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South Africa 1B • June 11-June 27, 2019

Elephants at Moonup! Farewell from South Africa

June 27, 2019

South Africa 1B checking in! What an unbelievable few days! We’ve seen crazy animals, slept under the stars, and grown into a tight, cohesive unit of best friends.

We rolled into camp in the late afternoon, and were greeted with a delicious dinner of mashed potatoes, salad, beans, and fresh Kudu (looks like the African version of a large deer). We laughed our way through dinner, and topped off the meal with a bread pudding that had us all drooling. Casey was quick to snap into action and take the lead on clearing the table and meal, which makes a huge difference when you have so many people at one table.

After dinner, we circled up around the fire for Moonup. We had barely opened the Nug Jug when the camp showed us how it had earned its name. Sydney suddenly exclaimed, “Look over there!” Turning around, we were blown away by an elephant rolling up to drink some water at a pond not 20 feet away from our Moonup circle. After appreciating the majesty of this animal, we had one of the most surreal experiences sharing our Moonup with an elephant.

During this final phase of the trip, the LOD’s really stepped up and assumed a lot of responsibility. On the first day at the elephant camp, Kat and Alex woke up the entire crew, created the morning huddle, and announced a quote and plan for the day without any prompting from us.

On our first day, we had a “Ferrari” safari to speed to the rhino darting we had a chance to be a part of with conservation efforts at Marataba. A helicopter flew overhead to spot a white rhino, push him to an open area, then dart it with a tranquilizer so the researchers may safely approach. Joel kept telling us about how good of a shot he was and how he wanted to hop in for the next round. Once the rhino was darted, the researchers covered its eyes and speedily took measurements of its horn, ears, and tail. Katherine jumped in on the action to assist the vets.

Luckily for us, the team was ready for another “tagging” and instructed us to get back in the cars for a second chance to see the rhino and feel the tough skin and husky breathing of the rhino. We rolled up on a second rhino, which was absolutely enormous. The vets said it was one of the biggest they’d ever seen. Ella was one of the first on the scene and got to see the hands on work the vets put in to ensuring that our grandchildren have the opportunity to see rhinos. Unfortunately, rhinos are being killed very quickly, at a rate of about 1,000 per year, so conservation efforts are crucial.

A few hours later, Hannah had a run for her money when her hope to see something unique came true. A black rhino stormed the right side of the vehicle and started to threaten to charge right in front of her seat. Our guide handled everything carefully, and said that was the best black rhino sighting he’s had in his 14 years!

After the rhino encounters, we bumped into some lions, which were absolutely majestic. Caroline kept asking the guide if she could hop out of the car and pet the lion cub, because, I have to admit, it was incredibly cute. While no one was allowed to get out of the car, Alec made some noises and got the lions to come right up to the vehicle, and allowed us to get some really good looks at them.

With the amazing rhino tagging in the rear view, we headed back to camp to prepare for our night in the bush. While getting packed up, Davis had us all dying laughing with a song he learned from a Kenyan a few years ago. His repeated singing of, “Surviving in the bush, we don’t need no matches!” had some of us legitimately rolling on the floor laughing.

Once we were all packed up, we drove out into the bush and set up camp at the foot of the “Waterburg Mountains.” The guides gave us a safety briefing, and then we conducted a period of individual silent reflection, which everyone found to be very meaningful. After reflection, we made some dinner, and then tucked in for bed. However, per the guides safety briefing, we had to have people taking shifts on the nights watch, to keep an eye on the fire, and scan for animals. Hunt allowed us all to sleep soundly and safely, taking a lead on patrolling the camp every 15 minutes with the spotlight to keep animals away.

As you can imagine, the African bush doesn’t have much light pollution, and we could make out the Milky Way during our star-gazing extravaganza! Every couple minutes, Elle would call out the shooting stars with a “Did you see that?!” Many stayed up almost all night keeping watch of hyenas and staying warm around the fire. After packing up camp and returning to much needed naps, we had one of our best safaris witnessing six lions in one section and 20 elephants in another!

With heavy hearts and some tears shed, we’re headed to the Johannesburg Airport with unbelievable memories under our belt and 14 new best friends that we’ve already made plans to come visit! Thank you to our amazing parents for providing this unreal Moondance experience and for welcoming us home in just a couple hours! Danke!

Meaningful Community Service in Thabazimbi

June 22, 2019

Hallo from Thabazimbi!

For our service portion of the trip, we’re working at Thabang Children’s Project, which is a local  organization  in  the  Thabazimbi  area  that  looks  to  “empower children,  families,  and  communities  to  restore  their  dignity  and  independence.”  This project provides development  centers,  care,  and  advocacy  facilities  to  orphans  and  vulnerable  youth  in  the local community. Our summer-long project is to create a braai, which is similar to a cookout and fire pit area. Our group laid the foundation for the braai, and we were the first group able to lay bricks for the final product!

To prepare for the service portion of the trip, we conducted some activities to help us get into the right mindset. In one game, we had one group blindfolded, and another group attempting to instruct the blindfolded group to stack rocks. This activity helped highlight the importance of clear communication while working on service projects. Kat stood out as an absolute star. She was in the blindfolded group, and took the lead on stacking rocks, while including hilarious commentary the whole time.

Once done with the activities to get into the right mindset, we sat down for an amazing dinner on a beautiful porch overlooking the mountains. This was truly one of the most beautiful dining settings we’d ever seen. However, despite the view, Davis still managed to have everyone enthralled with crazy stories of lands far away.

With dinner coming to an end, Katherine took the initiative and jumped up to clear everyone’s dishes. Her strong showing of Expedition Behavior was a great example for the group, and we had the dishes cleaned up in no time.

After dinner, we had a great Moonup around the fire. Alex shared first, and really set the tone for the rest of the Moonup. His veteran Moondance experience really showed, and he helped make everyone feel very comfortable and safe.

Finally, we dozed off, to prepare for a big day of service. Up early, we went over the Children’s Project to lend our assistance. The first project involved mixing cement to pour as the foundation of the braai. Alec jumped into the action right away and surprised us all with his cement mixing prowess. He was absolutely amazing at it, creating batch after batch, and showing the rest of us the proper way to do it.

As the day grew longer, we decided to throw in some games to spice things up. We decided to see who could fill up a wheelbarrow with cement the fastest. The game was fairly even until Hannah tagged in. She filled up the wheelbarrow so fast our heads were spinning. This helped us get the job done quickly but efficiently.

While we were working, Ella noticed some pieces of glass laying around the yard. While our shoes protected us, we noticed that many of the local children were barefoot. Seeing the problem with that, Ella snapped into action, picking up piece after piece of glass, ensuring that the playground was safe for everyone.

Part of the group went to the school nearby to paint classrooms, and Casey was our very own Picasso. She led the charge with the painting crew, and had the classroom looking brand new. Elle kept our mindsets on how we were helping the kids who would be back in the classrooms after winter break and was a huge motivator to the entire group.

During the afternoon of our second day of work, we had the chance to play with elementary school kids from an informal living community! Sydney had a baby plastered on her hip, and Caroline led a hula hooping competition for the kids. They got to give out ‘sweeties’ to the kids as they showed off new tricks!

Our students had the best time playing with the local kids, and looking around, every single person in the school yard was beaming. On one side of the yard, Joel led a game of basketball and taught Gabriel, a local student, how to shoot his first hoop! They even came up with a secret handshake after. On the other side of the yard, Hunt had a posse circling him, and on closer inspection, he was deeply involved in a dance off. While he tried his best, it didn’t seem like the moves learned at the Lovett school dances are quite of the same caliber as local African moves.

In the spirit of gratitude, we’ve been sharing ways we’re thankful for one another and for the comforts of home. Refreshed and engaged is how we’re entering Marataba Game Reserve, and we can’t wait for what’s to come! Danke!!

Kyle + Caroline

Kings and Queens of Safari!

June 19, 2019

Hallo from Dinokeng, South Africa!!


We’re getting back from our morning safari, and about to head off to Thabazimbi for our community service! We arrived at Little Mongena Monday night and had an amazing meal after a day of travel – some were comforted by burgers and some were adventurous enough to try ostrich carpaccio! We had a safety briefing before having guides walk us with flashlights to our tents. Our tents were within the Dinokeng Game Reserve, and we were awoken by two lions walking 10 meters from our tents! Lion sleepover! We could also hear hippos snorting around the water, and realized we are stationed in front of the watering hole and a hot red sunrise when guides came to wake us up and to go back to the lodge.

On Tuesday, we had a 5:00 AM sunrise safari and bundled up in the blankets in the open-top land cruisers and began the search! Katherine sat up front with our guide, Corelius, and chatted about the wonders of safari as we darted through impalas and watched the sky turn the perfect shade of African pink over the trees.

Sydney yelled, “it’s my spirit animal!” when Corelius somehow spotted a giraffe through the trees. They lived up to their Egyptian name of “elegant walkers,” and usually travel in groups of around three. Ella was fascinated by the pregnant giraffe and even made a Nug Jug story about it when she crushed her role as LOD.

Alex loved that impalas are called “the McDonald’s of the bush” because there is a golden arch-like patterns on their bottoms and they’re known as a fast meal. When we saw some rhinos, Alex named them Armando and Fernando after our friends from Mozambique.

Davis took our guide’s challenge and navigated us all the way back to camp without a wrong turn! Corelius couldn’t believe it, and Davis said he used the sun as a guide to get us back Southeast to camp.

After the morning safari drive, we settled in for an afternoon high tea. While everyone was enjoying their beverages, Caroline’s keen eyes spotted a herd of wildebeests drinking on the other side of the reservoir. She brought the impressive herd to the attention of the group and everyone was amazed.

With bellies full from tea and snacks, we dove into some fun exercises to learn more about some of Moondance’s key principles. In groups of twos and threes, the kids put on skits to act out the “Leave No Trace,” principles, essential values for touring in the front or back country. Kat and Alec put on an especially funny and informational skit, pretending to be animals while acting out the principle “Respect Wildlife.”

Feeling proud of our new understanding of “LNT,” we eased into some R&R. We whipped out the deck of cards, and dove into some intense games of Spades. When Hunt saddled up to the table saying he hadn’t played before, the experienced players of the group thought they had a fish on their hands. However, after a few rounds, Hunt had gotten a hang of the game, and seemed to win just about every hand!

Feeling rested, we were ready to ride out on another safari. During these game rides, Elle stood out as our good luck charm. It seemed like her safari car came across a different rare animal every few minutes! Even the guides were shocked when we came across both white rhinos and black rhinos. While Elle’s good luck brought us into the vicinity of the animals, we might have missed them if not for Hannah’s eagle-eyes. The black rhinos were different from the white rhinos because they spook more easily, and we may have missed them if Hannah hadn’t seen them run across the road. The whole group enjoyed watching these majestic beasts thanks to Hannah and Elle. Black rhinos are going extinct, so Dinokeng has multiple efforts in place to build up their population.

Following another amazing game ride, we were treated to a fantastic dinner. Between bites of delicious meat, salad, and vegetables, Joel was cracking jokes non-stop. His jokes, dance moves, and impersonations had the table laughing the entire time.

With full bellies, we moved out to the warm fire to circle up for Moonup. This was a pivotal Moonup, and really cemented the trust we have in each other as a group. This wouldn’t have been possible without Casey’s mature leadership of the meeting. She facilitated the Moonup in such a way that we hadn’t seen before. From the quote she chose, to the nug jug story, to the Moonup question, we were all on the edge of our seats. Everyone supported each other, and we walked away from the fire this night closer than we’d ever been!

Now we’re headed towards Thabazimbi, with full bellies, and fuller hearts. Watching these animals in their natural habitats was absolutely awe-inspiring. We’re so thankful to Dinokeng and Little Mongena, and we are so ready to give back during the service portion of our trip!


Having a Whale of a Time in South Africa!

June 17, 2019

Hola from Mozambique!!

South Africa 1B checking in after a few days of fun in the surf and sun! We’ve had the best time surfing, snorkeling, playing games on the beach, and immersing ourselves in the Mozambique community.

We flew to Africa a group of 13 strangers, and now we are preparing to leave Mozambique as friends who can lean on each other, trust each other, and be there for each other.The ocean safaris were a huge standout of the trip. We had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with both a whale shark and a giant manta ray. The animals were absolutely majestic underwater, and I’m sure this won’t be something any of us will forget.

During one salty day on the ocean safari, we couldn’t get Sydney out of the water! Swimming next to the beautiful whale shark, she was so graceful she looked like she belonged in the water with the shark!The very next day, we were lucky enough to come across a Giant Manta Ray. We considered ourselves blessed, as the guides said this was very rare. Katherine wasted no time hopping in and swimming alongside the manta ray, paving the way for the rest of the group. She exuded confidence in the water, which played a huge part in keeping everyone comfortable out in the ocean.

The ocean safari was definitely a bonding experience, and Alex really shone as a leader. He was absolutely instrumental in keeping everything ship-shape on the boat, and he even helped the guides keep everything in order when we encountered the whale shark!While the ocean safari was amazing, the seas were a bit rough. However, Alec wouldn’t let that keep him down, climbing a tree and grabbing a coconut for the group to drink after we got off the boats! The fresh milk from a coconut just off the tree was to die for!

During our local immersion tour with Big Tony, Joel and Ella displayed their adventurous palates, eating coconut meat straight from the tree, passion fruit that they picked themselves, and a meal made from the matapa leaf! Joel kept us on our toes in the open-top truck, and Ella was the first to spot flamingos just beyond the mangroves!In addition to the ocean safaris, we also spent a few days surfing. After one day of surfing lessons, Elle and Casey really shined! On day two I almost thought they were the ones giving the lessons. Elle looked like a natural out there, effortlessly guiding herself into waves, and riding them like she’d been doing it for years. Casey was following suit, and the surf guides were so impressed they asked her if she had any ambitions of becoming a pro surfer!

In between surfing and ocean safari-ing, we had no shortage of activities to fill our time. However, beach soccer quickly became a group favorite. During each game, I couldn’t tell if we had Hannah or Ronaldo out there, as it seemed like she was scoring a goal every time she touched the ball!After a few days of surfing and soccer, the group was feeling a little sore. However, that didn’t last too long, as Caroline seized the initiative and led the group in some beach Tai Chi flows, which limbered everyone up for the next few days of activities.

Davis had the best time interacting with the locals on the beach and in the market, I think they wanted him to stay there with them! He really hit it off with a few locals, and they’d always come running up to Davis to say hi whenever we were out and about. While the vast majority of our stay in Mozambique was absolutely beautiful, we did have a few bouts with rain, as is typical in a tropical locale. However, there was no way a little rain was going to bring down the group morale, because we had a secret antidote to rainy day blues: Kat’s non-stop optimism and Hunt’s endless humor. Kat’s ever-present good mood and bubbly personality kept us always smiling, and Hunt’s quick wit and jokes kept us in stitches the whole time.

Next up, we’re moving to the DinoKeng game reserve. We’re trading in the ocean safari for a South African Safari, moving from whale sharks and manta rays to lions and giraffes. Obrigado, Mozambique, for your amazing hospitality and fun experiences. Till next time! Hallo, South Africa.


Also, everyone wanted to send a note home to dad to wish a Happy Father’s Day!

Sydney: Happy father’s day dad! I love you soo much. I’m repping ardent! Eat some Oreos today. I am having fun, I swam with a whale shark and manta ray. Miss you, mom, me and the dogs! Have fun today! Love y’all!! Hi Martha.

Kat: Hey dad I miss you so much and I hope you are having the best time on Father’s Day you are the best dad ever! Say hi to mom, Sam, Alex and Sadie for me! Love you so much -Kat

Ella: Happy Father’s Day Dad! I miss you and mom so much!! Say hi to Sug and Luxe for me! Also, hi Ruth and the rest of Frans!!!!! -Ella

Katherine: hey dad happy Father’s Day. Hope your day is going amazing I miss you. You’re the best dad ever!!!!!!!!! I love you so much <333333 – Katherine

Alex- hey dad hope everything is going great and happy father’s days and hope the fat kitty is doing good 😉 Love you!!!

Alec- hi dad happy Father’s Day I’m having an amazing time here and I’m hoping you are having a great day. Tell the dog I love her and I love you dad!

Caroline: hey dad happy Father’s Day!!! I miss you so much, but it is so amazing here. I hope you have an awesome day with mom, and I can’t wait to see you guys and tell you about everything in two weeks!

Hannah- Happy Father’s Day po po!! I’m having an amazing time and I miss you and mom sooo much!! Je t’aime beaucoup!

Hunt: Happy Father’s Day, Mr C. Fielder Shurling. I hope u r having fun because I am. Tell mom and Calder to have fun in sf. Tell Sadie I said hi. I learned how to stand up on a surf board. Kind of. Please give me aisle seat. I love u thanks u so much

Elle: Happy Father’s Day dad!! Hope you have a great day even though I’m not there 🙂 I’m having so much fun miss you guys!!!!!!

Casey: happy Father’s Day Dad!! Have the best possible day you can without me;) Hope you and Beiley are doing well and can’t wait to see you even though I never ever want to leave!!! Love you

Joel- Happy Father’s Day Dad! Glad we celebrated it before I left. Love you very much and see you soon

Davis – hey dad happy Father’s Day. I miss you and the rest of the family I hope Gray is getting better at swimming. I’m a having a great time in Africa.thanks dad love you



Safe and Sound in South Africa

June 12, 2019

Hi South Africa Families,

All students and leaders have arrived in South Africa and the trip is on its way.

We are excited to see what this adventure has in store!

-Moondance HQ


  • Alec
  • Alex
  • Caroline
  • Casey
  • Davis
  • Ella
  • Elle
  • Hannah
  • Hunt
  • Joel
  • Kat
  • Katherine
  • Sydney