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Holiday Camp Fun…

While sending your child to a holiday camp might sound a little daunting, chances are it is exactly what they need. And, having recently been given a ‘sneak peek’ into a typical Sugar Bay holiday camp, we can pretty much guarantee that if they do go, they won’t want to come home afterwards!

There is nothing quite like seeing kids playing and interacting freely with each other, face-to-face, without a digital device in sight.
Even more wonderful is seeing them being given full, undivided attention from the adults looking after them. In truth, this is something that even we, as parents, often struggle to do.

With water slides, skateboards, rope swinging, arts and crafts, drama, body boarding, ocean swimming and loads of other activities on offer, Sugar Bay is a little slice of heaven for children aged between six and 17 years old. There is something to literally keep every child busy, entertained and happy at this beautiful resort situated in the coastal village of Zinkwazi on the North Coast of KZN.

After having spent a few days and nights with the kids and counsellors at Sugar Bay, we realised however that the real magic of this place lies in the human connection and relationships the kids form while having the time of their lives.
It’s been a rough couple of years for our children. Lockdowns, masks and spending way too much time in front of screens instead of playing with peers have all had a negative effect on both their mental and physical wellness.

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It’s for this reason, despite everything she and her team have faced, that Sugar Bay founder Zoe Ellender remains steadfast in her decision to keep the camp open.
“Our children need this now more than ever,” says Zoe, who started the camp 20 years ago. “The world is a very different place compared to when we first opened. Children are so protected and spend too much time in front of screens. They desperately need to connect, interact and socialise with each other.”

Learning to spend time away from their parents, too, is an important part of their emotional development, she says. “What is amazing, is that it is usually the anxious kids who gain the most from spending a week with us. The children who are shy or nervous in the beginning are usually the ones who get on stage and confidently share their stories around the campfire on our final nights.”

Based on the typical American-styled summer camp, Sugar Bay is the only sleepover resort in South Africa that has been built and run for children only. No parents are allowed!
Children travel from all around South Africa (and overseas) to spend a week or two at a Sugar Bay holiday camp, where they make memories to last a lifetime. Sugar Bay also offers school tours outside of the holiday seasons.

The camp is well-maintained and the kids sleep in wooden cabins nestled in a forest-like setting. There are two or more counsellors assigned to each cabin (kids are never left unsupervised) and boys’ and girls’ cabins are separate and secure with campers divided according to their grade.

The professionally-engineered resort is comfortable, homey and very secure. There is a 25m swimming pool with three waterslides, a soccer field, five-sided climbing tower and obstacle and rope courses. There is also a grand hall and dining room area, an arts and crafts centre, indoor sport hall and a tuckshop. Sugar Bay has private access to both the lagoon and beach – and all the water toys required for loads of summer fun!
One of the highlights of a stay at Sugar Bay is definitely mealtime. The food is nutritious and tasty and made completely with kids in mind. It’s quite amazing, actually, to see how even the fussiest of eaters devour their breakfast, lunch and dinner (and snacks in-between) and, best of all, how they all work together to clean up their table and eating space afterwards.

The thing that stands out above all though (and likely one of the most important aspects for parents), is the calibre of counsellors at Sugar Bay. Often students on holiday or those taking a gap year, the counsellors have all been extensively vetted and trained (in emergency first response and child psychology) and they all love what they do.
“When I started the camp, I underestimated the impact the counsellors would have on the kids,” says Zoe. “I’ve since realised that it’s not about having the best SUP boards, skateboards and waterslides … it’s about the human interaction.”

All the counsellors are fully engaged and passionate and bring their own skills and talents to the camp – which means there are always different classes and activities on offer, from dancing and yoga to martial arts, crab catching and flower identification.
Sugar Bay also recently launched a counsellor’s academy (a three-month master class or 11-month gap year programme), where young adults gain useful qualifications and experience with things like lifeguarding, scuba diving and boating.

“I know that what we do is incredibly important and I believe one hundred percent in all the benefits. I truly think that every child should go to camp at least once in their lifetime,” says Zoe.

Details: www.sugarbay.co.za, 032 485 3778, [email protected]

Need to know:
Sugar Bay holiday camps (either 6, 7 or 12 days) are held during school holidays and each one has a different theme. The cost of a one-week camp ranges between R6 499 and R8 499 (depending on the week), which includes access to more than 100 activities (none are compulsory, the children decide what they want to do), three meals a day (and snacks), a strict 1:3 staff to child ratio, three-star accommodation and loads more. Get It readers will receive a R1 000 discount if they book for any of the upcoming 2022 holiday camps.

Text: Leah Shone

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