Did you know?
The sycamore fig has a symbiotic relationship with the fig wasp, which pollinates the tree and lives inside its fruit.
The enchanting Mkhuze Fig Forest forms part of the Mkhuze Game Reserve which lies within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site, along KwaZulu-Natal's Elephant Coast north of the city of Durban.
The Mkhuze Fig Forest is one of the most fascinating parts of the Mkhuze Game Reserve. The Mkhuze River curves along the reserve's northern and eastern borders and along its banks you'll come upon the forest, the only unspoilt indigenous fig forest of its kind in Africa.
The fig forest is just one of Mkhuze Game Reserve's many diverse natural habitats, which stretch from the slopes of the Lebombo mountains in the east, to expanses of acacia savannah, wetland swamps and a variety of woodland and riverine forests. A rare sand forest also forms part of the reserve.
The fig forest enchants travellers with its rich birdlife and massive, rare sycamore fig trees – some with a circumference of 12 metres. The trees have intricately buttressed trunks and yellow bark, which makes them glow in the forest.
You may prefer to explore Mkhuze from the confines of your car, but for a more enriching experience, take in the beauty at close range by hiking through the fig forest along the banks of the Mkhuze River.
These sycamore figs have the virtue of bearing fruit all year round, which means they are a favourite among bird and animal species. Birds, bats, baboons and monkeys help themselves from the branches, while buck and warthog graze on dropped fruit that litters the ground.
Because of the rare birds that nest here, and those attracted by the fruit, a staggering 420 bird species have been recorded at Mkhuze.
Along the way you'll also discover pans and waterholes where wild animals drink daily. Larger species include leopard, elephant, cheetah, hyena and the diminitive suni antelope.
Game drives and guided birding tours are especially popular and a guided fig tree walk in Mkhuze comes highly recommended. Look out for special species like the yellow-rumped tinkerbird, the green twinspot, the blue-mantled crested-flycatcher and the trumpeter hornbill.
Travel tips & Planning info
How to get here
The Mkhuze Game Reserve is situated in northern KwaZulu-Natal, approximately 335km from Durban along the N2 north.
Best time to visit
Game viewing is best between April and September. Birding is excellent from October through to February.
Around the area
Visit the traditional Zulu cultural centre at the KwaJobe Cultural Village or hike up the slopes of Ghost Mountain and discover its many haunting legends.
Tours to do
The Fig Forest Guided Walking Trail is considered one of the highlights of a visit to Mkhuze.
A 4x4 can be hired with a driver/guide for game drives around the Mkhuze Game Reserve. Hiking is also a popular way to explore, especially the Fig Forest Trail.
What will it cost
A guided fig forest tour costs R180 per person. Accommodation generally costs between R180 and R320 a night, depending on whether it is a chalet or champing, and how many people are sharing.
What to pack
Anti-malaria precautions are advisable. Also pack binoculars, cameras, sunscreen, hats and hiking boots.
Where to stay
Mkhuze Game Reserve boasts several camps with a wide variety of accommodation options, from basic tents to luxury cabins.