THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE SUGAR BAY
IF YOU THINK FABULOUS SUMMER CAMPS FOR CHILDREN EXIST ONLY IN THE USA, YOU ARE WRONG. THINK ZINKWAZI, ON KWAZULUNATAL’S NORTH COAST: ENDLESS BEACHES, ENDLESS SUMMERS, AND ENDLESS ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS. THIS IS SUGAR BAY.
The late Raymond Duncan, American artist once said: “A lot of parents pack up their troubles and send them off to summer camp.” Indeed they do. In the US, there are some 15,000 of these camps, and for American kids, it’s an essential part of growing up. Quite why the concept isn’t equally popular in this country is inexplicable.
It was a question former Cape Town attorney Zoe Ellender asked herself some 18 years ago, when she felt the need to escape the confines of a legal office and launch a new career.
Her soul-searching and research were the catalyst for what is, today, one of South Africa’s best kept secrets, despite the fact that it is on speed dial for hundreds of European and American parents.
Sugar Bay Resort, set in 16 acres of rolling hills, with private access to the Zinkwazi lagoon and waterfront, is a holiday camp many seven to 17-year-olds imagine exists only in Hollywood movies. “I spent a full year researching American camps, and picked the best ideas on which to model Sugar Bay Holiday Camp.”
Zoe and her husband, Nic, a former engineer, designed, built and now run the camp, which opened its doors in 2001. Since then, thousands of children have happily passed through. “They come from all over: from America, from Taiwan, from Europe – and of course, South Africa.”
So what does Sugar Bay offer? Everything, it turns out. Whether children enjoy arts and crafts, adventure sports, soccer, paintballing, BMX biking, swimming, drumming, ballroom dancing, or drama, there are more than 100 activities from which to choose. Last year, they installed three spectacular waterslides while, this year, for their 16th birthday, Sugar Bay has renovated their indoor sports hall which now features an indoor climbing wall, sprung marked flooring, and space for indoor basketball, indoor soccer, indoor volleyball and ultimate Frisbee games. They will also be renovating their senior gym for the older campers.
The big question, for many parents, is how safe will your kids be here? Well, probably safer than leaving them at home or dropping
them at the mall. “We have a full time staff of 50 and employ counsellors on a ratio of 1:3. So, for example, for 200 children we employ 70 counsellors. They are incredibly professional, and we make sure they sleep in the cabins with the kids. The children are supervised 24 hours a day, and we have strict rules.”
If you’re worried little Johnny might be out of his depth in the ocean, fear not. “We have our own team of lifeguards. Campers must do a swim test in our heated pool when they get here, on which they’re graded. They then wear a certain coloured strip on their rash vests so we can identify what grade swimmer they are, and spot them in the water. Certain grades can’t go deeper than knee height, for instance, and we also teach them water and current awareness.”
The children also don’t just wander down to the beach willynilly. The camp is securely fenced and patrolled, with electric fencing, closed circuit cameras and security guards. “When we take them to the beach, it’s an organised excursion.”
Incidentally, Sugar Bay is the only South African organisation of its kind which belongs to the American Camping Association (ACA), and thus adheres to international safety procedures as recommended by the ACA, the same body that regulates all US summer camps.
Sugar Bay, Zoe adds, is a fun place to be. “No one is forced to do anything.You choose your activities.The children love that they can choose to do an introductory class in any of our top ten most popular adventures, or advance through the different levels to earn a certificate at the end of the week. It’s a huge achievement for many of them when they receive these.”
The camp welcomes children from around the globe. Holiday programmes include all local and most international school holidays. Holiday weeks start on Sundays, and they encourage stays of two weeks or more.
For more information visit www.sugarbay.co.za.