July 15, 2016
Hello and Hola from Mozambique! Since our last update our group has been busily border hopping, mastering our surfing skills and diving into the deep blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Our time in Mozambique has flown by and it’s hard to believe that our adventure is coming to its end – though we’re not without a few more exciting surprises to come (think walking with lions through the African bush! Wow!). When we arrived in Mozambique a few days ago, after a long but scenic bus ride where snapshots of this country’s vibrant people and culture zoomed past us, we were greeted by friendly faces at Tofo Scuba and an even more amazing view. The kids scrambled to throw on their bathing suits and practically flew into the ebbing tide. With the sun hanging over turquoise water, our group played in the waves, squishing warm sand between our toes and relishing in the splash of sea foam on our sun kissed faces.
As we settled into our beach front house that evening, a luxury in and of itself, we prepared to make dinner together and everyone was excited to get their turn in the kitchen. Our meals in Mozambique have been amazing! For our dinners together we prepared chicken curry and fajitas – yum! – with some very special desserts. Grayson and Christian were masters of grilling our chicken and chopping garlic, while Alexa, Sarah and Sophie rocked the dessert team, making a wicked tasty combination of chocolate chip cookies with brownie batter on top! Ellie, Georgia and Gabby were always volunteering to chop some of our fresh veggies and Lillie was keen to share her skills in the kitchen with the other girls. She and Gabby pitched in to make some amazing guacamole while Xan was a particular beneficiary of Lillie’s advice, as he learned to dice eggplants with unprecedented technique.
With full bellies, we enjoyed Moonup under the stars on the beach and enjoyed the sound of thunderous waves lulling us to sleep that night under our mosquito nets. Christian and Grayson were the first ones up in the morning and were eager to share the beautiful African sunrise over the Indian Ocean with the rest of the group. Sipping our coffees and tea, we watched the sunrise and read Ruyard Kipling’s “If” to start our morning off right. Xan, Annie, Sarah and Lillie rocked their pool lesson with the Scuba instructors and were the first in the water for our ocean dive that afternoon. As our small group descended into the deep blue sea, we were amazing by the life teaming underwater. We saw clown fish, star fish and a whole canvas of reef life. The many colors and schools of fish were floating past us as we took our first breathes underwater. While one half of our group took their turn at Scuba diving, the other rocked beach volleyball and surfed the swells that crested above our divers.
Alexa was a master of the volleyball court, while Ellie tried her hand at surfing. Though the waters were rough, she never gave up! Even when she tumbled off her board, she always jumped back up with a smile. Sophie and Georgia buried Tyler in sand on the beach (supplementing his physique with designs in places that I will leave to your readily imagination). Our group loved coming together during our ocean safari in the afternoon – though our boat was tossed a time or two by violent waves, we spotted a humpback whale and a gigantic ray! Everyone kicked mightily in their flippers to approach the ray, and it was an unforgettable experience for us all. With an amazing few days at the beach behind us, we drove tiredly toward the airport with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme song accompanying our journey. As we return to South Africa for our lion interactions, we are exciting to simply enjoy the beauty of this amazing country and the camaraderie of our small group, a group that has become like family over the period of a few short weeks. Hopefully we won’t come home with too many “African tattoos” (i.e. lion kisses). Though we’re excited to see you all soon, we’re sad that our trip is coming to a close. We’ll write back soon with final reflections on our amazing adventures through Africa.
Sending y’all lots of love!
Claire and Tyler
July 10, 2016
Writing to you from the heart of the bush, here’s another exciting update from our group in South Africa! Since our last note, our days have been filled with game walks, animal sightings, star gazing, service and more! We’ve been staying at the Eco-Training camp in the Selati Game Reserve, a rustic camp with walk-in tents and communal living – in the sense that both animals and humans share this space! In our safety briefing, our group learned that lions, elephants and hyenas may walk through camp at anytime. Though it’s unnerving to learn that you’ll be sharing your space with predators in the bush, it serves as a reminder that we are cohabitants, if not visitors in nature and that we should respect both the limitations and the power of the place that we’ve called home for the past four nights.
As we settled into camp, our group split into two teams and we were off for an evening game drive! With a new moon looming, the stars at Selati have been absolutely incredible. Our safari guides taught us not only to spot tracks on the ground, but also to better understand the stars as maps of the sky. We spotted the famed Southern Cross and the Milky Way along with planets Mars and Jupiter. At camp, our mornings start early with a 5am wake up to catch the best animal sightings with the sunrise. Between you and me, the early mornings have been well worth it as our sightings have been amazing! In what can only be described as a once in a life time experience, our group was caught (in safari vehicles) between a proud lioness viciously hunting three water buck on one side of a watering hole with a herd of over 20 elephant bathing themselves on the other. It was, in a word, WILD. It was incredible to see animals in such close proximity and to marvel at their prowess in nature.
Sophie was a little nervous to see animals just a few meters away from our cars while Sarah was itching to jump right out of the vehicle and join the elephants for an even better camera angle. With exciting afternoons of animal sightings and game drives, the rest of our time at Selati has been spent immersing ourselves in the bush. We learned survival skills as our group was divided into three teams and challenged to find water in a dry river bed then make a fire to burn for more than 10 minutes (these are no small tasks!). Gabby was a leader in her time as she, Grayson and Sophie were the first to find water. Grayson was a master of finding just the right size leaves to act as a funnel for the water while Sophie’s laughter and positivity propelled the team.
Previously the underdogs in the competition, as they were the last to find water, Xan, Sarah and Georgia’s team ended up taking home the win! Sarah and Georgia’s willingness to search for just the right source and Xan’s enthusiasm around the fire ensured their success! It was awesome for us to watch everyone get down and dirty – literally – in the river bed and have a blast learning these new skills. That night we slept out under the stars on a nearby mountain top and swapped stories around the camp fire while enjoying another delicious Braai (South African delicacy!). With an unforgettable time chasing elephants, lions and rhinos through the bush behind us, we began to prepare for our community service project at the nearby Makuleke village, a truly special place!
In Makuleke, our group was able to help decorate the community library and engage with many happy children! Nearly everyone in our group of 11 cited these days as being their favorite on the entire trip! Though seeing lions and elephants will get your heart racing, there is nothing more fulfilling than spending time with the children of Makuleke. At the library, Xan and Christian took the lead on helping to set up a printer and computer system for the librarian, a gift that will last far beyond our short time in the village! Christian was able to bond quickly and effortlessly with many kids in the village, almost immediately offering himself for piggy back rides and as a teacher of new dance moves. Lillie and Annie were also quick to find friends among the children as they loved teaching the “Maccerena” (renamed for our time in the village to the “Makuleke”). Kids relished in playing with Gabby and Georgia’s blonde hair, eagerly braiding and spinning it into a many number of styles and our girls were all smiles about their afternoon at the “hair salon”. Alexa and Annie took the initiative to work with “Pretty”, a teacher at the library, to paint some inspirational quotes on the wall of the library – taken straight from the Moondance Quote book! It was awesome to seeing these two collaborate with someone so special to the community.
Meanwhile, Ellie and Grayson took the lead on making a string of letters to hang through the library’s classroom and asked some of the kids to help them decorate. The day was filled with painted palms, spilled glitter, coloring books and immeasurable joy! It was hard for all of us to say goodbye to this thriving community that had welcomed us with such warmth and generosity. The food that they prepared for us was delicious, the accommodations were fantastic and the relationships that we built while at the community will surely last a lifetime! It’s amazing how much the people of Makuleke were able to give to us throughout our time there. It’s a gift that we will cherish beyond the close of time in South Africa. With our service project behind us, we’re looking ahead to a tour of the beautiful Blyde River Canyon and of course, our scuba diving in Mozambique! We can’t wait to write back soon with more tales of our travels.
Claire and Tyler
Hi mom, dad, mimi, and poppy! Having fun, seeing lots of animals, and obviously being careful! Love you lots!
– Georgia Martin
Hello fam! Hope all is well! Africa is lit and I’m bringing a little African baby back to the ATL with me, hope that’s okay! Love y’all lots.
– Ellie Conway
Hey guys! Hope you guys are awesome cause I am! Seeing tons of animals and having so much fun, love you lots!
– Grayson Peters
Hey! Having a great time. Hope all’s well; I’m in heaven.
– Christian Martin
Hey, this trip has been a lot of fun. I am seeing many animals. Hope y’all are doing well.
– Xan Rolader
Hey parents, I’m loving Afruca and want to bring a few children home. I’m having a really great time. Love and miss you guys!
– Alexa Phillips
Hello, I’ve missed you all a lot but I am having tons of fun! This may be my favorite trip so far! I love you all and hope all is well. See you soon!
– Gabby Elve
Hi y’all! I am having so much fun and I miss you all lots! I am bringing an African baby back to the family, love you all lots!
– Sophie McGahan
Hey family! Africa is more than I could ever imagine! Miss you and see you soon! Bringing y’all home a lion!
– Annie Meshad
Can’t wait to tell you all everything about my trip! Everything is amazing, you’re in my heart. xx!
– Lillie Bridges
There is no way I could tell you about Africa in two sentences but its amazing. Love and miss you! xoxo.
– Sarah Beaube
July 4, 2016
To all our family and friends stateside, howzit chums?? Our adventure through South Africa is off to a great start and even though we’ve only shared a few days together growing and learning in this amazing country, we already have plenty of stories to tell! After a lengthy flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg (the third longest direct flight into the world!), Tyler and I eagerly received the group with a traditional Braai at our guest house lodging. With a warm and filling meal of steak and potatoes, two staples of our diet in this country, we were off to bed, happy to get a good night’s sleep before undertaking our first activity together. In the morning, we were greeted with a characteristically beautiful Africa sunrise – though we may be biased, I would venture to say they’re the best in the world. We learned about the history and symbolism behind South Africa’s colorful flag, played a few memorable name-games and were off for our day’s adventures, the first of many.
Georgia immediately impressed us all with her ability to remember everyone’s names within an hour of our introductions, which is undoubtedly a result of her kind heart and drive to build connections with everyone she meets. Christian, whose maturity and worldliness is immediately apparent, told our group stories of life abroad while we played cards and picked songs for our bus ride playlist. Of course Shakira’s Waka Waka and Toto’s Africa top the list. Xan and Ellie helped us to start the day off right with a marvelous quote as our first LOD’s (leaders of the day). They took their responsibilities in great stride, leading by example for our first day in the bush. As we approached our destination, and Elephant Sanctuary in Bela Bela, palpable excitement pulsed through our group. At the sanctuary, we watched eagerly from a terrace adorned with roses and milling meercats as a herd of Africa elephants bounded towards us from over the horizon. As they grew closer, they came into formation and we learned that elephants are some of the most emotionally connected creatures in the wild. Blessed with stellar memories and sense of smell, elephants can remember people after just one interaction for over a year.
To test their skills, volunteers Sarah and Sophie stepped forward to interact with one of the massive mammals, Messina. They each introduced themselves to the elephant and then took off one shoe. Messina, incredibly, returned each shoe to its correct owner by their scent! Wow! Grayson was shocked but always eager to learn more while Annie’s jaw was agape. Annie, Sophie and Ellie ooed and awed over the baby elephant that accompanied the impressive Messina and were even invited to kick a soccer ball with her! Feelings the weather skin and wirey hair of these Africa beasts reminded us that though we could teach them, we could never tame them. It was remarkable to stand in the presence of truly wild animals. As we marveled over their sized and beauty, we realized our tour was not yet done! We were instructed to mount these gorgeous creature for an elephant ride through the bush. Gabby, Alexa and Lillie were the first to volunteer to climb atop the elephants and each rallied their own team to follow in suit. Tyler and I got some stellar pictures of everyone as they road into the bush.
With white birds flying overhead, calling to one another to alert them of our intrusion, rare blue wildabeasts collected in a herd to watch our adventure unfold. The big and bright African sun hung low in the sky, its light resting like a soft mist on the plains and our group was grinning from ear to ear. In Sarah’s own words, “It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life” and it’s just day one! Tyler and I can’t wait to experience more of this beautiful country with your even more spectacular kids! We’ll write back soon with more notes from our travels, our grand adventure through Africa.
Baei Bankie and Happy Fourth of July!
Claire and Tyler