camel thorn splendour: Mokala National Park
Fikile Hlatshwayo is the author of Blacks DO Caravan (Jacana, 2016). The book tells the story of a South African family’s travels to 60 caravan parks across nine provinces, raking up 25 000km in the process. Blacks DO Caravan aims to inspire South Africans to take time out of their hectic schedules, spend time with their families and discover the beauty right outside their doorstep. This is an account of the family's journey in the province of extremes.
Nothing beats the warmth of the Northern Cape. As we drove into Mokala National Park in the Northern Cape, we were captivated by the red sand and abundance of camel thorn trees. It is no wonder the park is named Mokala, meaning “camel thorn” in Setswana.
This tree is believed to have healing powers and through the years have been used a lot by local communities to treat colds, tuberculosis and other medical conditions. Lesedi and Leo, my two beautiful kids, said: “Wow, we are going to have great fun in this place."
The park is South Africa’s newest gem, proclaimed in June 2007 as a national park. It has three lodges, ranging from self-catering to luxury units and a campsite with private ablution facilities overlooking a waterhole where wildlife roams.
On our arrival at reception, the friendly staff explained the family activities we could enjoy in the park, including sunrise, morning, afternoon and sunset game drives, a rock art drive and bush braais. We quickly made our way to the rest camp, which has 12 self-catering, air-conditioned units overlooking the Riet River.
Nothing beats the panoramic views of the river set off against the magnificent arid landscape! It calls for swimming, especially when the weather is hot. We did not waste time and descended towards the gate that opens to the river.
In no time, we were jumping, splashing and running around the river, enjoying the cool breeze and fascinating scenery of rocky hills.
We also attempted rock climbing but I, with my floppy arms, was not successful, while my kids managed to climb up – very impressive indeed! After hours of playing at the river, we retired to the restaurant for a late lunch. The food was awesome and the magnificent views just added to the delicious flavours.
The park’s rich, arid vegetation in the transition zone between the Nama Karoo and savanna biome attracts a myriad bird species. We thoroughly enjoyed birdwatching and game viewing while self-driving in the park.
Mokala is home to rare and endangered species such as sable and tsessebe antelope roaming the thornveld savanna. I admire the valuable work done by SANParks in protecting our most vulnerable wild animals. Without these parks’ vital intervention, South Africa would be losing many of its unique wildlife treasures. I highly recommend a visit to this intimate park to experience nature at its best!