July 5, 2022
Hello there SAF 2A friends and families!
We’re back with an update on our amazing time in the South African bush! Over the past few days, we have loved watching this group bond while sharing some special once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We’ve been so impressed to see this group make the most out of each moment together. Their joy, energy, and thirst for life have been contagious, creating close, deep friendships and inspiring moments full of laughter, curiosity, and love.
When we arrived at the game reserve that would be our home for the next few days, we briefly met with the conservationists and ecologists we’d be working with to hear more about the reserve, how it is managed, and all the amazing wildlife there. From the start, the group’s excitement for this experience was clear as they rattled off question after question about which animals the group might have the chance to see over the next few days. Afterward, we headed out on our first safari drive. Straight away, Sanders volunteered to sit up front in one of the Safari vehicles to make sure he could ask as many questions as possible. Each time we approached a new animal sighting, Sanders’ excitement was visceral, as he clearly wanted to make the most of his experience and soak up as much new knowledge as possible. Throughout our first afternoon, the laughter and sense of wonder emanated through each member of the group.
The following morning, our group made their way out of their bush tents to dive into a full morning with one of South Africa’s most beloved and endangered species—the cheetah. The reserve is home to a very special cheetah female, world renowned for her success rate at raising cheetah cubs, which have repopulated areas of extreme endangerment. That morning, we headed out to see her and her most recent litter of cubs. Our LODs, Campbell and Kate S led the way, determining the location of the cheetah family using a telemetry device. While leading the group through the bush on foot, we finally tracked down the family, who had moved to sunbathe on one of the reserve’s dirt roads. Our group was left in awe by the majestic creatures as the cubs played with each other and bugged mom for food!
Following the cheetah sighting, it was special to see the excitement and energy remain incredibly high. Caroline F (or Meaty as she has loved being called) led singing a cappella tunes in the safari vehicle. Her love for Pitch Perfect quickly spread through the rest of the group, with its songs and references filling the air throughout the rest of the day. That afternoon we headed back out to look for lions! After tracking the pride through a stretch of thick brush with limited visibility, we were shocked when a male lion walked out of the bush and onto the road directly in front of our vehicle. Luke’s face lit up immediately, gasping and reaching for his GoPro as soon as the lion appeared. To cap off an amazing day, we made our way to our first breathtaking sunset, a 360-degree view of the hills and vast plains that extend for miles.
After some much-needed rest, we were treated with experiences with some of the most endangered and rare species on the reserve. We started by meeting with a conservation group focused on Ground Hornbills. We loved watching the group’s fascination as they took in all the new information and sightings of such a beautiful bird. Just afterward, one safari vehicle was shocked to run into a small pack of four wild dogs, which were actually the only four on the entire 30,000-acre reserve. Before heading back out into the bush for more conservation learning and activity, we had some time to rest and enjoy time together at camp. While there, Allaire pulled out temporary tattoos for the group, which covered the faces of most of the group for the next few days. Meanwhile, Kate C opened up a makeshift spa, “beautifying” a couple of our boys!
When we headed back out into the bush, we had the opportunity to feed and work up close with the reserve’s megaherbivores! The reserve supplements the diet of the herbivores due to the dry season wilting much of the naturally occurring grasses. We started by loading up bales of feed onto trucks and headed out to find groups of rhinos and buffalo! As we tossed parts of feed bales out of the trucks, massive rhinos and buffalo quickly approached to feed, which gave us the opportunity to collect data on diet and numbers for the reserve’s ecology department. While we had seen a couple rhino and buffalo on our drives, our group loved the opportunity to be incredibly up close and learn about how conservationists manage the complex reserve ecology. Luke was especially excited, learning about each variety of grass at the reserve. He even made himself a bouquet of the grasses to take back to camp! After an amazing day together, we settled down for one of our best Moonups yet. Before starting, Isaac reflected on the importance of Moonup; he expressed his gratitude for the authenticity and vulnerability in past Moonups and encouraged this group to continue to take full advantage of this time together. The Moonup that followed was such an amazing expression of thankfulness– for the fun, the friendships that have formed so quickly, and the opportunity to be in such a special place. In the spirit of Isaac’s request, we took time to genuinely thank everyone in the group, including our guides and reserve staff that were nearby.
Inspired by the depth and gratitude of our previous night together, the group started our last full day together in the bush with an eagerness to take advantage of each and every moment. That energy was fully carried into a special surprise–we were to spend the morning with a local veterinarian who was scheduled to work on one of the reserve’s cheetahs! After excitedly making our way to meet the veterinarian near the cheetah’s location, we needed to wait for the vet and conservation staff to call the cheetah to a safe location to be tranquilized. While this process took some time, the group simply hopped in the same safari vehicle and asked each other hilarious questions to build deeper friendships and connections with each other. Moments like these reflect this group’s commitment to turn each moment of this trip into memories that last a lifetime. Once the cheetah had been tranquilized by the veterinarian, we quickly made our way into the thicker brush to assist with its care. Each member of our group was simply blown away by simply being so close to such an amazing animal.
While heading back to camp on the safari vehicle, Avery specifically mentioned how special and inspiring this experience had been. She had spent the entire morning chatting with and learning from the reserve’s manager and head of ecology. Her enthusiasm to learn and be incredibly curious was incredible to watch. Her approach really summed up our entire group’s excitement, openness to the experience, and desire to soak up each moment throughout our time together.
To wrap up an amazing day together, we headed out on one last evening drive through the bush. CB stepped up during this drive to make sure it was one of the most special and memorable drives yet, bringing her amazing outgoing energy to motivate amazing conversation in the vehicle and bring laughter and excitement throughout. With dusk approaching quickly, we were shocked when Avery excitedly pointed to a set of elephants feeding on bushes and trees! It’s safe to say our group’s now familiar awestruck expressions were in full force as we observed one of the most spectacular animals any of us had ever seen. To cap off our last full day, we enjoyed a delicious taste of local food, including venison and chicken that had been cooked on the braai, a traditional wood burning South African grill.
As we prepare to transition to the beaches of Mozambique, we have been so grateful for the opportunity to share this experience with a group with so much excitement for each moment of each day together. The wonder and joy on each face has clearly not only built memories that will last for a lifetime, but has developed strong friendships that will last just as long. We are so grateful for the opportunity to share this time with these 10 amazing people and are so excited to see the special bonds they have formed continue to grow as we move into our time in Mozambique.
Can’t wait to share all about the love, connections, friendships, and jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring times to come.
With so much thanks and gratitude,
Browning and Henry
Here are some notes from the rest of 2A:
Dear friends and family,
South Africa is the best place I have ever visited! I miss y’all all so much and am so excited to share all of the awesome experiences from this trip. The amazing people that I have met on this trip will forever have a place in my heart. Sending hugs and kisses to you all!
Love, Allaire <3
Heyyy everybody!!!! I’m having the best time in Africa. This is probably the coolest trip I’ve ever been on. I have the best group ever and my leaders are amazing. I can’t wait for you guys to meet my friends. Thinking about you guys everyday, Tell Thomas and friends and moosh I miss them so much. See y’all sooooooonnn – Avery
Hello friends, family and Eba. I am having the time of my life here in Africa and there is a very slim chance that I come home. I have also taken up the nickname of “meaty” and I expect it to follow me back to Memphis. See y’all soon. -meats
Hey friends and family. This trip is by far one of the coolest experiences I’ve had. Everything from the group to the activities is amazing. It’s going to be hard to leave. Love and miss you all. Oh, note to Abbie – Text Haven G and tell her I’m with Avery W right now. -Isaac
Hey mom and dad and anyone else,
I am having such an amazing time here. Everything is so beautiful and my group is so much fun. I can’t wait to see yall, but I also don’t want to come home. Love and miss you. -Kate S.
I am having a great time here. The people are so nice, and the sunsets are amazing. We have done so many cool things. Our group is so fun and amazing and so are Henry and Browning. I miss everyone a lot. Tell Z, Lay, and Sky I said hi and I miss them!! Love you guys. – Campbell
Hello!!! Mom and David,
I love yall both so extremely much, and I’m so happy to say I am having the time of my life here. We’ve been staying in the nicest places and eating such amazing food. I’ve gotten to shower every night and I’ve been so colorful i don’t wanna leave but I can’t wait to come back. Quinn I’ve been missing you so much and I’m so sad I missed your birthday, Happy Birthday I love you. Also, I got to pet a cheetah and feed rhinos!!! See you soon I love all of yall so much <33 – Kate C
Dear Mom and Dad,
I love y’all. I have done so many things, for example darting a cheetah, feeding rhinos, seeing elephants, monkeys, baboons, lions, giraffes and more. I would love to take the family on a trip here.
Hey Mom and Gus!!!!!
I am having the greatest time possible. My group and leaders are the ABSOLUTE best, I will never be leaving!!!!! I saw a real-life elephant that was so cool. They are so big. So excited to show y’all especially Thomas all my photos of the BIG FIVE. Hopefully Mollie and Annie are being good… probably not. Also mom- I hope you had the best birthday. Love y’all and so excited to see yall, but also that means I have to leave and I don’t want to… Okay bye, Caroline (CB to everyone here though)
Hi Mom and Dad,
Right now I am in Mozambique. The visa process was very smooth and the only cost was a new, semi-bad photo (and of course $50), that is now in my passport. I don’t want to tell you guys too much because I want to see your reactions to my trip in person but I will tell you the following… I have unfortunately seen better sunsets and starry skies than Lake George. The game drives were of course amazing and the work I did in Rooiberg really embedded a new idea of service to me. I will end here to prevent this from getting too long and will see you in a week. (Could you guys also let Nate know that I am doing well and am excited to see him and to tell him to relay the message to Zoe and Karina?) – Luke
June 30, 2022
HELLO FROM SOUTH AFRICA!
Henry and Browning here and we are SO excited to check in—lots to share from the last couple of days! Our first days together have been filled with nonstop laughter and joy.
We’ve been amazed by this group since we first met them in the Johannesburg airport. Voices and laughter echoed throughout the arrivals terminal as we joined up as a full group for the first time. The group already felt like best friends… and acted like they had known each other for years. Everywhere we have been, people have been shocked that this group has only just met.
That night we feasted on pizza together while the group relayed stories from the travel day (most notably, their 4 am turkey sandwich) and discussed what we were most excited about over the next two weeks. Isaac kept the whole group laughing, making everyone feel included and comfortable during this first night. Throughout dinner and our first night together, the two of us remained in awe at how naturally conversation flows within this group. We also had the opportunity to try some new South African foods. Caroline F earned herself the nickname “Meaty” during dinner after trying a special variety of South African pizza called “something meaty” and was the first to try the South African crème soda, Sparletta. Reviews were mixed, as Allaire remarked it tasted like dish soap, but all in all the group was a fan of all the new food.
The following morning, we enjoyed our first South African sunrise together as we headed to Rooiberg, our home for the service section. On the way, we enjoyed the meticulously crafted playlist by our first Leaders of the Day (LODs), Isaac and Allaire. All eyes were glued out the window, soaking in the landscape of our new home. We have Meaty to thank for our first sighting; as she shouted “giraffe” the van erupted with shrieks of excitement and statements like “I can’t believe we are in AFRICA!”
When we arrived in Rooiberg, we headed to the primary school where we would spend the next few days. Over the course of the summer, all six Moondance groups are working to renovate the main community space in the primary school. 2A’s task was to sand, prep and paint the windows! Everyone jumped right in, eager to start working and get to know one another even better. That afternoon, we had a few special visitors from the school. The local students absolutely loved our Moondancers— and the feelings were certainly mutual! The kids particularly loved Sanders (also known as Sandman), who we loved watching as he taught the Macarena to the school students. To show him thanks for these new moves, the kids tossed him a few lemons from the tree nearby—which he tried immediately. Sandman’s new motto is “when kids in South Africa throw you a lemon, take a bite.” We all laughed as he inhaled this lemon whole. We are so proud of this group for diving into their work, accomplishing so much while simultaneously having so much fun.
Sanders and Caroline B (aka CB) led fearlessly as LODs on our second day of service. Referring to each other as their “better half” all day long, they brought so much energy. The group was divided into teams of two, each working on sanding and painting one of the room’s windows. We loved watching each of these dynamic duos make amazing progress and begin to deeply connect with one another. Drake, Taylor Swift and Dolly Parton helped carry us through the day! Although the day was long, all 10 members of the group worked diligently to move us closer to our goals of completing this space. Campbell’s hard work was visible through the dirt and sand caked on her face; she amazed us as she truly never stopped working all day long. Her partner in crime, Kate S, worked right by her side with a huge smile on her face. At the end of our first full day together, we admired the positivity and gratitude in every member of our group. The excitement for all elements of this experience shows us how special this group is.
That evening, our LODs led us in a very special and memorable Moonup around the fire. We reflected on the day, this community, and how we would carry our many takeaways from service into our lives at home. We admired the stars (including a sighting of the Milky Way) as Henry played guitar for us. While it is only night three, we are feeling very lucky that this group is already starting to feel like family.
The group brought the same amount of energy and optimism into our third and final day of service; we definitely have our LODs Luke and Kate C to thank for this. After sanding and painting a few more windows, we headed to the Rooiberg community center for a special send-off. Some of the students from the primary school were waiting to share songs and thanks with us. It was a very memorable and emotional moment for the group. In fact, many reflected that this was a “lifelong core memory”. In particular, Avery was brought to tears, expressing the immense gratitude she felt for this experience. After a South African waffle topped with ice cream, it was time to say our goodbyes. We are pretty sure Kate C hugged every student in the city of Rooiberg—we are continuously amazed by how quickly she connects with others.
As we pulled out of Rooiberg, the group remarked at how hard it was to leave this special community. In just a few days, we had learned so much. The Rooiberg students shared so much joy with this group. We learned new songs, new dance moves and a few new words of Afrikaans! We are so thankful for people and communities that push and shape our perspectives on the world— and for this Moondance group for being so open and willing to learn and grow.
SAF 2A friends and families, thank you for sharing your special people with us— we are feeling so grateful and so excited for the days that lie ahead. We are headed to Mabula Game Reserve for the next few days… we will say hello to the cheetahs, lions, and elephants for you all!
With very full hearts,
Browning and Henry
June 25, 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!