Kalahari – Mokala National Park

About the Birding

Located at the transition zone between the Karoo and Kalahari biomes, this park plays host to a nice mix of species within close proximity, making for wonderful birding. Departing from Mosu Lodge, moving west towards Tsessebe loop, one will pass through typical thornveld savannah, where you should keep a lookout for African Pygmy Falcon, Chat Flycatcher, Marico Flycatcher, and Fawn-coloured Lark on the sandy soils. They can often be found calling conspicuously from the tops of the thorn trees, whilst scanning the ground could yield Northern Black Korhaan.

Scan any areas with termite mounds and low shrubs for Eastern Clapper Lark, easiest to locate in the breeding season by their characteristic display flights. Pay close attention around any of the dolerite ridges, as Short-toed Rock-thrush favours these areas. Dense stands of thornveld in this section good for seedeaters and Green-winged Pytilia, Violet-eared Waxbill, Red-billed Firefinch, Sociable Weaver and Blue Waxbill can be found, whilst Marico Sunbird and Pearl-spotted Owlet occur here, they’ll not as confiding and may take a bit of work to pick up.

Moving northwest towards the Doornlaagte and Knietjie loops, one passes more dolerite ridges and beautiful valleys where Sabota Lark, Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Mountain Wheatear, Grey-backed Cisticola, Nicholson’s Pipit and both Cinnamon-breasted Bunting and Cape Bunting can be found side-by-side. In more open thornveld habitat, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and Ashy Tit can often be found foraging alongside Pririt Batis, Neddicky and Long-billed Crombec. For those who put in the time, Fairy Flycatcher, Plain-backed Pipit, Rufous-eared Warbler and African Rock Pipit can all be found here too. Shaft-tailed Whydah and Village Indigobird are best picked up here in summer whilst in full breeding dress, and these warm summer months along this route are also good for passage migrant cuckoos, and Jacobin Cuckoo and Black Cuckoo are regular here. Keep your eyes to the skies on warm days, White-backed Vulture, Cape Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture and various other raptors can often be picked out as they use thermals to cover ground.

For those who access the Lilydale section of the park (query access and road conditions at reception or the main gate), you’re in for some interesting birding as you edge nearer to riverine habitat. Along the Riet River here and in damper areas, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Levaillant’s Cisticola, White-fronted Bee-eater and the enormous Goliath Heron can all be found. Martial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel (summer), Greater Kestrel, Gabar Goshawk and African Pygmy Falcon all occur in the area, and the scrubby and thornveld areas along the Vaalbos Loop are home to Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Orange River White-eye, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Violet-eared Waxbill, Pririt Batis, Swallow-tailed Bee-Eater, Red-crested Korhaan, Lark-like Bunting (more common in dry seasons), Lesser Grey Shrike (summer), Fawn-coloured Lark and many more. As you loop west back towards the main camp, the habitat opens up again and Eastern Clapper Lark, Kori Bustard, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Scaly-feathered Weaver, Black-faced Waxbill, Ashy Tit, Namaqua Dove, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Common Scimitarbill, Sociable Weaver and Golden-breasted Bunting all occur here.

This park not only shines when it comes to birds, but those visiting can also enjoy some of the larger, and scarcer herbivores such as Black Rhino and White Rhino, Cape Buffalo, Tsessebe, Roan, Mountain Reedbuck, Giraffe, Gemsbok, Eland, Red Hartebeest and many of the smaller species like Steenbok, Grey Duiker and Springbok.

Key species:

Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Ashy Tit, Black-chested Prinia, Red-crested Korhaan, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Acacia Pied Barbet, Fawn-coloured Lark, Sociable Weaver, African Pygmy Falcon, Eastern Clapper Lark

About the Birding Site

Mokala National Park, located roughly 60km south of Kimberley, was proclaimed as recently as 2007 after the nearby Vaalbos National Park was de-proclaimed. This park covers more than roughly 20000 hectares, has large tracts of thornveld savanna habitats with isolated dolerite ridges and outcrops and thus is home to an array of arid specialist fauna and flora.

Although the road network is good, there are two key loop roads to be explored within the park, the Matopi route in the west and the Doornlaagte route located in the north.

Key species:

Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Ashy Tit, Black-chested Prinia, Red-crested Korhaan, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Acacia Pied Barbet, Fawn-coloured Lark, Sociable Weaver, African Pygmy Falcon, Eastern Clapper Lark

Other Related Information

Access and facilities:
South African Citizens & Residents (with ID) : R50 per adult/day, R25 per child/day
SADC Nationals (with passport): 100 per adult/day, R50 per child/day
Standard Conservation Fee: R200 per adult/day, R100 per child/day

Gate hours vary month to month, please visit the website prior to arrival for details.
Times range from 07:00-19:00 in Summer (October to March) and from 07:00-17:30 in Winter (May to July).

Other related information:

Mokala National Park is situated in a semi-arid region, due to this, extreme temperature fluctuations can be experienced. Pack sufficient warm and light clothing to accommodate for this.

This erratic rainfall area (300-700mm) receives most of its rain from June to May.

  • Peak Summer Temperatures (December to January) can exceed 44°C.
  • Winter Temperatures (June and July) are a cool 20°C, often dropping well below 0°C at night, with heavy frost in some instances.

Mokala National Park offers a number of activities, which include:

  • Guided Morning, Day, Sunset and Night Drives.
  • Bush Braai including guided game drive.
  • Guided Rock Art Drives
  • Flyfishing

Important information:

  • There is no fuel station or grocery shop. Nearest fuel is at Modderrivier.
  • Use of drones is prohibited.
  • No restaurant facilities. Very basic necessities are purchasable at Mosu shops.
  • Sedan vehicles may not pass all roads after rainfall. 4×4 recommended, or phone the park ahead of time for updates on road conditions.
  • Road closures may occur after heavy rains, speak to the park for details on alternative routes.
  • Main gates are not manned 24 hours a day, ensure you read the gates before closure times.
  • Mosu Lodge has a wheelchair friendly unit, and Lilydale Camps receptions is wheelchair friendly. The park has a game drive vehicle that can accommodate a guest in a wheelchair.
  • Wildcards can be utilized for this park.
  • Maps are available for a small fee at the entrance gate.
  • Access with motorbikes and quad bikes is not allowed within the park.
  • No pets are permitted within the park.
  • Although this is a low risk malaria area, consult your doctor/chemist.

Getting to the main gate of Mokala National Park from Johannesburg, one takes the N12 route towards Cape Town from Kimberley. Travelling 57km from Kimberley, passing the entrance to Wintershoek, you turn right on a gravel road at the Hayfield/Heuningnes Kloof crossing. Continue for 21km and find the gate on your right hand side. Reception is a further 7km from the gate.

Accessing the park from Cape Town, take the N12 north to Hopetown. 65km north of Hopetown to turn left onto the Hayfield/Heuningnes Kloof crossing, and continue 21km to the gate.

Main Gate: -29.2129 24.3261
Mosu Lodge: -29.1731 24.3505
Lilydale Rest Camp: -29.0386 24.5031
Lilydale Gate: -29.0731 24.4665
Mofele: -29.1680 24.3689
All maps for Mokala National Park can be found here.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
There are a number of private Bed & Breakfasts and lodges in the area, which are all available through online booking sites. Both camping and chalet type accommodation can be located within the park itself. There are no BirdLife Recommended Accommodations listed for this area.

Local guide information:
There are no community bird guides available for this site. However, there are a number of BirdLife Recommended Tour Operators that can supply guides or guided tours for this site, Unearth Safaris.

Text prepared by:
Justin Rhys Nicolau (Unearth Safaris)

Key species:

Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Ashy Tit, Black-chested Prinia, Red-crested Korhaan, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Acacia Pied Barbet, Fawn-coloured Lark, Sociable Weaver, African Pygmy Falcon, Eastern Clapper Lark

Contact details:

Mokala National Park
Central Reservations
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111
Email: reservations@sanparks.org

For enquiries, please contact:
Mosu Lodge/Mokala’s Main Camp
Tel: +27 (0)53 204 8000 or
+27 (0)53 204 8300
Email: tess.white@sanparks.org
Website: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/mokala/