Issue 39
Of Sugar and Spice
Sugar Bay children summer camp is just the place where kids can have fun and reclaim their childhood
By Dominique Trent  ·  2017-09-05  ·   Source:

 (Photos courtesy Sugar Bay)

I arrive at King Shaka Airport in Kwa-Zulu Natal Province in South Africa from a bitterly cold Cape Town, greeted by my smiling young delegate driver Jacques. We hop on the highway to Zinkwazi Beach village, home to Sugar Bay on the north coast and only about an hour's drive from the airport. It's 28 degrees Celsius and sunny, a most welcome respite from the icy winter elsewhere in the country. The reception I get at Sugar Bay is equally warm and camp manager Kathie tells me all about this version of Hogwarts in South Africa (minus the magic spells, dragons and cold, windswept moors). 

Children's holiday camp  

Sugar Bay is a children's holiday camp that offers sleepover camps for children between the ages of seven and 17 years old, based on the American summer camp model and it is the only one of its kind in South Africa. They are open every school holiday for holiday camps, and during the school term for school group tours. Their various transport options allow kids and teens from all over South Africa - from all over the world, in fact - to enjoy the best school holiday they've ever had. 

I'm shown to my lovely quarters, which normally house the teachers should they choose to accompany their pupils on school camps. Wooden en-suite chalets surround a living and dining area in the tropical woods, complete with satellite television and a massive heated Jacuzzi pool. But it's not about the adults here and I make my way to the central dining area at six to see what the usual guests here get up to. A lively, noisy dining hall greets me and although Sugar Bay is not entirely full for this holiday camp, the roof is nearly lifted with the laughter and chatting of young visitors. 

Qualified counsellors 

C.I.T stands for Counsellors in Training and it is a course offered here designed to train campers who are 17 and 18 years old to become qualified counsellors. Many teens consider taking a gap year once they complete school, and the C.I.T Course allows them to become a qualified counsellor during a school holiday so that they may apply to work at Sugar Bay or other summer camps during their gap year.

But the best thing about Sugar Bay is the fact that all their electronic devices get taken away from the minute they arrive here. "We want our children to experience what it is to interact with each other, play and communicate with each other. This enhances their social skills and you can see how children change just in one week because of this," says


 Ellender, co-owner and founder of Sugar Bay. She had the idea for a summer camp for children in South Africa 17 years ago and the camp has been in existence for 16 years now.

"Some children who come here are shy and insecure but because of our ethos and the friends they make, as well as the counsellors, the child almost changes before your eyes in the space of a week and blossoms into a confident, happy little individual." She runs the camp with husband Nic and loves every minute. "The most fun we have is thinking up new and challenging activities for the kids to do."


Plethora of activities 

More than 100 activities are on offer so the kids have no opportunity to miss social media or computer games. The activities range from the adventurous to the artistic and include surfing, zip-lining, water sliding, bungee trampolining, drama, dancing, arts, kayaking, skateboarding, scuba diving and much more, but none of their activities are compulsory so there is no pressure. They may even choose to learn a new skill, like how to surf, and earn a certificate for it by the end of the camp.

I join some of the kids on the beach in the afternoon as they frolic in the waves and later after dinner it’s time to announce the winners of the "X-factor." A little 8-year old called Shaun is announced as the winner and he is overcome to the point of tears, greeted by deafening applause from his new young friends.  

The award ceremony is followed by an amazing flame throwing display from the counsellors that keeps the kids mesmerised.  

On the way to the airport the next day I have enduring images of smiling, happy children at Sugar Bay - an amazing place where children are given back their childhood.  

Contact: for more information.   

Getting there:  

Air China outbound flights to Johannesburg in South Africa operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, with return services from Johannesburg offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.   

Flights will departs from Beijing at 23:15 Beijing time, and arrive in Johannesburg at 7:35 local time on the following day. The inbound flight departs from Johannesburg at 11:50 local time and arrives in Beijing at 7:30 Beijing time.    

Go to:   

From Johannesburg it’s a quick 40 minute flight to Durban where Sugar Bay will gladly pick up your children.  

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