The Durban sun is out today, and that means that I can finally take a drive to the Litchi Festival at Sunhill Farm in Northern KwaZulu-Natal.
If you are in Durban over the holidays, you may notice vendors holding up bags of litchis on the side of the road to sell to motorists. That enough can whet your appetite to indulge in a few.
The Litchi Festival, now in its 12th year, is situated in Sheffield Beach Rd, on a farm filled with litchi, strawberry and macadamia trees.
Thousands of visitors, both local and international, visit the farm every year to satisfy their litchi craving. They get to walk through the farm, savouring the flavors of the plump and juicy fruit, while taking in the gorgeous views in front of them.
Paddy Smith, one of the organisers of the event, greets me at the gate. A tracker takes me and other guests to the litchi orchards. The two minute ride allows me to enjoy the views. By this time, the anticipation inside me rises and I feel like a child in a candy store.
The environment is an escape from the hustle and bustle of Durban streets. Guests are given a ticket at the entrance, which they swap for a bucket to fill up their litchis. Whatever is in the 1.6 liter bucket at the end of the trip is theirs to take home.
Plus, they can enjoy as much litchis as they possibly can during their picking. The trees are a safety net from the blistering heat this afternoon. There is a light wind that brings some coolness.
As I wander through the orchards, I see families, couples and singles picking the litchis off the tree. Paddy and his wife Heidi organised the festival to showcase the stunning litchi offerings in KwaZulu-Natal. It's the only festival of its kind in the city. Paddy tells me that more than 200 visitors visited today, and more are expected on Christmas weekend.The festival ends in January, when all the litchis are finished.
There's something refreshing about this festival. It's ideal for families and couples to bond. I meet a group of Johannesburg friends who decided to come to the festival after hearing the rave review from other festival goers on social media.
Cherilyn Nielson, Fabio De Castro and Michael Trindade were in their element as they sampled their pickings and snapped photos of the experience.
It's goes to show that more millennial travelers are looking for authentic travel experiences. And it seems to also be the case for families. Majority of those who visit are family based. There's children running in between trees, while their parents fill the baskets.
A Pretoria mother and her three daughters snap selfies at the entrance with their buckets of litchis. Kristien, one of the daughters, raves about her experience and cannot wait to come back next year.
Personally, I found the experience therapeutic. It's calming to walk through the orchards, trying to find red, sweet pickings. Once you get your rhythm, you are in heaven.
They are opened everyday, except Christmas Day and New Years Day, from 9am to 3pm. For further information, call Heidi Smith on 071 438 4290.