Advice Column, Education, Favourite Things, Tween & Teen

Why I believe in camp, and you should too

  • Sugar Bay
  • Category Advice Column, Education, Favourite Things, Tween & Teen

Having turned the dream of creating a ‘children’s paradise’ into a successfully running business, Sugar Bay’s Founding Director, Zoë Ellender, shares why the benefits of American summer camps inspired her to start her very own camp in South Africa.

“As a child, I was given a lot of opportunities to go on holiday which didn’t require spending a lot of money. We would go to our grandparents on a little farm in the Free State, in Clocolan, which is along the Lesotho border. I would be surrounded by my older cousins who were great role models and we would be busy from sunrise to sunset; climbing mountains, building forts, jumping off cliffs and just going on escapades. When I began soul searching after realizing I was unhappy in my legal career, I cast my thoughts back to these moments in my life when I was happiest. I began recapturing my youth and parts of these holiday experiences. This is how my love for camp began, in a healthy environment, without any distractions, just full of fun,” Ellender shared. 

Ellender was inspired by the concept of a children’s summer camp after reading the American Camping Association (ACA) logo, “Camp gives kids a world of good”. This is what prompted her to begin a holiday destination exclusively for children.

“Summer camps have become a tradition in America and are extremely popular. It’s not a matter of ‘Are you going to summer camp?’, but rather ‘Which summer camp are you going to?’ I wanted to bring this caliber of camping to South Africa, to create a tradition and make summer camp a way of life,” she said.

“South Africa has a very limited knowledge of camp and the usual veldt school camps are common in the country. I dislike the fact that these camps have the ‘compulsory’ aspect in their activities, and therefore I offer free choice at my summer camp,” she added.

Ellender was convinced about the benefits of camp while doing market research and interviewing a host of summer camp counselors in South Africa who had worked at camps in the United States.


“After speaking to them and hearing them explain the benefits of camp, I was convinced that starting a summer camp was the best idea I could have ever had. The counselors inspire me to believe in camp because of their energy; they are such cool people. It’s amazing to see that they make such a huge impact on the kids, that the kids will follow them to the ends of the world. They also have an incredible ability to create fun out of anything”, said Ellender.

When asked, “How do you to continue to believe in your summer camp? she responded;

“Seeing the difference it makes to kids and their lives. They keep coming back to camp to escape the stresses of the outside world and reap the benefits of camp. The kids keep growing in confidence as a result of their camping experience. It’s great to see kids having fun without technology, keeping in mind how much time they spend engrossed in social media these days.”

Ellender expanded on some of the benefits she has witnessed at Sugar Bay, which maintain her confidence in this business,

“I believe in camp, because I believe it’s really important to get kids out of their comfort zones, and out on their own every now and then. This really helps them to make decisions by themselves and to be able to establish new friendships independently. It’s good for kids to do these things without parental support and without the distraction caused by their screens. I believe that camp is a fundamental building block for children. Kids don’t get to form relationships at school in a healthy way. However, at camp, there are specially trained counselors to guide them. As a mother of three kids, at three different ages, I definitely see the importance of this guidance offered at camp, whereas at school, kids are left to fend for themselves.”

Ellender encourages parents who doubt her testimony, to ask other parents who have sent their kids to a camp like Sugar Bay. She says, “Don’t take my word for it. Ask any child or parent who has ever come to Sugar Bay.” Her words are evidently true, judging by the hundreds of five star reviews which flood their Facebook page with praises from both children and parents alike.

If you would like more information about this one-of-a-kind summer camp, visit or contact 032 485 3778.


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