June 24, 2019
Goodbyes are never easy, but wow we were so sad to see this group of kids go. The fun began within moments of us all arriving in Belize. The group chemistry could not have been more ideal. We had Charlie who always kept us laughing whether we were navigating an airport, going down a rapid, or hiking through the jungle. Claire, with her gentle and caring ways, was always there to contribute to the groups bonding. Hattie kept us laughing and thinking with her hilarious and insightful commentary. Greg’s enthusiasm during the service component helped keep everyone motivated and engaged during this essential part of the trip. Harleigh’s confidence and strength was much needed throughout the challenging parts of our adventure. Christopher kept our spirits high throughout the trip with his cheerful attitude and ever-present smile. Dillon displayed incredible leadership skills and kept us on task from the islands of Belize to the jungles of Costa Rica. Vaughan kept us in stitches with his running commentary and overall uplifting presence and attitude. Mary Elle’s upbeat and talkative ways kept us entertained throughout long van rides. Gloria impressed us all with the commitment and athleticism she brought to each and every activity. Thomas kept us on our toes with his witty commentary and energetic personality. Linley added heaps of fun with her lively dance moves and non-stop laughter. Jane, always kind and thoughtful, was an incredible friend to everyone in the group.
As leaders we could not have asked for a better start to our Moondance summer. Every single kid on this trip contributed in meaningful ways, whether we were probing the depths of the sea, flying across the treetops if the jungle, shoveling clay and mixing cement, or rafting the Pacuare River – they each added measurable value to the overall experience. We all learned and grew from our soulful nighttime Moonup chats, and will carry these lessons and memories with us as we return to our daily lives. Thank you all for trusting us with these amazing boys and girls these past two weeks, they are safely heading back your way. We are going to miss these kids an awful, awful lot but hope to see them on future Moondance trips.
Liz, Gillie, and Gray
June 24, 2019
Our final day in El Brujo began with an adventure waterfall tour. Our guide led us on a short but steep hike through the jungle up to a beautiful waterfall where we covered ourselves in blue clay. After 30 minutes of being there, everyone looked like avatars and was painting designs on each other. Hattie is one of our aspiring artists drawing floral designs on her friends while Thomas just made sure that he was completely covered head to toe in the mineral-rich clay.
After our hike our guide surprised with a tasting of some of the small batch dark chocolate he makes at his property. We gave our goodbyes to El Brujo, then spent the remainder of our day traveling across beautiful Costa Rica with our trusted van driver, Michael. The long car ride was full of endless excitement, fueled with some local snacks and dance parties along the way. We finally arrived to our hotel for the evening, only to find we had the place entirely to ourselves! The lodging came with a full kitchen, leading us naturally to the conclusion that homemade Mac and cheese must be on the menu for dinner. Thanks to our impressive cook crew, the pasta was a huge success. Greg and Linley sliced and diced all of the fruits and veggies, while Christopher and Gloria manned the stovetop for pasta and bacon. It was a feast fit for kings, sending us to bed with the fullest of bellies before our next adventure white water rafting.
The next morning, we were woken up by the smell of pancakes coming from the kitchen of our BnB. We turned on some music, had breakfast, and everyone packed a bag for our two-day rafting trip. After a short van-ride to the Pacuare river, everyone suited up in their rafting gear for our first day. We rafted the first half of our day with consisted of some awesome class two and three rapids that everyone took like champs. We pulled over on a beach to swim and skip rocks while our guides prepared a large lunch of sandwiches, chips and salsa, and fresh pineapple, watermelon, and papaya. The second half of our rafting day was complemented by rain, shine, and some class four rapids. After a long day of rafting we arrived at our mid-river campsite, owned by one of our rafting guides. Camping in the middle of a jungle could not have been cooler, and the dinner was one of the best we’ve had yet. So good, that Charlie managed to have 4 massive servings. We concluded the night with a deep and incredible Moonup led by Jane and Vaughan, then headed off for, you guessed it, some well-deserved rest.
Waking up for our last day of rafting, we were spoiled yet again with pancakes! Vaughan alone put down 8 of them, with the rest of the group close behind. Our final Pacuare rapids were full of surprises. Mary Elle’s dream came true when a cappuccino monkey jumped from tree to tree clear across the River! Christopher pulled off the most graceful cannonball of all time, a 10/10. Dillon manned the front of his raft as any admirable captain would, while Claire kept the rest of the raft in sync with her smooth and steady paddling. The rafting section of our trip came to a close with one more delicious lunch provided by our guides and our driver, Michael, picking us up. We stopped at a local market on the way back to our hotel in San Jose where we tried assortment of local baked goods with coconut. Our hotel provided a banquet of grilled chicken, rice n beans, a salad of fresh veggies, and sweet plantains along with fresh blackberry juice. Harleigh and Dillon a memorable last Moonup and everyone laid around afterwards, reminiscing on funny memories of the trip.
With an eeeaaarrrlllyyyyyyy wake up tomorrow morning, that’s all for now! We’re off to get some more of that well-deserved rest, but you’ll hear from us again soon!
Nos vemos amigos,
June 21, 2019
Costa Rica has brought a whole new energy to this trip. We were greeted by Karla outside of the airport and loaded into our driver, Michael’s bus. Our first night was spent at a hotel where the walls were painted with jungle animals. After a long travel day and a sleepy Moonup everyone was ready for bed. The next day we woke up early for a breakfast full of fresh fruit, eggs and bacon to fuel a day of zip-lining. The jungle zip-line tour was awesome and everyone in the group had fun. You would have never known Charlie was scared of heights by his positive attitude and the amount of fun he was having on the tour. Vaughn got a great video on his GoPro of Charlie zip-lining upside down with his feet in the air over a deep valley. We finished our zip-lining with a feast of chicken, fried fish, rice, vegetables, and salad then hopped on Micheal’s bus towards the beach for our afternoon surf lesson. Once arriving, we quickly threw on our bathing suits and walked our short five minute walk to meet our surfing guides at the beautiful black sand beach. After a few wipeouts, we began to see some serious shredders in our group. Jane impressed us all with a 180 after catching her third wave of the day. Dillon and Vaughn were quite the dynamic duo in the water catching waves together and attempting tricks. We walked back to our hotel a couple of hours later already excited and talking about our second surfing lesson to come the next morning. The group finally got some well deserved rest after our jam packed days. The next morning we woke up, threw on our suits, ate a quick breakfast, and raced out to the empty beach to catch some waves. Claire and Gloria caught wave after wave riding them all the way to shore then running right back in for their next. We had a quick turnaround before heading to our first day of community service.
On our way to community service, the windy dirt roads took us past waterfalls and some of the most amazing views and walls of rainforest up to the community where we are now staying.
We were greeted by Tamra with a delicious lunch of chicken with rice and beans and a salad of fresh vegetables with homemade dressing and hot sauce. We then headed to our project. The other group of students started building a greenhouse which we were able to complete the past couple of days. Harleigh and Greg jumped right into it by sifting and shoveling mounds and mounds of dirt for our concrete mix. Hattie showed her skills as a spontaneous motivator with her positive attitude and enthusiasm throughout the project. An afternoon rain shower was the refresher everyone needed before our walk through the jungle back. We closed the day with a Moonup in a yoga studio/spiritual temple, where we concluded with a super peaceful silent reflection. Mary Elle and Thomas ran a deep and powerful Moonup where we got the chance to learn more about each other and what service means. Full of namaste, tired but content, we headed to bed!
Our second and final day of community service started early with a breakfast buffet including eggs, rice, beans, toast, and every single fruit imaginable. With full bellies and clear eyes, this motley crew headed off to finish what we started in the garden. Today’s activities were long, hard, and super rewarding. Jane and Linley stepped up sifting the soil for this new garden, finishing it off with planting the lettuce and bell pepper baby plants! Satisfied with our hard work, it was time to celebrate with a soccer game for the books. Los Perros squared up against The Mangoes in an intense, World Cup-worthy matchup. Christopher and Dillon cut up the field on the offensive, bringing The Mangoes back from the dead to tie up the game with only minutes left. However, it was a quick and decisive shot from Jane sliding past a goalie Charlie that gave the victorious win to Los Perros.
This evening has been filled with endless surprises. A fruit-filled tour of the farm led into a chocolate-making class and has wrapped up with one last delicious meal from Tamara. Although it is time for us to move on to the next activity, we will miss this place dearly. Nugs to our guides for an unforgettable experience. Now, off to the river!
June 18, 2019
Hello! The scuba section of our trip is finished and was amazing. Everyone arrived safely to the Belize City airport where we grabbed a quick bite to eat and waited for our transport to Long Caye Island. We were immediately hit with the Belizean sun when we hopped on a boat for our two hour journey through the crystal clear waters and mangroves to the island. After we arrived and settled into the beautiful Calypso Lodge on Long Caye Island, our cook Martha made us a delicious dinner of roasted chicken, black beans, and veggies. We woke up early the next morning and had a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, and fruit to fuel us for our first day in scuba certification process with Huracan diving.
Something really special about getting certified on Lighthouse atoll is that the water resembles pool-like conditions, clear and still enough for learning. This way, the students get to learn in the ocean rather than a pool! Our first LODs (Leaders of the day) were Claire and Christopher, who both demonstrated leadership throughout the first day of learning skills for diving. Christopher lead the group through their 300 yard swim test and 10 minutes of treading water. Dillon dove with Liz and Gray while the rest of the soon-to-be certified divers learned skills. He knew the answer to just about every question she asked during our pre-dive refresher. We saw a spotted eagle ray almost immediately after diving into the ocean for the first time. The rest of the group had an epic adventure as well, learning new SCUBA skills and getting ready for their first open dives. As far as first days go, this must be one for the books.
Our next day of diving proved to be just as exciting. We are starting to see every animal you can think of, sharks and barracuda and the entire cast of Finding Nemo, just to name a few. After getting back to the island, Dillon, Christopher, and Thomas stepped up to the Spike Ball court, quickly showcasing why they are the best of the best. Other popular activities for the evening include book reading, hammock swinging, Big Booty playing, and coconut hunting. Big ole nugs to Hattie for traversing the palm trees to secure enough coconuts for our pre-dinner feast. Cook Crew Martha showed up in a big way for dinner, cooking shrimp and rice. Today was rounded out with Moonup on the dock under a nearly-full moon.
Day 3 of diving began with an open-water dive in the morning to finish up skills and a second dive in the afternoon. Some highlights from the dives included a reef shark, a sea turtle, and a lobster. The rest of the day was filled with our first came of birdie on a perch which ended in a “veggie off” between Liz, Claire, Dillon, and Linley. Claire won best imitation of a “sassy prune” and was deemed the winner of the game.
Our final day of diving consisted of a morning dive where the kids learned under-water compass skills and a fun afternoon drift dive along the wall of the Lighthouse reef atoll. I looked over to notice Charlie and Greg were doing the whip and nay nay at me while Thomas was doing many, many somersaults under water. It’s safe to say that most everyone felt comfortable breathing 40 feet below the surface of the ocean by the end of our training. A highlight of the day was Martha making homemade donuts for a snack. In order to fulfill everyone’s sugar rush we organized a game of soccer on the beach, where Hattie showed some skills as the goalie for the team that Mary Elle dubbed the “Martha’s Donut Dinosaurs”.
Our last day at Calypso Beach Retreat was spent snorkeling, bird watching, and fishing. We boated over to Half Moon Island to see the rare “red-footed boobies” from a watchtower. There was a little fluffy baby in a tree about three feet from the stand that was waiting for her mother to bring her fish. We then went snorkeling around the reefs by the island and saw many stoplight par fish, a reef shark, an a barracuda. After that we headed back to Long Caye to suit up for fishing. Granted, we did expect to catch a few fish on this expedition. However, none of us could have guessed the success we found. First lines were cast and within 30 seconds, Vaughan and Jane were both reeling in whoppers. Quickly following them was Harleigh and Gloria, bringing on board even bigger fish than the first. Like Steph Curry from the three, we simply couldn’t miss. Accidentally drop a hook in the water with no bait? No problem, still catching fish. It was incredible. We’d like to thank our longtime fan and captain, Mr. Reeves, as well as all of those following along at home. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more crazy, Gloria gets a big hit on her hand line. Pulling one hand after the other, something down below kept fighting. Relentlessly pushing onward, Gloria brings up on deck the biggest fish yet, a nurse shark! The shark got off easy, released quickly after a trophy photo. The next catch of the day, not so lucky. Just before we packed up for the evening, Mary Elle feels a nibble. Then, another nibble. It’s a big one. Bigger than anything we’d ever imagined. Finally, Mary Elle triumphantly pulls in the biggest fish of the day, a triggerfish basically the size of the entire boat. Or at least, definitely 2 feet long. Satisfied with our bounty, this group of fishermen and fisherwomen headed home to feast.
There couldn’t have been a better conclusion to an incredible week spent on the island. We ate the fish we caught, looking over the ocean that we had learned to call home. We are sad to be leaving such an unreal place, but are eagerly looking forward to the next adventure in Costa Rica. Stay tuned folks, our next check in is coming soon! Until then, Pura Vida!
What’s up, happy Father’s Day I love y’all I hope y’all are doing well and I can’t wait to see you. -Vaughan
Happy Father’s Day Dad! Miss you fam. Having sooo much fun snorkeling, diving, etc. I love my counselors and group! I caught the biggest Trigger fish out the group and got to eat it. Yum!!!!!! Love y’all see you soon. Hope everyone is well. – MaryElle ????????????
Hey fam!!! Belize was soooo pretty and now we are in the airport about to go to Costa Rica (it’s Monday). Also happy late Father’s Day Dad I hope you liked my card! I am now scuba certified and saw so many cool things like sharks and eels. Last thing, I CAUGHT A SHARK WHILE FISHING! Having so much fun I love y’all! Xoxo Gloria ????
Happy late Father’s Day Dad! Belize was SO much fun. We are about to go to Costa Rica. I’ll see y’all in a week! Miss y’all so much! I caught a fish when we went fishing, and I loved snorkeling ! Love y’all and see you soon!???? -Jane????
Happy Father’s Day Dad!! I miss y’all so much but I’m having the besttt time in Belize and I’m so excited for Costa rica!! Scuba diving was so much fun and I caught 2 fish, Love y’all ????— linley
Hey fam !!! I’m having so much fun in Belize. We got to scuba dive, snorkel, and fish! We are about to leave for Costa Rica and I am so excited! Miss you tons, and happy late Father’s Day Dad!!! Tell the dogs I say hi ???????????? – Claire
Happy late Father’s Day Dad . I miss y’all but Im having a lot of fun here. We are airport on the way to Costa Rica. See y’all in a week – Christopher
Hey mom and dad,
Happy Father’s Day -from Greg
Hi mom and dad
I got scuba certified, and dad look at the card I made-Thomas
Hey y’all I’m having so much fun in Belize and my group is awesome I miss y’all but I never want this trip to end!!!! I’m scuba certified!!! My counselors are the best I can’t put into words how awesome they are!!! I can now climb coconut trees the way everyone on the island can (for the most part) I can wait to see y’all!!!!! I love you so much-love Hattie
Happy Father’s Day Dad! I miss you guys so much. This has been one of the most interesting trips I have been on and I can’t wait to tell you everything. Mom text Ann maxwell I miss her and can’t wait to see her. I hope everything back home is good. Long Caye was beautiful and the people were amazing. I miss and love y’all and if any of my friends ask I miss them and love them!!!
-Harleigh❤️ (P.S. Vaughan says hey)
Hey mom and dad and jack I am having so so much fun in Belize we stayed on this really small island in the middle of no where so cool. I didn’t see Ben or Charlie but I am having so much fun. Tell jack I said hi I really miss him and the me and maryelle say hi. I can’t believe that the Raptors won! I just found out that’s crazy! But I don’t really want to leave in a week I kinda want to stay. I really miss and love you all so much-Charlie
Hey guys! I’m having a great time here and I hope all is well in Charlotte. We are sitting in the airport right now about to leave Belize. The scuba diving in Belize was great and I got to see a bunch of cool animals like sharks, rays, and turtles. Since I was already certified, I was able to do really fun dives on the wall of the reefs with the certified counselors and instructors. Make sure you tell Maddie and Will I say hi when you get the chance. P.S happy Father’s Day to Dad and I can’t wait to see y’all at the end of the week. -Dillon
June 11, 2019
Hello Belize + Costa Rica Families,
All students and leaders have arrived to Belize City and the trip is on its way.
More to come soon!