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Welcome to the Seventh edition of Shakati Bush Facts. In the article, we will be focusing on the Mokolo River, which runs side by side with Shakati Private Game Reserve. Rivers are an important lifeline for the bush, and contain its own ecosystem.

How does the Mokolo River flow?

Shakati RIver - HDR (3)

The Mokolo River starts in the Waterberg Mountains between the koppies (Confluence of the Sand River with the Grootspruit River), and flows through a steep gorge into the Vaalwater town. From there it flows past Shakati via flat area until it enters the Mokolo Dam. From the Mokolo Dam it flows past another gorge where it finally enters the Limpopo River.

What does this mean?

Shakati RIver - HDR (1)

The Mokolo River is a major river in the Limpopo province and the river’s catchment area comprises 8,387 square kilometres. The Mokolo dam is the only major dam in the river system. 87% of Mokolo river water use is mainly used for agriculture and household use.

Interesting fact: it is not only humans which use the river water but the highest concentration of hippopotamus in the Limpopo River is found between the mouths of the Mokolo and the Mogalakwena Rivers.

What does the name Mokolo mean?

Shakati River - Flow

The Mokolo River, meaning “deep and silent” in the Tswana language, and is also known as the Mogol River and the Mogolo River and is divided into is divided into Upper, Middle and Lower Mokolo River

Where does Shakati’s river portion fit in?


According to DWAF ( Shakati lies on the banks of the Upper Part of the Mokolo River. DWAF divided the river into multiple segments to be able to perform specific ecological studies. The different segments include:

Sand Tributaries, Sterkstroom Catchment, Upper Mokolo, Middle Mokolo, Rietspruit and finally Lower Mokolo. DWAF setup The 31 biomonitoring sites is busy asseinging therse areas using standard River Health Programme (RHP) protocols

DWAF River Segments

The Upper Mokolo survey sites were located in lower Sterkstroom, Welgevonden Reserve and two sites in the Dwars River and the town of Vaalwater. This section of the Mokolo River consistes of large, moderately embedded cobble and its reach is classified as pool-riffle and numerous sand or gravel bars are present.

Does it flood?


Definitely yes! Like any river system it does flood after heavy rains in the Waterberg mountains. The major flooding areas are downstream from the Mokolo dam which leads into the Mokolo floodplains. These floodplains were recently rehabilitated, and become quite a spectacle of impressive bird sightings when flooded.

Does it contain dangerous animals?

Mokolo River - Jane and Steen 1 (2)

Definitely yes! Crocodiles and Hippopotamus have been found on the banks where Shakati intersect the Mokolo River. Thus be extremely careful when you are fishing or taking a leisurely stroll next to the river. But do not just focus on the dangers, as there are a myriad of insects, birds and other animals which you can easily spot and identify next to the river.

The only red data fish (fish which have a threatened status) currently listed is the shortfin barb (Barbus brevipinnis). Some types of fish found in the river are flow dependant fish which includes the common mountain catfish (Amphilius uranoscopus), the orangefin barb (Barbus eutaenia) and the shortspine suckermouth (Chiloglanis pretoriae). There are several types of eels found in the river which includes the longfin eel and the african mottled eel (Anguilla mossambica and Anguilla bengalensis labiata).

What kind of fish can be found in the Mokolo River?

Mokolo River - Jane and Steen 1 (1)

The following list was sourced from Department of Water Affairs and forestry

Common names Scientific names
Common mountain catfish Amphilius uranoscopus
African mottled eel Anguilla bengalensis labiata
Longfin eel Anguilla mossambica
Johnston’s topminnow Aplocheilichthys johnstoni
Broadstriped barb Barbus annectens
Hyphen barb Barbus bifrenatus
Shortfin barb Barbus brevipinnis
Orangefin barb Barbus eutaenia
Straightfin barb Barbus paludinosus
Beira barb Barbus radiatus
Threespot barb Barbus trimaculatus
Longbeard barb Barbus unitaeniatus
Bowstripe barb Barbus viviparus
Canary Kurper Chetia flaviventris
Sawfin rock catlet Chiloglanis paratus
Shortspine suckermouth Chiloglanis pretoriae
Sharptooth catfish Clarias gariepinus
Redeye labeo Labeo cylindricus
Leaden labeo Labeo molybdinus
Rednose labeo Labeo rosae
Silver labeo Labeo ruddi
Largescale yellowfish Labeobarbus marequensis
Bulldog Marcusenius macrolepidotus
River sardine Mesobola brevianalis
Silver robber Micralestes acutidens
Mozambique tilapia Oreochromis mossambicus
Churchill Petrocephalus wesselsi
Southern mouthbrooder Pseudocrenilabrus philander
Silver catfish Schilbe intermedius
Brown squeaker Synodontis zambezensis
Redbreast tilapia Tilapia rendalli
Banded tilapia Tilapia sparrmanii

Threats to the river

Shakati RIver - HDR (2)

There are several reported threats to the river, which includes

  • Invasive alien vegetation which is destabilizing the river banks,
  • Heavy infestations of alien vegetation such as eucalyptus (Eucalyptus sp.), syringa (Melia azedarach) and poplars (Populus sp.),
  • Reed encroachment is a growing concern in the Mokolo River Catchment, and
  • Local community that discharges from the Vaalwater sewage works into the Mokolo River

An alien plant is usually invasive, which means it spreads too well and displaces the natural (indigenous) species such as acacia and destabilizes the river banks, and use too much of the precious water. There is a programme called working-for-water, where invasive, alien species are cut down to enable the indigenous species to grow. In fact, there is a law saying that eucalyptus/bluegum must be eradicated outside plantation, as they steal the water and displaces indigenous trees.


The Mokolo River is an important part of any ecosystem, and should be reserved as part of any nature conservation efforts. Shakati is blessed to share this mighty river with Limpopo, and it is a pleasure to share this.

See you soon



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