No visit to the iSmangaliso wetland park, previously known as the Greater St
Lucia Wetland Park, would be complete without spending some time at Mkhuze game
reserve, or more precisely the massive sycamore fig forest which is located
within the reserve. The Mkhuze Game Reserve is home to a long and impressive
list of over four hundred and fifty bird species and is the best viewing site
for a large variety of highly sought after Zululand specials.
One of the best birding areas in the park is the Fig Forest along the Mkhuzi River. An abundance of food in the forest attracts multitudes of birds. Sycamore fig trees produce unbelievable amounts of fruit at least twice a year, and the varying fruiting seasons of many of the other trees and plants to be found in the area ensure a steady food supply for the birds throughout the year, either from the fruit itself, or from the insects associated with it. Guided walks through the Fig Forest, usually conducted early in the morning are extremely popular among visitors. When the hundreds of years old fig trees bear fruit, a magnificent cacophony of bird sound can be heard in the forest, from the croaky calls of Broad billed Rollers and energetic signaling of Square tailed Drongos all of which are overshadowed by the deafening wailing of Trumpeter Hornbills.
The birdcalls of the inhabitants of the fig forest provide visitors with a good enough reason to visit the area. Some of the more common birdcalls to be heard there include the bleating bush warbler, greenspotted dove, goldenrumped tinker barbet, purplecrested lourie, sombre bulbul, and redbilled wood hoopoe. Other calls that may be heard include Natal and Heuglin's robin, narina trogon, white-eared barbet, gorgeous bush shrike, black-headed oriole and olive sunbird as well as fish eagle.