June 22, 2022
We are writing this final trip update with very sad hearts (and teary eyes) from the Johannesburg international airport. We have just said some of the toughest goodbyes to eight of our new bestfriends and the most special group.
The last 24 hours have been filled with all kinds of emotions. Joy and laughter have rung from our voices as we laughed over memories throughout the trip. We shared intense love for the people around us and gratitude for those who made it possible. The sadness sunk in as we reflected on how our time together has gone by too quickly.
On Monday, we flew back “home” to South Africa. As the girls always do, they treated the people around them to a quick Taylor Swift concert. We are certain the nearby plane passengers absolutely loved as they belted out All Too Well (10 minute version) (Taylor’s Version). We are always in awe of how the girls can turn any place/environment/setting into a stage and any dull moment into pure fun. The girls epitomize what it means to be joyful and life-giving.
After a quick transfer (and a little more Taylor Swift in the van), we arrived at Dinokeng Game Reserve. We would be spending our last hours together in the bush—right where it all started. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner before heading to our second-to-last Moonup. We sat closely around the fire, admiring another amazing star-filled sky and trying to make sense of where the time had gone. LODs Carter and Vivi asked the group where they felt most alive. For most of the group, they answered “right here” or “with Moondance.”
The next morning, we headed out for a sunrise game drive. We admired a lion and a lioness, giraffes, rhinos, and cheetahs. It was truly a safari the girls will never forget. After returning to the lodge for a fabulous brunch, we spent the day writing letters to our future selves and notes for each girl to read on her flight home. We finished up more friendship bracelets, tied in lots more fairy hair, and soaked up our last bit of South African sunshine. We played a group game called “Schmodus” that made us laugh until our stomachs hurt and we talked about how challenging it would be to head back into the real world.
We set out on our last evening game drive and our last sunset in the bush. It was all very bittersweet as we reflected on the beauty we have seen over the past two weeks, knowing it maybe awhile before we are back in this incredible country. We hugged each other tightly as we watched the sun set on our last full day together. At our last Moonup, LODS Rylan and Calder asked the group to share how they have grown over the last two weeks and how they plan to carry this growth back home. From unplugging to trying new foods, seeking adventure in each day or always living in the moment, the girls shared all they had learned from each other and their experiences. This last Moonup reminded us of the song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from the Lion King—and it is safe to say we could definitely feel the love.
We enjoyed one last concert in the van this morning as we headed back to Johannesburg. These last few hours in the airport were just as full of laughter and joy as the rest of the trip. The girls wrote down all their favorite (and funniest) quotes of the trip and retold our most memorable stories. After one final meal together, it was time for the girls to check-in and go through security. We had one last teary-eyed group photo and a few hundred more hugs before it was
time to say our final goodbye. We waved until these eight sweet faces had disappeared around the corner into security. While it was incredibly tough to say our goodbyes, we are feeling overwhelmed with love and gratitude. These girls have poured deeply into each other and into the group as a whole. They have pushed themselves individually and grown so much in just two weeks. We feel like the luckiest leaders in the world to have such an amazing group. Thank you, families and friends, for sharing your girls with us. We are forever thankful! They are headed back to you in the states with 7 new forever friends and many memories and stories to share. Calder, Carter, Hunter, Lauren, Margaret, McClure, Rylan, and Vivi – we love you all more than you know and will see you again SOON!
All our love,
Browning and Henry
June 21, 2022
Hi there SAF 1A friends and families!
We are checking in after a wonderful section at the beach in Mozambique! The stunning shores, sunsets, and stars have provided the perfect backdrop for friendships to flourish, the group to form incredibly deep bonds, and for all of us to soak in the adventure.
The adventure truly began during our travel from South Africa to Mozambique. While the trip there was relatively short, the madness of entering a new country provided plenty of excitement. Midway through the visa application process at the border, all the computers at the immigration desk suddenly stopped working. With half the group through customs, and the rest at a dead standstill in the visa line, we still needed to recheck luggage and catch a quick connecting flight. The girls stepped up in a BIG way to make sure we stayed on track. Vivi took the lead by tracking down the right people to make sure all of us and our luggage made it through immigration and onto our connecting flight. It was truly chaotic, and we are so proud of the girls for taking on that responsibility. Throughout the afternoon, we finally had the chance to debrief our crazy travels. On the drive from the airport to Tofo Beach, McClure brought up one hilarious story after another of interactions at the airport and the sheer will of the group to make our flight. As we do every night, we discussed everyone’s highs and lows from the day at dinner. Almost unanimously, battling through the chaos and laughing over everyone’s stories was the highlight of the day. For some, it was even a highlight of the trip itself.
The following morning, we got an early start to explore the coastline of Mozambique on an Ocean Safari! Equipped with snorkels and fins, we headed out on a small boat, ready to jump in the water to swim with Mozambique’s incredible marine life. Within minutes of leaving the shore, we found ourselves among a huge pod of dolphins, and were in the water in no time! Calder was always one of the first in the water, full of energy to soak up each moment with the group. On the way home, some members of the group were feeling a bit seasick. To cheer them up, the group quickly stepped up to belt out some Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus.
In the afternoon, we tried our hand at surfing some of Tofo Beach’s waves! Hunter caught on quickly, only taking a few attempts before she had it down. For the rest of the afternoon, she consistently rode waves into the shore. The rest of the group also picked it up quickly, paddling into waves without the help of our instructors! As the sun set on our first full day in Mozambique, the group was awestruck by the sky’s stunning display of stars. We were all confident we had never seen a night sky like that ever before!
The following day, the group headed out on the Ocean Safari boat again for a unique and rare experience with one of Southern Africa’s most majestic marine creatures. Over our first two days in Mozambique, we had spotted the faint splashes and spouts of humpback whales out on the horizon. That morning, we were off to see them up close! Once out in the deeper waters, we spotted three different pods of whales and watched them slowly breach, deeply exhaling as they passed just a handful of yards away from our boat. Later that evening at Moonup, Carter specifically mentioned seeing these massive and majestic creatures was a highlight of her trip.
After a long couple of days in the sun, we were invited to spend the afternoon with a local family, learning to cook a traditional Mozambican meal. First, we tried some delicious coconuts that had been cut down from trees in their backyard. Lauren especially loved the coconut water, carrying around a coconut to drink from for the rest of the afternoon. We honestly thought she might try to take it home with her! Afterward, we retrieved cassava roots, fresh bananas, peanuts, and a couple of other ingredients from the backyard garden, exactly what we needed to cook two traditional favorites, matapa and bolinhas, bread-like cookies made with cassava flour and fresh coconut milk. The group especially loved forming the bolinhas into fun shapes before they were tossed into the oven. After our meal, we headed back to the lodge, where a massive dance party broke out while we got ready for bed. Margaret was a showstopper as she jumped up on top of the picnic table to sing and dance to her favorite Taylor Swift tunes! After a wild day, we settled down to prepare for our final full day in Mozambique.
The next day we woke up to put our surfing skills to the test in higher winds with bigger surf. Despite the wind and waves, everyone worked out the process incredibly quickly. Margaret was especially impressive, earning herself the title of Surfing QUEEN! While half the group was in the water surfing, Rylan found a great spot on the beach to take some amazing action shots on the group camera! Eventually, Rylan’s camera turned to film the rest of the group goofing around and wildly cheering on the surfers from the beach. After our morning in the surf, we made our way to the calmer waters of the sound behind Tofo Beach for a sunset cruise in a traditional Dhow. Our first stop was a shallow shoal to go looking for shells. While wading in the shoal, Vivi found a large patch of African sand dollars! After a lovely evening sailing through the sound with the deep red sunset as a backdrop, we made our way back to the lodge for an amazing final night under the Mozambican stars. Out on the beach, Hunter led the group’s deepest Moonup yet. While circled up on the sand with the sounds of waves crashing behind us, the depth of friendships formed during our time together could have not been more evident.
Before leaving the next morning, we stopped by a local art market to buy some bracelets and Mozambique memorabilia to remember these amazing days together. Lauren was so excited about a pair of lightweight, colorful pants that she changed into them as soon as she made it to the airport! We’re now on our way back to South Africa for a couple more nights before we say our goodbyes and send this group back to the United States. The moments of persevering through chaos, laughing about it afterward, enjoying the beauty of our surroundings, and living in the moment have brought this group together in a special way over the past few days. The two of us are so, so proud to see where this group has gone together, which makes us very sad to know they’ll have to leave soon. For now, we’ll look forward to soaking up every last second together over our last few days in South Africa. We’ll be back soon with our final update!
With so much love and gratitude for this group,
Browning and Henry
Speaking of gratitude, here are some thank you shout outs from the group:
Hunter – Thank you dad for creating an amazing company and letting me meet friends that I will have for a lifetime! Moondance is truly an amazing experience! You rock! Thank you Browning and Henry for making the experience 10x better! I’m so lucky to be able to look up to y’all!!
McClure – Thank you Moondance for creating the most amazing experience of a lifetime and letting me meet all of these new people! Thank you Hayes for sending us with Hunty and helping to provide the coolest trip!! Also thank you Mom and Dad for sending me on this trip! And especially thank you Brownie and Henny for bonding together this group of the best people and for being the best leaders ever!!!
Calder – Thank you Moondance for giving me the opportunity to have the experience of a lifetime with the best people! Thank you Mom, Dad, and Hunt for helping me pick and go on this trip! Thank you Hayes for Moondance and sending Huntress in our awesome group! ALSO Thank you Brownie and Henny (from the block) for being the most amazing leaders and friends!!! 🙂
Rylan – Thank you so much Moondance for making this trip truly an experience of a lifetime with my new friends!! Thank you Mom and Dad for making this trip possible, I seriously couldn’t thank you enough!! Most of all, thank you so much Browning and Henry for being the best leaders ever, I wouldn’t have wanted any other leaders. Thank you Hayes for providing us with this amazing trip and with your amazing daughter Hunter!! See you so soon! Love you guys! Also I hope you had a great Father’s Day Dad!
Margaret – Dad, Michelle, Addison, and Ashley, I can’t thank you enough for helping me decide this trip and prepare for it! Thank you Hayes and Moondance for creating this opportunity! I will cherish these relationships and memories forever and ever! Thank you Brownie and Henny for helping grow the 8 of our friendships over the course of this trip. Y’all are the best!
Vivi – Thank you Browning and Henry for constantly looking out for all of us and making sure that this experience is unforgettable!! Thank you mom and dad for letting me go on these once and a lifetime experiences even though I’m never home, haha! Also thank you Hayes and Moondance for putting so much effort and time into making these trips amazing! Happy late Father’s Day Dad!!
Carter — Thanks Mom and Dad so much for the opportunity to go on this incredible once in a life time trip it’s truly been amazing!!! And happy late Father’s Day Dad!! Thank you so so so so much Brownie and Henny for being such amazing, kind, caring, and uplifting leaders, this has been such an incredible trip!!!!! Also thank you so much Hayes for Moondance and all of the amazing experiences that come along with everything about it!!!
Lauren- First off, thank you Hayes for Moondance. Thank you Mom for pushing me to go on this trip despite all the difficulties we were faced with in the last few days before my flight. And thank god for getting our passports back. Amen.
June 17, 2022
Checking in from the South African Bush! The last five days have been filled to the brim with Moondance magic. We have been entranced with the beauty of this special place. Our days have been filled with bright blue skies, once-in-a-lifetime moments, and LOTS and lots of laughter.
As we drove into the reserve on day one, the giraffes came to greet us—only feet from our van! After this, the incredible staff at Mabula Game Reserve briefed the group on the history of the reserve, the importance of their conservation work, and the projects the group would be working on. We then headed out for our first safari of the trip with our guide Musa, who quickly became a very important member of our group. Rylan became especially close with Musa, as she immediately assumed the co-pilot position in the front of the safari vehicle. In our first afternoon we saw buffalo, zebra, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, wildebeests…just to name a few! We watched the sunset while nibbling on some dried mango, sipping on South African Cokes, and taking photos on our group disposable camera.
Our second day on the reserve was just as special as the first. To start the day off, we headed out on foot to see the reserve’s female cheetah and her cubs. LODs Margaret and Rylan used the GPS trackers to locate the cheetahs and lead our group to a successful sighting. We were all in awe at the beauty of this mother cheetah and her cubs. We then enjoyed a delicious lunch at a dam when a hippo emerged from the water right next to us. Every moment here truly has felt too good to be true! That afternoon, the girls worked with the staff and learned more about the herbivore animals on the reserve. Because it is dry season in SA, the reserve supplements some of the animals’ food. The girls immediately jumped in, helping load giant bails of hay onto the
bed of trucks. They headed out to feed a herd of buffalo and gather data for the reserve’s conservation efforts.
Our last full day on the reserve was a day that none of us will EVER forget. The local veterinarian Andy needed our help with two medical procedures on both a rhino calf and a male lion. The veterinarian darted the rhino with sedatives to allow our group to begin their work. The girls were all eager to help and get their hands dirty. Hunter and Lauren worked together diligently, taking measurements and gathering data on the rhino. Carter helped place a microchip in the rhino’s horn, which is an important way they protect against poaching. The reserve has a method of identification for all the rhinos that involves notches in their ears; McClure, Calder, and Vivi courageously used the scalpel and worked with the veterinarian to complete this intimidating medical procedure. After finishing up our work with this two-year-old rhino, we headed over to the lion pride. The lion had a threatening injury on his tail that had to be addressed. After the vet darted the lion, the group got right to work. Vivi was the first to jump out of the vehicle to run her hands through the lion’s beautiful mane. It was truly incredible to see and touch such a powerful animal. After all of our hard work that morning, we spent the early afternoon resting in the sun. We sang some Taylor Swift, worked on more friendship bracelets, and played group games. We headed up to a special overlook on the game reserve, Christmas Hill, for the best sunset of the trip yet. We all remarked that today was “the best day ever”—and it truly will be hard to beat.
We are feeling so very grateful and so lucky for the love this group has for one another. We have spent many hours circled around the fire, learning and growing in our relationships. We have
celebrated together as Hunter tries new food at every single meal. We have laughed together at Margaret’s entertaining comments and Lauren’s hard-to-believe stories. McClure and Calder have amazed us with their (slightly terrifying) consumption of Rooibos tea. Rylan has inspired us all, staying positive in the face of adversity and an infected bug bite. We are grateful for Carter who knows just when we need a hug and for Vivi whenever we need a laugh.
Our landscapes have been sprinkled with magical animals, unforgettable sunsets, and even more special friendships. From early morning safaris and sunrises to late night chats circled around the fire, we are holding on tightly to each of these moments. It is hard to believe we are halfway through our trip—soaking up every second with this incredibly life-giving group.
We are headed to the coast and much warmer weather! Check in soon to hear about our days in Mozambique.
LOVE AND HUGS! Browning and Henry
From the 1A girls:
Hunter – Hi Mom, Dad, and Bonbon! I miss y’all so much! You will never believe me when I tell you that I got to pet a real living rhino and lion. Y’all will also be proud because I am trying every food that we have. Saw many giraffes!! Brownie and Henny are amazing!! Happy early father’s day boss man!! Love and miss y’all!!
Carter – Hi Mom and Dad! I love and miss y’all so much! I can’t wait to tell y’all all about it! Also I have a new go to fun fact: I’ve pet a lion and rhino on a game reserve in South Africa! Love you!!!!!!!
Vivi – Hey mom and dad! I’m having a great time!! I miss y’all but am enjoying all of the adventures we’re going on. At the game reserve we got to see so many fun animals super up close. It’s pretty cool and I can’t wait to show you so many pictures. Love you!!
Calder – Hey Familia! I’m having a lot of fun in South Africa! Tell everyone hello. The game reserve was so cool, and I love all of the views and wildlife we have seen! Hug Sadie for me! Happy early Fathers day King Fielder! Love and miss y’all!!!
Lauren-To whom it may concern, So far, the trip has been great. I’ve played with the local kids, pet a rhino, and played with a lions paw. I do not plan on coming back home. The animals have accepted me as one of their own. Love, Lauren
Rylan- Yo Yo (as dad says) I miss you guys, even tommy!! I’m having a lot of fun. Dad and Hollywood you’ll be jealous that I got to interact with a lion. Will explain later of course. Miss
you guys and I will see you soon! See yaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!! I’m adding this after I took my cold shower so I know that mom will like that. I miss Mac and Maybelle too!!!
McClure- Hi!! I’m having the most amazing time and experiencing the coolest things. I can’t wait to tell you about everything I have done (like petting a lion). This has been the most fun time and the sunsets are amazing. Happy early Father’s Day Dad! I Love and miss you guys!!!
Margaret- Hi family! I’ve had the best time in South Africa doing so many cool things like petting a rhino and a lion. The sunsets here are even more beautiful than at the lake and I’ve been taking a lot of pictures to show you! Happy early father day also! Tell Bella and Babe I miss them too. See you soon! Love you
June 12, 2022
Hi there folks!
Henry and Browning here with the South Africa 1A team to introduce our first trip update! Over the past few days, our trip has gotten off to a great start with our service section!
Our time together started with an evening in Johannesburg to rest, get to know each other, and to fend off the jet lag after a 16-hour flight! We enjoyed some great round table get-to-know-you questions over some pizza and some unique South African sodas. Our favorite was their local Cream Soda. Calder especially loved this special treat, mentioning her brother specifically told her she needed to try it before she left! After an incredible introduction to our Moondance tradition that celebrates and closes each day, Moonup, we headed to bed, excited for our new adventure to begin!
In the morning, we made the short trip north into the small town of Rooiberg in South Africa’s Waterberg Biosphere. As we moved out of the city, it quickly began to feel like we were in a different world as we saw baboons and antelope on the side of the highway! Once we arrived, we quickly made our way to a nearby primary school where we would begin our service project. As we learned from the Principal and local community members, the school is an incredibly important part of their small community, as it builds key skills and values within the community to succeed as adults. To best support the school’s mission and goals, we were tasked with refurbishing their large group meeting, event, and play space. This renovation project will be the goal for the entire summer of South Africa trips, so make sure to check back in on both A and B team’s trip updates throughout the summer for more updates!
To start this project, our team was tasked with stripping the floor’s over-worn and loose tiles. We built momentum quickly, discovering out the best way to accomplish our task. The group focused and finished an entire section of the flooring all within our first day! As we worked through the afternoon, many of the school’s students came up to the window to peer in and see what we were up to. Waving to them and seeing their smiles was a highlight of the day for the whole group!
After finishing up a good section of the floor, we made our way home and enjoyed some games out on the lawn together before settling down for Moonup. Our amazing first LOD’s, Vivi and Lauren set a strong example for the Moonups to come, diving into deep thoughts from the day and having fun with interpretive dances and group chants. We were so impressed at how well they seized the challenge to energize the group and lead by example on day one!
On our second day of service, the group had the opportunity to dive deeper into understanding who they are here to serve. When we arrived at the primary school, we were greeted with singing, as the school’s students gave their formal welcome at an all-school assembly. Afterwards, we spoke more with community members about why they serve. As we discussed later that evening, these moments brought greater context and meaning to the girls’ work, and made them even more excited that they could help.
Between moments of working hard in the event space, we had the pleasure of interacting with the school’s students while they were between classes. With a language barrier to contend with, the girls quickly found ways to spread laughter and joy. Hunter started off this process, working out that they could connect over a fist bump. After demonstrating it a couple times, student after student came up to Hunter wanting to fist bump or hi-five. If the town of Rooiberg is all fist-bumping, we know who to thank!
After this quick break, we got back to work, motivated by the feelings of purpose and fun the day had offered thus far. One of our LOD’s, Carter, led the way, working hard to complete considerable section of the floor, while always offering to help out other group members. Her unwavering excitement and motivation certainly drove the group throughout the afternoon, and has shined throughout the trip so far! McClure was also a big player in the good vibes of the group, starting what we quickly came to know as “tile talks.” During these, McClure sought out anyone who was a bit quieter and started up conversation to motivate and get to know them better.
After finishing up our work, the connections continued to form as we relaxed and enjoyed some arts and crafts. Rylan taught the group how to make friendship bracelets and Vivi tied in tinsel (fairy hair) in several of the girls’ hair. This led to a full evening of good conversation as we all got started on our bracelets. The events of the day led to an amazing Moonup around the fire, full of fun and laughter. Calder had us dying laughing as she kept straying on mid-thought tangents, and Lauren’s curiosity for all things amazed us. Hunter’s contagious laugh and energy was on show as she introduced us to many new group games. We lost track of time as we sat under the stars.
We were so impressed by the deep conversation about service during that night’s Moonup. The group was clearly affected by the powerful events of the day and took the opportunity to debrief and understand their thoughts and feelings better. We loved hearing all their thoughts and curiosity about the meaningfulness of their work, the joy of being with the students and community, and even the parts of the day that were a bit uncomfortable. It was abundantly clear that not only was the group enjoying the work, but they were also seeking new perspectives and impactful experiences.
Re-energized by the conversation at Moonup the night before, the girls were eager to make the most of their last day of service. After some time to complete their work, the girls took the opportunity to have more fun with the school students, playing soccer, group games, chanting, dancing, and connecting however they could. Margaret took some time specially to connect with the kids through braiding each other’s hair, playing group games, and teaching the kids to use the group’s camera.
Going into our next section of the trip, we are really thrilled to see how quickly this group has bonded. Our few days together have been packed full of fun, hard work, thoughtfulness, and plenty of laughs, and we are just getting going! It’s hard to believe we’ve only been together a few days and can’t wait to see how this amazing group will grow over the rest of the trip!
We’re headed into the bush— talk to you all soon!
Browning and Henry
June 8, 2022
Hello South Africa Families!
We just heard from our leaders that the group has landed safely in Johannesburg. The trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure.
Please remember our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting up to three trip updates throughout the next couple of weeks! This will allow you to follow along with the trip and the students will also give a special shout out mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!