Trip report: Mokala National Park – Aug 2012

A week or three ago my wife realised (on a Wednesday) that she is not on duty over the weekend and we  decided to have a quick visit to Mokala National Park. I quickly made a booking at Mosu Lodge and we left the Friday afternoon around 14H30 – to arrive at Mokala around 17H00 (I decided to take the Jagersfontein – Fauresmith – Koffiefontein – Jacobsdal – Richie road. Nice and quiet road perfect for a relaxing drive. Unfortunately we arrived too late for an afternoon drive in the park – so we decided just to relax, take it slow and “braai ‘n vleisie”.

Early Saturday morning, after some rusks and tea, it was off to drive the Matopi loop, have some tea at the picnic spot, and then to continue to the waterhole at the turn of the loop. For more info and a map of the park:

The waterhole is great for morning shoots as the sun is behind you and there are usually lot of bird action. And we were not disappointed:

The Drongo entertained us for a while – a bit of a busy photo but like I said before, one must make use of the opportunitesas best as you can. Even if it is just to practise your BIF shots.

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens with 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO800, f5.6, 1/3200, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode)


I was very surprised when a Black winged Stilt came from nowhere to pay a visit to the waterhole and stayed for a few minutes before taking off (unfortunately my “take off “photos were not sharp). As you can see from my shutter speed – I did not expect the Stilt to stay long and I was prepared for a take off – well, one cannot catch all of it. Practice make perfect.

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens with 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO800, f5.6, 1/6400, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode)


The ever-present Crimson-breasted shrike also provided us with few opportunities. One needs to be patient – sometimes the Shrike stays away from the waterhole and you can only see it amongst the bushes. This time we were luckily but I’ve struggled to get a sharp image from it.

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens with 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO800, f5.6, 1/2500, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode)


And the Zebras did not disappoint us – came for a quick drink. They did not really trust us and quickly moved away. The Red hartebeest were also around, wanted to have a drink but decided to move on.

(Nikon D700, 70 x 200mmf2.8 fixed lens @ 200mm, ISO200, f6.3, 1/1250, exposure = -1.00, WB = sun, Aperture mode)


We stayed at the waterhole for almost two hours and these are just a few of the photo opportunities we had during the course of the morning. Lots of practicing with the doves and Mariko flycatchers. We went back to the lodge for a brunch, photo downloading and an early afternoon nap.

The afternoon we went to Stofdam and the bird hide as this is more suitable for afternoon shoots – once again, the sun is from behind in the afternoons. We arrived just after 15H00 and I was very glad see that there was again water in Stofdam as promised by Tess (park manager). Despite the low water level, the dam provided us with lot of activities around the water. A dead branch is positioned near the middle of the dam (in front of the hide), well positioned for late afternoon shots.  Once again, one needs to be patient. While we were there, four other people arrived but they left after staying for a while. After they left, the buffalos, impalas, water bucks and the animal we are not allowed to mention or show arrived. What a show! Once again, just a few of the photos taken on that Saturday afternoon. As you’ll see, at one stage, I’ve changed to my 1.7 convertor as the action took place a little bit too far away from the hide.

Lots of Cape glossy Starlings around and some of them did not like their food and getting rid of it.

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens with 1.7 convertor = 1000mm, ISO1600, f6.7, 1/1250, exposure = -1.00, WB = auto, Aperture mode)


What a surprise to see this family of five (only two of them in this photo) – a first for me in Mokala.

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1000, f6.3, 1/500, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode)


What can you expect from Mokala? Like they say: “If you want to see impala, go the Kruger National Park.” The same can be said about Mokala: “If you want to see Kudu, go to Mokala National Park.” You are almost guaranteed to see this magnificent specie  – not one but (sommer) several of them. I think they can even chance the name of the park to Kudu National Park.

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens with 1.74 convertor = 1000mm, ISO800, f5.6, 1/2500, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode)


Not a very sharp photo and it was just before we left the hide to go back to the lodge, but the jackal was not impressed with us in the hide.

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens with 1.7convertor = 1000mm, ISO2000, f6.7, 1/1000, exposure = -1.00, WB = auto, Aperture mode)


Well, what is a park with out its monkeys? Also a quick photo as we had to leave for the lodge before the gate closes.

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens with 1.1 convertor = 1000mm, ISO2000, f6.7, 1/320 exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode)


And the herd of buffalo was also around and (once again) just before we left the hide – they provided us with a few quick opportunities. By this time the light was not good and I had to remove the convertor to get the f-stop and shutter speed to an acceptable level.

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO2000, f4, 1/1250, exposure = -1.00, WB = auto, Aperture mode)


And then on our way to the lodge – just a few minutes to capture the magnificent sunset of Mokala before gate closing time (not really time to plan the shot properly):

(Nikon D700, 70 x 200mmf2.8 fixed lens @ 165mm, ISO200, f10, 1/160, exposure = -1.33, WB = sun, Aperture mode)


The Sunday morning we decided to drive around the park again and left the park around 11H30 via the Lilydale gate. Once again – a very satisfied visit to Mokala and I’ll be back for more.

Message to take home:

If one decides to sit around a waterhole, be patient and enjoy the nature while waiting for the action. If you arrive at a waterhole and nothing is going on, just sit for a few minutes and wait/watch. Something will happen that provides you with a photo opportunity.

Until next time, practice your patient skills.


  1. #1 by Schalk Burger on August 26, 2012 - 3:27 pm

    Mooi foto`s Willem. Mokala is een van my gunsteling parke en eintlik nie so ver nie

  2. #2 by whk139 on September 26, 2012 - 2:54 am

    Hi Schalk, thanks en ek stem saam – Mokala is a small little germ in the Northern Cape. Great for weekend break.

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