June 22, 2022
Hello Moondance friends and families!
We are so sad that our trip has come to a close, but we’re so grateful to have spent these magical past two weeks with your children! Through all of the amazing activities, beautiful sunsets, animal spottings, and good laughs, everyone on the trip grew so close and had such an amazing trip! We’re so excited for them to tell you all about their experiences when they get back home, and we can’t tell you enough how much we’ve enjoyed these past two weeks. It was truly a trip of a lifetime! For this last segment of the trip, we spent our time sleeping in stilted tents in the African bush, spotting some incredible animals, and learning so much about South African wildlife and conservation. We started our first full day in the reserve with a breakfast of champions and then headed out to track an animal we’ve all been excited to see — the cheetah! We started off from our tented camp following a long range radio signal, crossing our fingers that it would lead us directly to the cheetahs roaming about at large. We drove all over the reserve with Lou lou guiding us on the map and John snapping pictures of the animals we saw along the way. There was never a dull moment in the bush, as we drove past so many cool animals anywhere we went. Warthogs and wildebeests were running about on the way to almost everything we saw, and zebra made a common appearance along the road as well. Julia was quick to make a top sighting list, and she was determined to add baboons to the animals we’ve seen.
At last, we got the signal of the cheetahs and began to follow the beeps to where they were located. After driving after them for some time, we finally caught up with them. Our guides quietly herded us out of the safari vehicles, and we walked a short distance into the bush. There we spotted the cheetah with her 4 cubs — it was stunning! As we were looking at them through the bush, they began to get up and move. We walked back to the road just in time to see them cross in the open about 100 feet from where we were standing, and the cubs came hobbling and prancing just behind. It was a special moment, and we weren’t sure what could top it! After having our moment with the cheetahs, we made our way to a picnic lunch on the side of a small lake. We were driving through the bush to arrive there when all of a sudden another safari vehicle interrupted us on the road. The game driver had a large plastic container in his hand, clearly holding something dangerous. He brought it closer, and inside slithering around was a Mozambican spitting cobra the rangers had caught! Kate, Henry, and Greer were petrified, but we were completely safe to view it through the small holes in the container. A little more aware of our surroundings, we found our picnic spot. While we snacked on our sandwiches and fruit, a bloat of hippos basked in the sun on the opposite bank. Greer, Kate, and Julia had been dying to see some hippos, and they were flipping out that we got to have lunch just across from them. We then headed back to our tented camp to have some downtime
before another exciting game drive in the evening. Mid-afternoon we piled into the safari trucks again, and we knew something exciting was ahead of us when the ecologist met us in the field. We drove through two gates into another part of the reserve, and that’s when they let us know that we were searching for a lion pride. Following the signal of the radio again, we located them in the middle of a field covered with tall savannah grass. With everyone still and quiet, the vehicles left the road and drove into the golden field. About 5minutes in, we stopped the cars and there laid a female lioness about 5-10 feet away from us. Kate and Julia passed around the binoculars to get a closer look, and everyone sat amazed at how close we were. We then got our first sight of the black maned male lion before it went “flat cat,” when the cats lay completely flat in the savannah grass and are nearly impossible to see. We then drove around to get a better view, and that’s when we got to see the two lion cubs eating their zebra dinner. Corinne and Abby loved getting to see the cute lion cubs, and we were all awed when we saw the cubs run and jump on their dad, who playfully tossed them and pushed them over. It was a once in a lifetime moment! We sat and just stared at the two lionesses, cubs, and black maned lion for several minutes, trying to take it all in. We began to head back, and as the sun began to set we stopped for snacks next to these massive boulders. We all climbed on top of the rocks, and watched as the sun set over the valley. It was a magical sunset and we were sure to get some group photos to immortalize the moment. Afterwards, we headed back to camp, ate dinner, and rounded out the night with a great Moonup under the stars. We went to bed in our stilted tents that night trying to comprehend how a day could hold so many impactful moments. Monday morning we woke up with beams of sunlight leaking through our tent. We grabbed a layer or two and made our way to the safari trucks to begin our morning activity. The drive was beautiful and the group chatted the whole way there. Then we were greeted by our instructors who were there to teach us all about the endangered Ground Hornbill! They are funny little things that have a way of getting themselves into trouble. One of the female birds was very intrigued by the water to where she was banging her beak against the top for some reason. The kids also got a laugh out of the fact that they often get electrocuted because they are so heavy. They taught us all about their conservation and preservation methods and wanted to share all their knowledge with us. Greer was especially interested in them and asked lots of questions. When we finished our time with them, we parted ways and headed to a beautiful clearing to enjoy a picnic breakfast. It was delicious —complete with muffins, croissants, fresh fruit, eggs, and juice. We laughed about all the facts we learned and looked out at the wildebeests in the field with us. Then we got a call from the reserve manager about an important task for us, so we loaded back up into the safari trucks to go help with herbivore management! We met up with one of the ecologists, Brian, who explained to us the importance of keeping track of the animals and monitoring their
numbers and how they supplement some of their diets to ensure that they get the nutrients they need, which meant we got to feed the Rhino and Buffalo! Riding in the back of the trucks we threw fresh hay off to the animals. As we went, Abby and John were counting and cataloging the animals— an essential task of the conservation efforts. We paused in the middle of the field, surrounded by buffalo and rhinos on all sides, and tried to take in the wonder of the moment. We were so close to them — it was unreal! Julia made sure to have her GoPro out to capture the moment and get a great selfie too. After all the hay was distributed, we drove back to our safari vehicles to talk about it before heading back to camp. Back at camp, we enjoyed a delicious lunch and had a bit of free time to unwind. Case cooled off in the pool while Kate and Olivia played some soccer. John, Henry, and Corinne went to explore the fence line and see what animals might be passing by. It was a nice change of pace, and it was fun to relax before heading back in the safari trucks for our evening game drive. Man were we in for a treat that night because we were on the hunt to spot some ELEPHANTS! Our safari drivers took us over the mountain, looking out for tracks the whole time which led us straight to them. Our truck was the first to find them, and we stood in awe as a massive elephant played in the dirt about 10 feet in front of us. We then watched five more elephants emerge from the watering hole, which all stood directly in front of us! It was remarkable, and we couldn’t help but be jaw-dropped. They made their way down the road in search of more trees to eat, and we were amazed by the pure size of them. Our group watched them for a while, and it was an absolute bucket list sighting. Amazed, we continued on our safari where we spotted baboons, zebras, giraffes, and rhinos. Then we stopped at a landing strip during sunset for some snacks. The group ran, danced, and snapped some pics along the way. Lou lou showed off her cartwheel skills to the whole group, and when we finished we made our way back to camp once again. We sat quietly on the drive back, as we watched the blue sky change to deep pinks, oranges, and yellows before the stars came out. Watching the sunset is one of our favorite things to do together, and it’s a way we found to ground ourselves and remember everything that we saw throughout the day. Back at camp, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of fresh veggies, stir fry, and chocolate moose. The food here is absolutely incredible, and the kids love it so much! We wrapped up our meal and headed to the fire to finish out our day with a starry Moonup. Our LODs, Kate and Olivia, brought the magic during Moonup, as we recalled everything we saw throughout the day. Corinne and Julia cracked up the whole group and made us cry laughing. This group is simply incredible. We ended with a massive group hug and then headed to our tents to sleep for an early morning the next day. We started Tuesday off bright and early, grabbing a light breakfast and some coffee on our way to the safari trucks. We took to the dirt roads of the reserve as the sun was rising, and the kids were in for a big surprise! We were heading out to help the game reserve’s veterinarian team immobilize and
do routine work on a rhino and her calf. Once they found out, the entire group got so excited that they’d get to have some hands on experience with the rhinos! We met and briefed with the vet team ,and then Henry, Case, Greer, and Julia headed out with the vet to track down and dart the rhino. The rest of the group followed behind, and as soon as the rhino and calf were immobilized, we all jumped out and helped the vet team in any way that we could. Kate, Corinne, and Olivia helped the team fit the rhino with a new collar around its leg, which the reserve uses to locate and track the rhino population. Case, Julia, and John did the vital work of monitoring the breathing of both rhinos to ensure they were staying healthy while sedated, and Greer and Abby went around taking measurements of both animals for the vet’s records. Lou lou also got hands-on experience notching the young calf’s ears, which is how the rhinos are distinguished from one another. We all got to go around and touch this larger than life animal, feel it’s breathing, and marvel at its grandeur! The vet team had one last job, and Henry volunteered without knowing the task. They slid a shoulder length glove on his hand and had him take a fecal sample from the rhino, which the vets use to analyze the animal’s health and diet. Henry was a little reluctant, but excited to do something he knew few in the world could say that they’ve done! We were sure to snap some photos with these amazing creatures before getting back in the vehicles. We were able watch both rhinos wakeup, shake off, and go about their days. It was a surreal experience! We then debriefed with the veterinarians, got a good hand wash, and then headed back to camp for an early lunch. The kids scarfed down the chicken tenders and veggie pizza before having some time to rest and hang out before the afternoon activities. The girls took to journaling for the first part of the break so they could remember everything that they saw. After that, the group played some games and rested by the pool. Greer even lead the group in a squat challenge to the song “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons. Surprisingly, it was a crowd favorite and everyone got involved. Pumped and ready for the evening, the group headed back to the safari trucks for our last sunset game drive of the session. We piled in, excited to see what else we would see. We made our way to the pond, and Olivia spotted 3 hippos in the water! We sat for a while taking in the power and size of the animals. We also saw a little baby rhino sleeping on its mom’s back in the water. John, Case, Abby, and Henry pointed out a group of zebras playing tag, which was one of the cutest things ever. We made another stop around sunset to eat a snack and take in the view for the last time. The group posed for pictures, and Greer and Lou lou even got a few shots sitting in the driver’s seat of the safari vehicles! Everyone ran around and played under the beautiful dimming sky. Little did they know, the night was only getting started! After yet another beautiful sunset, we made our way back to camp to get ready for our banquet dinner! They had no idea what to expect, and we were sure to keep it all a secret too. We first surprised them with charcuterie boards and sparkling grape juice, served in champagne glasses.
Everyone felt so fancy, and the kids were so excited! After our heur d’oeuvre’s, we headed to our lantern lit dinner next to a burning campfire. Here, we enjoyed a traditional South African Brie, which consisted of grilled meats, pap (a cornmeal dish), and potatoes — it was absolutely delicious! The night didn’t stop there; we brought in an astrologist, who took us to a field to gaze at the stars. He gave us a star tour and taught us all about the constellations one can see from the Southern Hemisphere. First, he pointed out the Southern Cross, which can be used to triangulate compass south and tell the time to the hour. John took a second to try it for himself, and it was a success. We also spotted multiple shooting stars and made sure to make a wish on every single one! Olivia was a quick study and pointed out some constellations to the whole group. When we finished, we headed back to camp to finish our evening together. Before Moonup, we enjoyed a delicious dessert charcuterie board and then listened to music, as we gathered around the fire together one last time. The LODs, Case and Henry, got our group talking with the Nug Jug and we didn’t stop for an entire hour. We reminisced over our time together, and it really felt like closure. This is a special group of people, and we feel lucky to have all crossed paths this summer. When we finished, we put the fire out and headed back to our rooms to pack and get some sleep. We woke up early on Wednesday morning to take in one more game drive on our last day of the trip. We woke up and were ready before the sun poked out its head, and we got to take in our last African sunrise from camp. We then headed out into the reserve, hoping to have a few more animal spottings to close out our time in South Africa. The animals did not disappoint! After a chilly ride to another valley, we ran into a group of baboons hanging out in a thicket of the bush. There were so many baby baboons playing with each other and climbing on their parents’ back, and we were glad to mark them down on our sighting list after they had managed to evade us for so long. We then ran into some impala and buffalo herds before running into another group of baboons, who were crossing a field towered with a massive strangling fig tree. We headed back for camp to have breakfast and pack up, but just before we pulled into camp, we spotted one last tower of giraffes. Olivia, Corinne, and Greer noticed that there was a tiny giraffe among the group, and Stefan, our game driver, noted that it’s umbilical cord was still attached — it had just been born the day before! Case and Henry also saw the young fowl and were amazed that we were the first people to ever seethe baby giraffe! Back at camp, we ate a hearty breakfast, packed up, and said goodbye to the stilted tents and lodge that we called home during our time in Mabula. We made a last stop at the gift store before making our way to Johannesburg. On the way, we stopped at Nando’s for lunch, which is a Jo’berg original become global chain. We then made our way to the airport to say our final goodbyes and close out the last segment of our trip. The kids checked in and made it though security, and that was the final wrap for our time together in South Africa.
We’ve had such a great time exploring Southern Africa with your kids! They have made it an absolute blast, and we were so sad to say goodbye. Thank you for sharing them with us — we are truly better off by having met and gotten to know them. We will forever carry the memories of our adventures together and that’s largely due to the joy, excitement, and energy they brought to each and every day. We’re going to miss them, but we’ll forever cherish our time spent on the coast of Mozambique and in the South African bush together. It was definitely a trip to remember!
Lillian and Owen
June 19, 2022
It’s Owen and Lillian checking back in to tell you all about our recent African adventures! It’s hard to believe that we are heading into the final section of our trip, but we’re cherishing every moment we have together. This group is so fun, and they keep us entertained every second of the day!
We started this segment of the trip by waking up Thursday morning to begin our first full day of service. We walked through the courtyard to breakfast where we enjoyed fresh coffee and fruit to get ready for the day. Once we finished, Case and Julia, the LODs for the day, started off the day with an inspirational quote shared during our morning huddle. We grabbed our backpacks and walked down the street to the school, and our friends from the day before came running down the street to meet us! Once at the school, we got the music on and went straight to work. Henry, Case, and John were recruited by our project manager to head up the sanding crew while the girls kept killing it on the floor tiles. After a morning of hard work, we took a break outside with the kids that quickly turned into a massive dance party. Olivia and Loulou taught the Cupid Shuffle while Corrine and Abby showed off their Cotton Eye Joe skills! John even shared his Macarena expertise. It was so much fun, and we were all smiling so big! The language differences and distance between us faded away when we all danced together. With full hearts, we made the walk back to eat some lunch. Kate kept us laughing the whole meal with her theories and commentary on the day.
We headed back full and ready to work for the afternoon. Greer and Julia put in a lot of hard work and kept the moral high the whole day. Olivia made a sweet friend who would not leave her side the entire day — it was the cutest thing! Abby and Case perfected their scraping skills and kept getting “perfect tiles” — tiles that came up clean without a single break. It was super impressive, and everyone got really excited! We made sure to take lots of water and singing breaks to keep our energy up. When we reached a good stopping point, we cleaned up the tools and headed out to the school yard to play some games with the kids. Duck-duck-goose became a crowd favorite and the kids caught on super quickly. We kept cracking up as we sprinted around the circle and tried to tag one another. When we finished, we also played a few rounds of Little-Sally-Walker, which let the kids show of their best dance moves. When it was time to say goodbye for the day, our sweet friends walked hand and hand with us the entire way.
Back at the lodge, we cleaned up and enjoyed a delicious snack and some Rooibus tea, which is an herbal tea only grown in South Africa. It’s delicious, and you should definitely try it if you haven’t already! You can find it at most supermarkets. The group then headed out to explore the grounds and discovered a playground with a trampoline. Case showed off his incredible backflip skills for the whole group. Henry and Kate competed to see who could jump the highest and farthest. As the sun began to set we went back inside to clean up and go to dinner. After dinner, we gathered for a great Moonup to close out our night. Afterwards, we all headed to bed to get ready for the next day.
On Friday, we woke up ready to press into our last day of service. We ate breakfast and headed down the road to the school. Like every day since we’ve arrived, the school children met us on the road and walked with us on the way to the school hall. Abby, Olivia, and Corinne were always walking with one of the kids holding their hand, and Loulou could often be found walking with an entourage of girls. Once we arrived, we dove into finishing what we started the day before. We kept at it with the floor tiles, and Henry and Case made a great tag team duo at removing the blue tiles. John and Abby did a great job at sanding the walls and focusing on the small details, while Julia, Greer, and Kate focused their efforts on sanding down the window grates. It was a big project, but everyone did a great job at pressing in and keeping energy high!
After a few hours of working, we transitioned outside to play with the school kids. Even though the kids were on holiday, they chose to come and hang out with us every day. We were so touched that they chose to spend time with us, and we were sure to maximize every moment we got with them. Case inflated the soccer balls, and Henry and Olivia put their soccer skills to use with the kids! Some of the older boys formed a circle, and John was the first to join in and pass the ball back and forth. Greer and Loulou loved sitting and chatting with girls, and they let them play with their hair again. The group also started foot races with the kids, and Kate impressed everyone with how fast she could run! A few of our students even did laps around the school with the kids to get some exercise in.
After we wrapped up playing with the kids, we headed to a local restaurant in town. We had a traditional South African sandwich, and we got to try a favorite local topping — chutney! We also stopped for milkshakes to thank the group for all their hard work, and then we headed back to the school to wrap up our time doing service. We made some practical goals, and the group really stepped up and made our last few hours of service a blast! On one of our breaks, Corinne showed off her handstand skills, and everyone was jaw-dropped at how far she was able to walk on her hands! While Kate, Julia, and Olivia swept up the floor tiles, Greer and Corinne climbed into the trashcan to compress them — everyone had a good laugh about it! We pressed in to meet our goals, and we tore up the last floor tile just as we were wrapping up! The group was elated at having met our goal, and we are so proud of the hard work and dedication the group demonstrated during our service days. Of course we couldn’t end our time at the school without one more round of playing Duck-Duck-Goose with the kids, so we headed out to the field to play. The school kids were so excited, and it was a special moment to play with them one more time. Afterwards, we said our bittersweet goodbyes and walked back to the lodge. Of course, a big group of the kids saw us off one last time and walked with us all the way back.
Once back at the lodge, we had our snack before showering and getting ready for dinner. During dinner, we reminisced over our time at the school and the kids who left such a big impact on us; these past few days have been such a special time for the group. We closed out the night with Moonup around a proper South African bonfire, and everyone laughed and shared while bundled up in blankets. Kate and Olivia had everyone cracking up around the fire with the questions and responses they shared as LODs of the day — it was a great last Moonup in Rooiberg! Afterwards, we looked up and were amazed by how clear the stars were — we could see everything! Some of the kids laid out under the stars taking in the beauty of the night sky before calling it a night. Service was a magical part of the trip, and while we were sad that we were leaving, we were also all excited to head to the next segment of our trip!
We woke up a little later the next day, ate breakfast, and packed up to head to Mabula — a game reserve where we’ll spend the rest of our time in South Africa. Over breakfast, Kate was cracking everyone up again by making up stories about the colonial-era lodge where we stayed at in Rooiberg. Olivia and Kate also surprised everyone with their unassuming Minecraft obsession over breakfast — it became a running point of discussion throughout the trip. We then piled into the van and started for Mabula. On the way, everyone freaked out because we spotted an ostrich from the highway! It’s crazy all the animals and wildlife you can see even from the road. We made a quick stop for snacks and arrived at our tented safari camp ground. The accommodations were truly amazing. We were greeted by some of our guides, and they took us to our lunch spot. As we ate, they gave us a short presentation about the reserve and what we could expect to see during our time here. We then loaded up in the safari vehicles and drove to our tented camp, where we divided into tents and got settled into our rooms.
We then headed to the safari trucks for the first game drive of our stay! We made sure to pack some layers because it gets quite cold here when the sun sets. The first thing we saw as we neared the pond were two hippo heads poking out of the water in the distance, and as we got closer, we also spotted two Nile crocodiles sitting on the opposite bank. They were massive! We kept driving and around the road we came across an ardvark! Olivia, Julia, Corinne, and Greer have been wanting to see one the entire trip, so they obviously got so excited! It’s also quite rare to see them during the day, and Stefan, our guide, kept telling us how lucky we were to have had a spotting. Arguably one of the coolest things we found on the drive were a pack of wild African dogs standing right in the middle of the road. There are only 4 in the entire reserve, and it is so rare to find them because of how fast they move. Talk about a good afternoon, but it wasn’t over yet! We headed to a clearing and got out of the van to enjoy some snacks. The sun began to set, and we shared our snack with a field full of zebra and buffalo. It was one of the most surreal moments ever! We made sure to snap some pictures and take it all in before we went home. When we finished, we hopped in the safari vehicles and started home. The sky gripped all of our attention with the most vivid orange and pinks that we’ve seen yet — we sat back in awe of it all.
When we arrived back home, we washed up and sat down for a delicious dinner. There was a warm fire already prepared and waiting for us, and we were quick to take gather around it. Greer and Abby opened our Moonup with a song, and we all shared about our day and the magnificent things we saw! We wrapped it up under the galaxies shining bright overhead, and then we headed back toward our tents to call it a night. This was before we discovered the walkie-talkies in the tents and chatted back and forth for a while. It was an incredible day, but we were tired after the day’s fun activities. We crawled under our heated blankets, eager for the exciting days ahead.
It’s hard to believe that our time together is coming to an end. This group brings forth so much enthusiasm, joy, and curiosity into every day, and we are extremely grateful for it. We are excited to continuing explore South Africa with them for the next few days — we know it will be remarkable!
Lillian and Owen
Your kids also wanted to say thank you for their time here in Africa:
Abby: Thank you Mom and Dad for sending me on the trip of a lifetime! Love you so much from your favorite daughter ever! Also, Happy Father’s Day dad! And Happy Birthday Wade! Love you both so much!
Olivia: Thank you mom and dad for giving me the opportunity to go on a trip I will never forget!! Love you guys so much! Happy Father’s Day!
Case: Thank you Dad and Mom for encouraging me to go on this trip and helping me so much! Love you guys!
Henry: Thank you so much for showing me Moondance and encouraging me to do one like my brothers. Love you all!
Kate: Thank you mom and dad so much for letting me go on this trip!! Love you so much:) Happy Father’s Day dad!!
Julia: Thank you mom and dad so much for letting me go on this trip!! Love you so much:) Also Happy Father’s Day dad!!
John: Thanks Mom and Dad for sending me on this amazing trip and pushing me to do something new! Love you guys so much!
LouLou: hey mom and dad thank y’all so much for this trip. It such an incredible opportunity to be on this trip. Also happy Father’s Day dad, I appreciate you so much and everything you do for me, Yada yada I’ll give you a hug when I get home. OKAYY peace out Girl Scouts! (Tell Jess I miss her fun funky and freshness so much) <3
Greer: thank you mom and dad for letting me go on this trip! Love y’all so much! Also Happy Father’s Day Dad love you
Corinne: Hey Dad! Happy Father’s Day! To both of y’all thank you for sending me on this Moondance I am having an amazing time! See you very soon, love you!
June 16, 2022
Hello Friends and Family!
It’s crazy to believe that we’re at the half-way point of our time together in Africa! This trip has been a testament to how time flies when you’re having fun, and we are holding on to every moment we have together! For this segment of the trip, we closed out our time in Mozambique and then dove into our South Africa activities — we hope you enjoy following what we’ve been up to over the past couple of days!
We woke up Sunday morning ready to take on our last full day in Mozambique! During Moonup the night before, the group decided to wake up extra early to watch the sunrise all together. Around 5:40, we all walked to the beach for a peaceful and beautiful start to our day. Afterwards, we went back to our rooms cleaned up and headed out to eat another delicious breakfast. Our LODs, John and Julia, got the group excited and ready for our second day of surfing during the morning huddle. The waves were incredible and everyone had some added confidence from our lessons the day before. Henry caught the first wave of the day, and Corinne was not far behind! Case continued to show off his skills — he really just makes it look easy! LouLou also caught her first wave, which got the whole group pumped! After our lesson, we headed back down the beach to hang in the sun before lunch. The beaches in Mozambique were absolutely breathtaking!
Following lunch, we headed back out to the beach to play in the waves. It was a highlight for all of us, and the kids kept saying that they haven’t had that much fun in the ocean since they were little. We laughed so hard as we jumped and dived in the water! We then walked back to get ready for our sunset Dhow boat ride. A Dhow boat is a traditional wooden boat that has been used for generations in Mozambique to travel and fish in the calm waters of the mangrove coves. Our guide, Toni, got us to the shore line and introduced us to our captains Elido and Miguel. He even carried the boys onto the boat so that their tennis shoes wouldn’t get wet — talk about an act of service! Once we got settled into the boat, we set out for the open waters. Our captains taught us about the tides and the different wildlife we could find. As we rounded the bend, we were greeted by a flamboyance of flamingos (yes we looked it up!) as the sun was setting over the water. Since it wasn’t quite a full moon yet we could see both the moon rising in our right and the sun setting on our left. It was something out of a painting and a picture couldn’t do it justice, but not to the worry John, our resident photographer, made sure to capture it all! We snacked on fresh pineapple, oranges, and shortbread cookies and chatted about our days. Luke’s stories made us cry laughing as we docked the boat a little bit off shore. As we walked ankle deep through the water, the sky was coved in bright pinks, oranges, and yellow as the sun set for the night. We sat back and marveled at it all. Loulou also snapped some great photos. The van ride home was filled with singing as we
headed back for our last Moonup in Mozambique. It was the perfect night and the best way to wrap up our time in this beautiful country.
We woke up Monday morning excited and ready to soak up our last moments in Mozambique before heading back to South Africa! We savored our last breakfast overlooking the Indian Ocean and reminisced over our favorite parts of the trip so far. The kids loved our Tofo outfitter, Brodie, and Luke spent the morning doing a crazily close impression of her English accent — the group found it hilarious! We spent our last morning in the local market, shopping for souvenirs, talking to locals, and admiring the local craftsman and artists’ work. The kids also got a lesson in local bartering and currency exchange from Brodie and got to put it into practice right away. Loulou was so proud of the deals she was able to get, and some of the girls posed for a picture in the matching shorts they scored at the market. Case and Henry bartered for some bracelets, and John was so happy to get a wooden whale shark! Abby also walked away with some locally carved stone bowls she able to get at a steal! They were all so happy to have a memento from their time in Mozambique, but even more they walked away feeling accomplished and proud having held their own in the market!
We headed back to the lodge to pack up and eat lunch before making our way to the airport. Our flight got delayed and we had to pivot our plans a bit, but everyone had such a great attitude as we navigated the changes. Olivia and Kate were LODs for the day, and they did a great job keeping up group moral as we waited in the airport. Everyone has been learning a lot about the ins and outs of international travel, and Julia and others have commented on how they feel like they can do anything after conquering the airport hurdles! After we made it to Maputo, we checked in and had a great dinner in the hotel. We had such a great and slightly delirious Moonup after a long travel day — everyone was cracking jokes and laughing like crazy! The group has made the absolute best of every challenge we’ve faced on the trip so far, and we’ve been so amazed by how great a group this has been! We wrapped up Moonup, and got to bed ready for our early start to Johannesburg.
Tuesday morning came early as we headed back to the airport to catch our flight to Johannesburg. The kids were so patient and helpful even with being so tired. We made it into our seats and flew the quick flight back to South Africa! We landed, got through customs, and were greeted by our driver Humphrey, who drove us to Dionkeng — our first safari experience! While we were still unpacking our bags, Case and John noticed a group of zebra heading our direction. There were probably 20 of them coming directly to our lodge! The kids were able to get so close to them, and they were losing their minds that they were right by where we were staying! We went for an early lunch at the lodge before resting and getting ready for our afternoon game drive. While we were waiting for the safari trucks to round the corner, a group of impala came to where Loulou was sitting. The lodge manager came and gave the group some food to feed them, and we were able to feed them out of our hands — we were flipping out! We met our guides and loaded up into two safari vehicles, ready to spot some wild animals and hopefully catch sight of a few of the Big Five, which include the elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo. We took to the dirt roads and instantly ran into a group of impala, referred to as the McDonalds of the African bush because of the black “m” on their backside and that they make fast food for the bush predators. Our drivers explained how rhinos communicate, mostly through their waste and where they place it, and Corinne, Olivia, Julia, and Greer got first hand experience by holding the almost entirely plant matter droppings — they all, although grossed out, found it hilarious and some posed for pictures with their animal matter! We then headed off in search of more animals and were able to spot wildebeests, giraffes, and even some baby rhinos with their moms! The kids loved getting to see all the animals from the safari truck and were amazed that they were in the African bush spotting these majestic animals! On our way back to the lodge for dinner, we spotted a bush baby monkey looking back at us and watched as it leaped from tree to tree! We had a great traditional Brai barbecue for dinner, and then we wound down for the night with Moonup around a campfire. Our game drivers joined in and immediately fell into the Moondance flow, and the kids loved having them! To round out the night, we made s’mores and lingered around the fire ready for the adventures the next day would hold.
The group woke up Wednesday morning ready for the day after a rainy night of sleep. We ate a delicious hot breakfast together complete with coffee, muffins, bacon and fresh fruit. Then we grabbed our bags and headed to the van to make our way over to our service location. The kids swapped stories the whole ride there, and we made sure to make a pit stop for some snacks too. When we arrived to the town, we were greeted by so many smiling faces. We walked into the school and could hear all the classrooms of students screaming and shouting. Abby commented that it felt like we were all celebrities. After a quick briefing about our project, a large group of students came to sing four songs to us. It was one of the coolest things to see. Their joy was so contagious and inspiring, and it as an impactful and emotional experience for us to witness. It was the fire that we needed because the group then went straight to work. Julia, Greer and Corinne headed to the walls to sand off paint while the rest of the group worked on removing old tile off the floor. Henry, Olivia and Kate made a great team as they worked out a system to be the most efficient. When it was time for lunch, we decided to go outside and play with all the kids who just got out of school. Thursday was a national holiday here so all the students got a half day. It was so much fun! Case and John got a competing game of tag going with a group of boys while Abby and Olivia got there hair styled by their new friends. Greer befriended this one boy who did not leave her side for the rest of the day. It was a blast! When it was time to head back to work, some of the kids took us to pick fresh lemons off the tree in the school yard. We finished out the day on a high note and worked incredibly hard. Lou Lou absolutely killed it with the hammer and made tons of progress! When we got to a good stopping point, we walked back into town with some of the school kids, feeling content and grateful to have met them.
Back at the lodge, we discovered the coolest playground and trampoline that made the kids so excited. Case showed us all how it’s done when he did the perfect backflip. The sun started setting as we were all outside, and it was a great end to the day. We got cleaned up and went inside to eat a great dinner. Then put LODs, Henry and Corinne, closed out the night with a Moonup. We laughed thinking about the day and all the adventures we have had together so far.
We can’t wait to see what the rest of this trip holds and we are lucky to experience it with your all your kids. They are incredible and we love witnessing their friendships and bonds form throughout our time together! Nonetheless, these kids miss their fams and wanted to give y’all some shoutouts! Enjoy, and we’ll check in soon!
Until next time,
Lillian and Owen
Abby: Hi Mom and Dad! Miss you so much! I’m having an amazing time, see you soon!
Corinne: Hey Mom, Dad, and Claire! Miss y’all so much, can’t wait to tell you all about the trip!! Love you and p.s. I finally have my clothes
Kate: Hey mom and dad, I accidentally deleted the whole trip update!! I am having fun and thank you! Love y’all and the dogs! Love Kate
Julia: Hey mom, dad, Alec, and Katherine! Miss y’all! Africa is so much fun!! also hey Katie and Kira!!
Greer: Hey mom and dad! This trip is lit! Miss y’all! Tell my friends I say hi, love y’all!
Olivia: Hey mom, dad, and Julia!! I miss you guys! having the best time! Love you guys!! Tell my friends I say hi <3
Case: Hey Mom, Dad, Gabe (even though you are at camp), and Wells, I am having a truly incredible time and I cannot wait to tell you guys about this insane trip!
Henry: Hey Mom, Dad, Jackson, and Thomas. I’m having a great time here in South Africa, and I’m excited to tell y’all all about it. Say hi to Bonnie and Winnie for me!
John: Hey Mom, Dad, Russell, and River. We are having an amazing time on our trip in South Africa and Mozambique. Let me know if my frogs are still alive
LouLou: hey mom, hey dad, Africa is super wicked and dope. We are staying in the nicest places ever. I met a super nice lady that works at a game reserve and she said I could come at any time for an internship which IS SO FUN FUNKY AND FRESH. definitely still wanna live here when I’m older. Dad my camera is soooooo good it’s doing a really good job. Ok peace out girls scouts.
June 11, 2022
Hello Moondance families! We’re writing in as we near the end of our time in Mozambique, and we’ve had a great trip so far! We’ve had such an amazing time getting to know each of the kids on the trip, and they’ve been a blast to travel with! Wednesday started with a long day of travel, but the students took the 16-hour flight like champs. They arrived in Johannesburg ready to explore and dive into activities, already bonding over the shared long flight. We celebrated Abby’s birthday on the flight to Johannesburg, and it was so special to share the day with her! Once we arrived at the hotel, we feasted on pizza in classic Moondance opening day fashion and rounded the day out with our first Moonup. It was fun to celebrate Kate, Abby, Julia, and Luke as our Moondance returners, and we had a blast introducing the magic of Moondance to all our first timers! We got to bed early for an early start!
Thursday started with breakfast and an early airport transfer, as we began to make our way to Mozambique. Our Leaders of the Day (LODs), Abby and Case, got us ready during our morning huddle, putting our whole group in high spirits. We made it to Maputo and patiently made our way through the visa application process before transferring to Inhambane. Despite being another travel day, everyone had a great attitude and practiced great expedition behavior! As we rode to our lodging, we began to see the beauty of the Mozambican Coast and knew the long travel days were worth it. We arrived rejuvenated and ready to take everything in! We settled in and went immediately to the beach. Henry, John, and Case ran and jumped in the water as soon as we got there and then tossed around a frisbee. Lou Lou and Julia were having fun spelling out Moondance in the sand, and we got some great pictures as we witnessed a beautiful sunset on the beach. We closed the night with a great dinner followed by Moonup on the beach — it was a magical time under the stars to round out our first night in Mozambique.
The next morning, we woke up rested and ready to get back out to the beach. We rolled up to a delicious breakfast spread of crepes, cereal, fruit, and toast. Everyone loved it! Then we suited up and headed to the boat to embark on our first ocean safari. The waves were rolling but the smiles on everyone’s faces only got brighter. Henry and Case got the group excited for the ride by cracking jokes and making everyone smile. Then Olivia spotted the brightest rainbow over the cliffside as we rode the waves heading out to sea. It was a wow moment for everyone in the group and was absolutely mesmerizing! The longer we watched the brighter it grew. John brought out his waterproof camera to capture the sweet moments of the ride. When we stopped to snorkel, Loulou enthusiastically jumped in to explore the sea floor beneath — it was remarkable. Then we headed back to shore to shower and rest before a delicious hamburger lunch.
Following lunch, we met our guide Toni who took us to his home in Tofo. He gave us a glimpse into his life and taught us how to make incredible local food. Our first stop was at a coconut tree where we all got to enjoy a personal and refreshing snack. Greer and Olivia were the first volunteers to try the coconut water and the rest of the group followed close behind. Kate even made her attempt up the tree trunk without hesitation! Then we headed to Johanna’s house (Toni’s Aunt) to learn how to make a local dinner. Everything we used in the meal was grown locally and native to the area! We learned how to make coconut milk and the kids got involved in the entire process. Luke had mad skills on the coconut grinder, and Corinne was a natural at making peanut flour. Abby also found her new favorite food — the coconut cookies we rolled and baked ourselves. We dined at a beautiful table where Toni and his family served us fresh crab, rice, cassava, and coconut cookies to end our time in Tofo. We said our goodbyes and headed back to our cabins. John, Abby and Lillian got Toni to teach them some greetings in Bitonga.
When we got back, the group hung out and played some games before we headed up to dinner. We enjoyed an incredible traditional Mozambique dish paired with a chocolate brownie and ice cream. It was a hit with the kids, and every meal we’ve had so far has been amazing. Our LODs, Julia and Henry, closed out our night on the beach with a great Moonup. We laughed under the stars and recapped everything we saw throughout the day. Saturday the crew woke up ready to hit the beach again because we were going surfing! After breakfast and an inspiring morning huddle from Greer and Luke, we walked down the beach to the surf shop. We split up in two groups to make sure we all got an equal opportunity to hit the waves. Olivia, Henry, Lou Lou, Julia and Corinne got ‘adopted’ by a family of dogs so they named each of the them (Pedro, Fernando, Miguel, Manuel, Franklin, James, Theodore and Molly). Case and Greer were naturals on the waves and stunned the whole group.
After a full morning of surfing, we headed back for a delicious spaghetti lunch. Julia and Kate kept us all laughing. We then suited up and headed back to the boat for another ocean safari. Although we set out to find a whale shark and didn’t catch sight of one, Luke kept us all entertained with his singing and everyone had a blast on the boat. Our guides could not get over the fact that we knew every word to the Spanish version of Despascito. We came back to shore and enjoyed an ice cream treat before heading back to the lodge, where we all got ready and hung out before dinner. We decided to take a sunset walk on the beach which turned into the most fun dance party and hangout ever. It has been so fun to watch all these friendships form in a few short days! After another incredible dinner, we ended our Saturday with an epic Moonup.
We absolutely love this group of kids and we are so excited to see our journey unfold over the next 2 weeks! Thank you all for sharing these awesome kids with us in Africa — we are having the time of our lives! We will check in soon; for now, stay safe and have fun — we know we will!
Until next time,
Lillian and Owen
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!