If you have been looking for a fun place to send your kids on a holiday they’ll never forget, your search is finally over. Nestled between sugar cane farms on the KZN North Coast, Sugar Bay is located on a 16-acre private resort designed exclusively for children and teens between the ages of 7 and 17. The resort, prioritising fun rather than education, was built specifically for camp purposes and can accommodate up to 200 children at a time.
How it all started
Sugar Bay came about as a result of a dream that founding director Zoë Ellender had of combining her passion for children, outdoor sports, sunshine and holidays. The first and only camp of its kind in South Africa, Sugar Bay is based on the successful American Summer Camp philosophy of children spending a holiday away from parents, enjoying nature and having the opportunity to be kids again while meeting hundreds of like-minded children in a safe, fun-filled environment. Sugar Bay opened its doors in July 2001 and has since become part of the lives of thousands of young South Africans.
In good hands
More than just a holiday resort for children, Sugar Bay is a way of life to its staff – many of whom have been there from its inception. Apart from directors Zoë and Nic Ellender there are 30 permanent staff members, of which about 10 are managers. “We’re all a big family,” says Zoë, adding that Sugar Bay also have about 500 temporary counselors on their books. “I never cease to be humbled and inspired by their passion and zest for life. They give their heart and soul to the company and are incredibly dedicated, fun-loving, enthusiastic young adults who are committed to giving children the best holiday experience. With their individual encouragement and attention, children grow in self confidence and self-esteem.”
Receiving as much as ten staff applications per day, Sugar Bay can afford to be extremely selective. Every applicant must pass a thorough application process, vigorous training as well as an apprenticeship period. Training includes child psychology, staff psychology, the theory and practice of teaching, programming, crisis management, CPR and first aid training, and a lot of practical in-field training. So there’s absolutely no doubt about the fact that your children are in good hands at Sugar Bay!
Sugar Bay’s entire existence is devoted to the development of youth. Families are attracted to Sugar Bay because of its extensive activity list and seaside location. “After their child’s first holiday with us, parents discover that the real benefits of Sugar Bay is not just that their child learnt to surf, but the massive growth in their emotional, social and physical development,” explains Zoë. “The positive changes in a child’s confidence levels, self-esteem, independence, social awareness, communication skills, concentration span, physical development and eating habits is what lies at the heart of the successful summer camp industry. And it is for these reasons that South African youth desperately need more holiday camps.”
Proudly South African
Because summer camps are traditionally American it took Zoë and Nic Ellender a whole year of full-time study to come up with the best way to adapt the concept to our own country, culture and people. The result is a uniquely South African camp – one that offers all the benefits of American camps but which is decidedly South African in flavour!
“One uniquely South African benefit of Sugar Bay is the integration of children of different ages, backgrounds, cultures and locations. It is extremely gratifying when, for example, a sheltered, Afrikaans child from Nelspruit discovers that he shares the same likes, interests, abilities and opinions as a Xhosa child from Cape Town,” says Zoë. Many friendships formed at camp are continued on after their return home and many others organise reunions with their new friends at camp each year. And it’s not only the children who come from different backgrounds. “The counselors and managers also reflect the amazing diversity in our country and provide inspiring role models to a younger generation,” adds Zoë.
Another South African aspect of Sugar Bay is the diverse range of different activities that they are able to offer due to their incredible location. There’s the warm sea, a protected lagoon, a huge sports area and lots of farmland and coastal bush to explore. And there are plenty of authentic South African activities included in Sugar Bay’s program – such as drumming, stick-fighting, dance, marshmallow roasting, beadwork, potjies, stokbrood and camping under the African stars.
“The protection of our unique habitat is at the core of most of our structures, activities and events. We source as much of our building materials as possible from local available materials, and have designed the resort to blend in with the local environment. Our cabins and boardwalks are raised to protect the natural bush and children are taught as much as possible about their natural environment through the fun activities. For example, when learning to surf, the children learn about currents, tide, wave action and basic life support skills,” says Zoë.
There are six camps available every year – all during the main school holidays. Out of season Sugar Bay also welcome education school groups and individual group bookings from churches and other organisations. Rates vary, but there are discounts for siblings and the cost per camp includes food, bedding, crockery and cutlery, hire of equipment and supervision of activities. The only thing campers need to bring with them is clothing and toiletries, and a sleeping bag if they want to go on camp outs. Unless you want to drop your children off yourself, there is a shuttle service to and from Durban Airport, and a bus from Joburg to Sugar Bay and back.