Outward Bound School
on the Swartvlei Lake

Internationally Outward Bound runs holistic programs of varying lengths and configurations for people from ages 8 –80!

Their mission is to help people develop life skills, leadership qualities and values to live by. They do this by taking them out of their comfort zone with various outdoor activities that exercise them mentally, emotionally and physically to face life’s challenges. 

Outward Bound Site

They learn that with courage, determination and tenacity they can achieve their desired goals. To realise for themselves, that

"Obstacles can’t stop you, problems can’t stop you. Most of all other people can’t stop you. Only you can stop you!” - J Gitomer

Outward Bound programmes are geared to instil self-discipline, appropriate communication and listening skills, co-ordination, initiative, creativity, resourcefulness, fitness, perseverance under pressure, compassion and teamwork all of which serve to empower the participants with self-belief.

“A belief is only a thought you continue to think!” Abraham Hicks

Many of them, come from disadvantaged homes and deprived backgrounds. They have no role models, little parental guidance and no self-confidence. Their lives are unstructured and undisciplined.

The instructors therefore go through rigorous training to evaluate how far to push individuals and their teams, counselling and encouraging them throughout the tasks. The end goal is to convince these youngsters that they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

Masithandane girls

Individuals participate in various outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, camping, canoeing, rock climbing, and abseiling. Many of these sports they have never attempted or been exposed to before.

They may also play games but time is given for contemplation, discussion, and evaluation so that students can deliberate over their experiences and importantly, grasp the essential personal growth aspects of them.

In this way lessons learned can be made relevant to their real life situations.

Team challenge

"It is not because things are difficult we do not dare. It’s because we do not dare, things are difficult." - Seneca

As the Operations Manager, Deon Snyders said “The idea is to stretch and not break! Outward Bound School has to walk a fine line between a military camp and a holiday camp. We don’t want people to go away saying they had a wonderful holiday but rather that they will remember the experience for the rest of their lives!” 

Climbing challenge

Safety is a high priory in all the exercises and South Africa has attained a very high standard for their programmes. All The Outward Bound Schools undergo an international review of their safety standards and can lose their licence if they do not comply.

This outdoor adventure school established its presence in South Africa in 1992 when an international donor, Charlie Stetson gave the school US$1million to get off the ground. Initially their school was at Hogsback in the Eastern Cape. 

To begin with, the company was staffed by foreigners from other countries. Among them were Canadians, Scots, Australians and New Zealanders. 19 years later, they are all South Africans from the Executive Director down. 40 staff are employed full time, of which 26 are Instructors and the rest are made up of Course Co-ordinators, a Northern and Southern Area Manager, a Training Manager, an Operations Manager, and a Client Service Manager, A Board of Trustees oversees the company.

"The degree of responsibility you take for your life determines how much change you can create in it" - Seneca

Other Outward Bound Schools

There are over 50 Outward Bound Schools worldwide and 5 of them are in South Africa. One of them is at Willow Point on the banks of the Swartvlei around the corner from Cloud Nine that overlooks Sedgefield. This school moved from Hogsback to Sedgefield when Outward Bound took over the location that Veld and Vlei offered them in 1996. I think its great that such an inspirational and motivational school has a base near Sedgefield.

The other schools are situated at: 

  • Harrismith in the Freestate at Sterkfontein Dam
  • The Lapalala Wilderness in the Waterberg north of Pretoria
  • Venterskroon is in the Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site, the world’s oldest and largest meteorite impact crater outside of Potchefstroom where they are partnered with the Dutch Reformed Church
  • Grabouw in the Holland Hottentots Nature Reserve of the Western Cape
  • In all locations where Outward Bound operates, respect and care for the environment is an important consideration where the motto is “Leave nothing but footprints behind”.

    The Proteas cricket team

    In September 2010 unbeknown to most Sedgefielders, the Proteas, our South African Cricket Team were here on the Swartvlei at the School. They engaged in  2 hours of fun challenges whereby as 2 teams they had to build two rafts and then sail them to a finish line proving they had built them properly and they were water worthy!

    The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you're not going to stay where you are!" - unknown

    There are exchange programs with other schools to broaden the experience of instructors. In Singapore it is a requirement of regular school curriculum that pupils go through an Outward Bound School program. You can see why when you understand the benefits to be gained by children from such a motivating experience.

    OBS challenges

    It would be great if it was a compulsory component of South African schools’ education!

    Because it is a regular part of Singaporian life, many adults undergo adult team-building processes in other countries like South Africa where they are exposed to different cultural encounters. Singapore’s police unit and customs officials have visited here for just that purpose.

    Afterwards as a measure of reward, they are given opportunities to travel to some of South Africa’s premier tourist destinations like Robben Island, Table Mountain and Game Reserves to see Africa’s wildlife.

    As an NGO, sponsorships and partnerships are a necessity for the company to grow and be effective. For 2011 Murray and Roberts have contributed a substantial amount to the organisation. Other Sponsers include Puma, Crocs, Solms Delta, Cape Union Mart, Cape Storm, Canal Walk, Vide e Caffe, MTN Sciencentre, Origin Coffee Roasting, Ackerman Pick ‘n Pay Foundation, Table Mountain Café, Downhill Adventures, Waterfront Boat Company, Sinns Restaurant, Cape Heritage Hotel.

    Challenge by choice

    Besides this, excellent relationships with Cape Nature enable Outward Bound to utilise many of their nature reserves along the Garden Route and in the other parts of the Western Cape for diversified programs.

    Many clients book repeat programs as they finish their current year. Along the Garden Route, Oasis - a drug rehabilitation centre, Oakhill School, York High, Montessori School, Diocesan School for Girls, and Queen’s College send new pupils on the programs every year.

    Over the years, Outward Bound has made a worthwhile contribution to this community, its schools and through opportunities offered by organisations like Masithandane, to their youth groups and Oasis. Many young people have acknowledged that their experience at the school changed the direction of their lives.

    The ethic of the organisation is well expressed here,

    “We encourage our students, staff, sponsors and partners to consistently make the right choices and to accept the challenges that we face as opportunities to learn, grow and catalyse change.”

    To visit the Outward Bound South Africa site, click on the picture above on the right!

    Finally, who you want to contact depends on what you want to know, so for more details on who to contact, at the School click here 

    Discover Sedgefield Homepage>Slow Town>Outward Bound

    Martin's Sedgefield Story

    THANK YOU FOR VISITING!