July 11, 2022
SAF 2B Final Update
Hello one last time from South Africa!
For our last segment of the trip, we roamed about the African bushveld on a private game reserve called Mabula. This is always one of our favorite stops, and we’re so excited to tell you all about our last few days there as we rounded out our time together. It was an absolute blast getting to know your kids, and we’re so sad the trip has come to an end. We miss them already, but we know they’re excited to get home and tell you guys all about it! For now, you can follow along as we recap our last few days.
Wednesday was our first full day in Mabula, and we woke up early and eager to get our eyes on some wildlife. During breakfast, the tracking team met us and prepped us for the day’s activities. For the morning, we would be tracking a mother cheetah and her cubs. We hopped in the safari vehicles, and followed the radio beeps of the tracker to the nearest road where they were. We then hopped off the vehicles and continued tracking them on foot. Will and Mae were the LODs that day, and they got to help the ecologist pinpoint the exact location of the cheetah while on foot. We all followed closely behind, and we quickly spotted the mother and her two cubs. Paige had been dying to see a cheetah, and she was freaking out that we got to see three of them so close and personal. They were only about 15 feet away from us, and they were so relaxed, we could even hear them purring as they played and groomed one another. It was amazing!
We made our way back to the vehicles once the cheetahs decided to move along, and we were completely stunned and taken aback by such a surreal encounter. However, the surprises were not over yet. As we continued on our game drive, we passed a reservoir and spotted and entire family of hippos. They were in the water with their backs and heads sticking out, and they looked so relaxed. Mackenzie and Grace were absolutely losing it, especially when the baby hippo laid its head on its mother’s back to stay afloat. It yawned and seemed to smile, and everyone fell in love with the little pod of hippos.
We then got word from the ecologist that he had also been able to track down the two male cheetahs, so we headed to meet up with him. We pulled up and right alongside the road, the two brothers were eating their recent impala kill. It was another incredibly close sighting, and we all got to gaze into the predators’ eyes. Ashan noticed that the impala’s carcass was nearly stripped, so the ecologist got down and showed us how the cheetahs make use of nearly every part of the game they hunt. We got to sit and watch them for a solid 5-10 minutes before they decided their snack was over, and it was another wow moment for the entire group.
We then made our way back to a nice picnic spot, and we spotted a big crash of rhinos along the way. Campbell spotted a little rhino calf with its mother, and she thought it was the most adorable thing. We’re always amazed by the wildlife we see even as we’re just on the way to somewhere, and we spotted at least a few warthogs, impala, elands, kudos, and zebra on nearly every drive — we were truly immersed in the wildlife of the savannah. We then got to our picnic spot right on the edge of the reservoir and enjoyed our packed lunch, as we debriefed everything we had seen and it was only midday! We then drove back to camp and had some time to relax, journal, or cleanup before our afternoon activities.
We surprised the group with another awesome activity during our afternoon game drive. We passed into another part of the reserve, where the ecologist who focuses on lions waited for us. He already had the tracker in hand, and Lilly was particularly excited to track and get another sighting of the lions. We all followed the clicks of the tracker, as the safari vehicles drove around pinpointing the pride’s exact location. After driving around a good bit, we finally caught the signal and drove off the road into the tall savannah grasses.
This was our first time off-roading, and it was a little startling to be in the middle of grasses that were about as tall as the vehicle. We caught sight of the first lioness laying in the grass, and we passed just another 5-10 feet in front of her. We came to the second one soon enough, and it was wild to see them just laying there with their heads up looking at us. The other female got up and joined us, and they played together a bit. The two cubs soon joined the lionesses before they all headed off into the grass. We then drove through the grass a little bit more before we came upon the male Kalahari lion. It was staring directly at us, and we were amazed by how big he was! We all got to see his massive teeth when he yawned, and it was another surreal moment being in such close proximity to a powerful predator.
We soon made our way back to camp, as the sun was setting over the horizon and painting the sky vibrant oranges and violets. We stopped for a quick snack break at a rocky alcove, and we climbed the rock to get a better view of the sunset. It was gorgeous, and so many kids have mentioned how amazed they are day in and day out by the South African sunsets. Back at camp, we had an amazing dinner and chilled around the fire to warm us up. Will and Mae then closed out the night with Moonup under the stars before we headed to our tents and turned in for the night.
The next morning we woke up, got a quick breakfast, and headed back out on the safari trucks. We made our way to the Ground Hornbill project, which is an endangered bird that we quickly learned has a big personality. George and Mae found the bird to be really interesting, and we all fell in love with their quirky habits and funky ways. Grace was cracking up learning about the birds, and we were excited to hop on the trucks to find them out in the reserve. We soon spotted one of their iconic red faces and massive beaks, and we watched as it walked through the bush and went about its way. We then headed back to the lodge for some downtime before a full afternoon.
Right after lunch, we went back into the reserve to help with herbivore management. We met up with one of the ecologists, who explained the importance of maintaining the wild buffalo population. He invited us to help with supplementing their diet, and we energetically agreed to help. We loaded up and soon started tossing lucerne grass and hay while the African buffalo followed. This grass contains essential nutrients that replenish their felt and allow them to survive through the dry winter months, and it was such a cool experience to be riding through an open field with the buffalo all around us. Will and Campbell had a blast, and they were just slightly covered in hay by the end. It was awesome to get a behind the scene look into wildlife conservation efforts, and we were happy to lend a helping hand.
As we headed back for high tea, we spotted another animal that’s been on the top of the group’s bucket list — a wild giraffe! Lilly had been wanting to see one so badly, and she was losing it with excitement as we saw it galavant across the road. Paige then spotted some baboons in a tree, and we all flipped when the baby baboons started playing with each other in the trees. We got our snack and refilled for our evening drive.
We headed out for an evening drive with the goal of spotting some wildlife left on our list, and we were not let down. As soon as we got over a massive hill to the north of camp, we came upon some giraffes and baby warthogs. McKenzie then spotted probably the most rare sighting of the trip. As we rounded a corner, she caught a glimpse of the spotted brown and black fur of the wild African dog. There’s a pack of 4 on the reserve, and they’re usually pretty elusive so we were all awed that we got to see them! We then headed back for dinner before ending the night with our second last evening Moonup of the trip.
On the last full day of our trip we woke up when the sun was rising and walked to the lounge area for a light breakfast and hot chocolate and coffee. Then our friend Ivan, the head of the conservation department at the reserve, came in to greet us and tell us about our morning activity…. We were about to help dart a rhino with the veterinarian staff! So we quickly hopped in the van and we were off. When we arrived at the clearing we were greeted but the team who filled us in on what each of our roles were gonna play in the procedure. Paige, George, Grace and Ashan were selected to hop on the truck and watch the vet dart the mom rhino and her 2 year old rhino calf too. The rest of the group watched from the safari truck and marveled as the huge animal slowed and made its way to the ground. The vet gave the okay and we jumped off the van to help! Paige was the secretary for the day and recorded all the stats, breaths, and details for the team. Campbell administered vaccines and microchips and Will was in charge of drawing the blood. Ashan assisted the team with putting the tracking bracelet on the mom too. George had the special job of getting a fecal sample from the mother because she was pregnant. Without fear he got his long glove on and got a sizable sample for the vet. It was quite impressive and now he has a fun fact for life! On the small calf, Grace was the veterinary assistant and managed the the oxygen of the baby calf during the whole procedure. Lily was in charge of the marking the calf so she could be identified by the staff as she ages. The vet worked with her to find the correct number and she got to cutting— it was quite impressive! George and Paige administered tick medicine to both rhinos and the kids also inserted into the calf’s horn and body. Once all the work was done helped the staff lift the mama rhino to her feet and posed for a picture or two. Then we headed to the vans to clean up and debrief from our eventful morning. The vet crew answered all of our questions and we got to watch the mom and baby be reunited in the grassy plain.
We jumped back in the vans and headed to a lookout point to explore the rocks and look at the incredible 360 view. The whole group laughed and posed for pictures and we took in the beautiful landscape around us. We also enjoyed some rusks and hot tea before getting back in the van to head to our brunch. On the way we spotted Zebra, Giraffes, Hippos and lots of warthogs. As we rounded the final corner of our drive we spotted two beautifully set tables complete with white table clothes, beautifully arranged fruit, chicken tenders, wraps and potato wedges. It was insane! The kids jumped out the the car and ran to see the incredible views of the landscape and mountains in the distance. We just stood in awe taking it all in for a minute then we headed to the table to eat. It was all delicious! With full bellies we headed back to the lodge to hang out before our afternoon game drive. After putting out bags away we came back to the central part of the camp however we were met by a sneak attack of ice cold water. George and Mae might have thrown the first splash but within second we were all up in arms running around. There were no real teams and the only goal was that no one walked away dry. Campbell, Grace, McKenzie and Mae even jumped into the freezing pool on the grounds to seal the deal! It was pure spontaneous fun.
The group made sure to dry off and take some showers too before we headed out again for our last sunset game drive of the session. None of us wanted to separate so to fix the issue we decided to bring the walkie-talkies from our room with us on the safari drive. It was the perfect way to communicate with each other and have along the way too. We marveled at all the animals we kept seeing but then stopped in our tracks when we saw two giraffes fighting right next to the road. The commentary from our peanut gallery was hilarious as we placed verbal bets on which one we thought would win. The whole sighting was interesting to watch and made us all sit back in awe. When the giraffes finished and walked back into the thicket we continued on our drive where we saw a family of baboons running down the path. As the sun began to set we made our way to a watering hole to eat snacks and stretch our legs. The kids ran around (within reason due to all the wildlife nearby) and sat by the bank to watch the sun slowly set over the water. It was our last real African Sunset all together so we made sure to savor it all. Then we headed back to camp as the sky turned to bright pink, orange and yellow hues— it was breathtaking. Little did they know, the night was only getting started!
After the 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. Before dinner was served the kids could not sit still and were full of energy and excitement. McKenzie and Mae kept the whole group entertained from the head of the table and we simply could not stop laughing. For dinner we enjoyed a traditional South African Brie, which consisted of grilled meats, pap (a cornmeal dish), potatoes and veggies— it was absolutely delicious! We paired it with more sparkling grape juice and swapped stories the entire meal. Then our chefs surprised us with the most incredible chocolate layer cake and blueberry cheesecake and they tasted even better than they looked! The night didn’t stop there because we had our safari driver Apollo take us around the corner to gaze at the stars. He taught us about the different constellations one can see from the Southern Hemisphere. First, he pointed out the Southern Cross, and showed us all how we could find compass south by using just our hands. He also told us about the many stories associated with the stars and answered any of our burning questions. When we finished, we headed back to camp to finish our evening together.
The group headed to the fire to have our final Moonup of the trip together. Our LODs Grace and George had a special start to the night by walking into the circle blaring Heartless by Kanye West on the speaker. It has somehow become an anthem for our session so there was truly no better way to get this crew excited. We reminisced over our time together the past two weeks and the kids shared there favorite stories with one another. It was such a special time for our group and we laughed through it all. We ended our night chatting around the fire before heading back to our tents to go to sleep. It was truly the perfect night to close out our last full day of the trip!
We woke up on our last day early to take in our last African sunrise of the trip. While still in the pitch dark, we rolled out of bed, grabbed a snack and some coffee, and loaded up in the safari trucks. We drove 15 or so minutes to our favorite rocky boulders, and scaled a big rock to watch as the horizon slowly evolved from morning twilight to vibrant oranges. From where we sat, we could see miles and miles in every direction, and it was a special way to start off our last day together.
From there, we decided to head into the part of the reserve where the lions dwell to test our lunch at seeing them one last time. After a while of driving and spotting warthogs and antelope here and there, we heard the radio call that they’d been spotted. We quickly made our way over, and right on the fence line there waited for the brother of the male lion we’d seen a few days ago. It sat there looking regal and looking directly at us, and then we caught a glimpse of his black maned brother sitting up the road a bit. We drove up further, and we were all awed when we saw a lioness and two cubs eating their fresh zebra catch. We were able to get about 5 feet from them as they ate, and it was amazing! What a way to end our last activity of the trip!
We then headed back to the camp to have our full breakfast, pack up, and start making our way to Johannesburg. We made a quick stop at a souvenir store and then had lunch a few hours down the road. We ate at a Johannesburg original turned global chain, Nando’s. They have great grilled chicken, and all the kids got filled up before their long flight. We made our way to the airport, and about an hour to chill and say our goodbyes. Of course, the trip wouldn’t be complete without one last round of ninja, so we played in a tucked away corner of the airport. We then said our tearful goodbyes and saw them off through security.
We were so sad to say goodbye to this group that has become so much like family to us. Everyone on the group holds a special place in our hearts, and we’ll cherish roaming about South Africa with them for as long as we live. It’s crazy how close a group can get in such a short time, and we’re grateful that you sent them across the Atlantic to spend this time with us. We wouldn’t have preferred surfing the Indian Ocean or exploring the South African Coast with anyone else, and we already miss them tons. They all know we’re just a short phone call away, and we can’t wait to hear what other adventures they get up to. We don’t know how it could top our time with the rhinos and lions, but we hope it’s close! Make sure to tell them how much we miss them when they land, and goodbye to all those who followed along on our amazing adventures!
Lillian and Owen
July 6, 2022
Hello again Moondance friends and families!
The past few days since our last update have been a blast, and we’re so excited to fill you in on all that’s happened! For this second to last segment of the trip, we’ve been working in a rural community just north of Johannesburg. The service section of the trip is always a special time for the group to connect with locals and give back in a meaningful way, and we hope you enjoy following along!
After having worked the day before and gotten the lay of the land, we woke up ready to dive into our service project. We had breakfast and were off on our way. The project manager met us at the school and outlined our tasks for the day, and everyone jumped straight into work. The school hall that we’re helping renovate is part of the main elementary school in town, and it’s an older building in need of some work. Since the day before, we’d been working on painting the trim and grates of the windows and that was our principal task for Sunday as well. We broke into several teams and made a lot of headway. We’re so proud of everyone for how hard they’ve been working!
As much as we love to work hard, we also love to connect and play soccer with the local kids. They’ve been on holiday most of our time here, so as soon as Mae and Campbell spotted kids walking through the school, we invited them to a pick-up soccer game on the field. They were so excited to play, and they quickly rounded up some of their friends to join in as well. They wanted to play against us, so it was Moondance v. the school kids. We didn’t expect them to be so good at soccer, but they definitely gave us a run for our money. It was awesome to see McKenzie and Grace showing off their soccer skills, and George was a heavy scorer for our team. The game was neck and neck, and Will was having a blast reffing before jumping in to play as well. Paige took a turn as goalie during the game, and not a single shot made it past her! Ashan was also having fun running up and down the field, and we all enjoyed connecting with the kids over soccer.
After we wrapped up our pick-up game, we headed back to work. When we came back to the school hall, we were amazed by how much we had already accomplished and eagerly got back at it. Campbell, Paige, and Ashan made a great team at painting and nearly finished all the doors before lunch. Meanwhile, Will went around touching up the windows from any accidental drops or brushstrokes, and the rest of the group was busy at work painting the window grates while jamming out to some music — we all had a blast! As LODs of the day, Mae and Grace shared a quote from Alex Lowe that we brought with us into service. He said, “The best climber is the one having the most fun,” and we were definitely having the most fun during service that day!
We came back to the lodge to have a quick lunch and chill before walking back to the school. We did a final push for the day, and we got so much done that we ran out of paint just as we were finishing up. After working, we decided to play another round of soccer with our new friends and even shared some of our favorite workouts with them. George closed out our time together with some great football stretches. The kids thought it was hilarious! We said our goodbyes and headed back to the lodge to clean up and hang out. When we walked back in, Lilly discovered some fresh lavender flowers planted around the lodge. The whole group stopped to smell the sweet aroma. Then we headed inside for our afternoon snack, and we had all the kids try Tim Tams with Rooibos tea — it’s an herbal tea only grown in South Africa but sold around the world! Owen demonstrated the proper way to slurp up the cookie in one fell swoop. Some of us were better at it than others, but it was super yummy — ask your kids to show you how it’s done when they get home! Then we decided to have the first polar plunge of the summer in the outdoor swimming pool (keep in mind it’s winter here). Grace and Campbell were the first in, and everyone else was close behind! It was freezing, but we jumped and pushed each other in over and over again. Ashan was especially gifted at the sneak attack! After a quick dance party and some pictures, we hurried back to our rooms to take hot showers.
We then got cleaned up and ready for dinner and closed out the night with Moonup around a campfire. The stars were brilliantly shining overhead, as we laughed and bonded over the past couple of days. To close it out, we each did our best howl and then laid out under the stars for a while to take it all in. As the fire dimmed, we decided to head back to our rooms to relax and get some sleep. We had a big day ahead of us, so we wanted to get some rest.
The next morning we woke up ready to rumble because it was a special day back home… THE FOURTH OF JULY!!! We all put on as much red, white, and blue as possible and headed to breakfast. George came decked out as usual in an incredible fit — he bought a red bucket hat in the airport that was absolutely perfect for the occasion. Before service, our LODS inspired us all during the morning huddle, and we made our walk to the school. We made sure to play the best American hits the entire day to keep us in the celebratory spirit! Lilly, Grace, and Mae made a great team dusting off the walls, while McKenzie, Campbell, Paige, and George got to work painting the walls. Ashan and Will had a special mission to fix the broken parts of the windows outside — they made a great team! We took a quick break to enjoy some apples and oranges, but a break is not complete without a good competitive round of Ninja. It’s become a favorite game for us all! After Mae claimed her victory, we went back to work until lunch.
Back at the lodge, we enjoyed sandwiches and fresh fruit. Natalie the organizer of the project came to tell us more about the township we’re in and what all of our hard work is toward. It was a special way to get a glimpse into the “why” behind the service aspect of the trip. After she left, we headed back to the school to finish painting the walls. We were working for about an hour when our LODs, George and Campbell, came running covered in face paint for the 4th! Everyone was pumped and ran outside to get covered in red, white, and blue. Mae’s face was completely covered and designed solely by George — it was hilarious! McKenzie, Grace, and Lilly even used the blue paint as lipstick to complete their looks. The face paint gave us an added boost of energy to finish out the walls in rapid time! McKenzie and Paige made the last few strokes, and we were finished! To celebrate, we took the music outside and played another game of soccer with the kids. Will made some incredible plays, and Ashan had some impressive footwork too. It was a blast! We wrapped up the game, said goodbye to our new friends, and made our walk back home.
We got cleaned up and ready for dinner once we got back. After playing a few games, we made our way to the fire pit for s’mores and glow sticks. Our friend Chris made us stock bread dough for us to make over the fire. It’s a local food that people eat in the Bushveld, and it happens to be delicious. After our treats, we had Moonup around the fire to close out our fun day. We talked all about our favorite 4th of July memories and laughed through all the funny moments of our day together. When we finished, we headed back to our rooms to get some sleep. It was such a great day celebrating America in South Africa.
Tuesday morning we woke up a bit later and headed to breakfast. The kids then went back to their rooms to pack up their bags and journaled a bit. Before we took off, we surprised the group by going to a local bakery to enjoy a delicious local treat called Malva pudding and some waffles too. Then some children from the primary school we were renovating came to sing for us! The youngest one was only 5 years old! It was the sweetest thing to hear and was a highlight for all of us. Then we said our goodbyes and hopped in the van to head to the final location of our trip.
The music was blaring during our quick 45-minute drive to the game reserve. When we pulled into the lodge, the kids spotted Zebras out in the distance and started freaking out. We met the ecologist team during lunch, and we all enjoyed our all-you-can-eat burger buffet. They told us about the reserve, the animals they work with, and their conservation efforts. We all got some hands on experience with the tracking equipment and passed around some of the collars they use. We also learned about the poaching issue in Africa and all the ways the team here employs to protect the wildlife and endanger animals. It was super interesting, and we all loved learning about how they track animals!
We hopped in the safari trucks and made our way to our tented camp in the bush. The kids were all amazed by our luxury tents, which are situated on stilts above the bush. Everyone got settled in, and we were off again on another game drive. This go around we spotted some elephants, zebra, warthogs, and various kinds of antelopes. It was truly amazing, and it never gets old! We stopped
for snacks out on our drive and stood in awe as the sun set before us. We drove back, still on the lookout for animals until we reached our camp. We had a wonderful dinner, and Paige and Lilly rounded out our night under the African stars with Moonup around a fire. It was a special day to start off our time in Mabula, and it left us thrilled to spend more time here in the bush.
Overall, the past few days have been a dream! Getting to see the group pour their hearts and hard work into the school hall, having a blast celebrating the Fourth, and arriving at our last safari stop have been highlights of the entire summer, and we can’t wait to enjoy our last few days with your amazing kids. They also wanted to all say thank you for sending them on the trip, and you can hear from each of them below. Be sure to stay tuned for our last update, and we’ll check in soon!
Lillian and Owen
Mae: Thank you dad and mom for letting me come here! It has been amazing. – fav child mae
George: Thanks to y’all for letting me leave u guys to go have fun! Having a blast.-your favorite child ya boi George
McKenzie: Thank you mom so fun for giving me this opportunity to go on this trip. I’ve loved it so much. Love and miss you! Riding a elephant right now gotta go!-Kenzie girl
Grace: Thank you mom and dad for letting me come here I’ve had so much fun! Ps… mom can you bring me clothes when you get me please and thank you. Love y’all!
Paige: Hey y’all! Thanks so much for letting me come visit Africa! I’m loving it here and I’m excited to see y’all soon
Lilly: hey y’all! I’m having the best time here! Thank you for sending me off! Miss you! Love you!
Campbell: thank you mom and dad for letting me go on this awesome trip! I love it here! Miss and love y’all!
Ashan: Thanks for shipping me off, having a great trip. Love y’all bye
Will: Thanks for sending me on this trip Mom and Dad! Having a ton of fun here. Can’t wait to see you guys soon!
July 3, 2022
Hello Moondance friends and families!
Thanks for checking in! We cannot believe that we’re reaching the halfway point of our trip — its been a blast spending this last week traveling with and getting to know everyone in the group. This group has hit it off better than we could have imagined, and we are so excited for the rest of our time together in Africa! We started this segment of the trip with our last full day in Mozambique. Ashan was dying to see a sunrise over the Indian Ocean, so a few of us woke up in time to see the sun cutting through the clouds in the horizon. It was splendid, and it was even more amazing when a massive tidal pool reflected the morning light from the beach. After taking it all in, we went back to the lodge, and the whole group climbed the steps to breakfast. We filled up on energy for the day and headed down the beach to the local surf shack, where we picked out our boards and met our surfing instructors. McKenzie was super excited about surfing, and she was quick to get out on the water. By the end of the lesson, she was riding waves left and right! Campbell and Grace also caught some big waves, and everyone had a good time surfing and chilling on the beach. After spending some time giving surfing a shot, Will found a new love for photography. He went around taking great action shots of people surfing and had a blast capturing the day! George was a natural in the water, and he let everyone bury him in the sand and turn him into a mermaid on the beach. It was pretty entertaining, and it drew the attention of all the beach goers! Mae, Lilly, and Paige also had a great time taking in the Mozambican sun and giving their best at learning to ride the waves, while Ashan persistently headed out into the water and caught several waves without the instructor’s help. It was an amazing time, and the group walked away from surfing tired but pumped at having all ridden some waves. We walked back up the beach to get some lunch, and we got ice cream to refresh us after our morning in the sun.
After sunbathing a bit more and relaxing on the beach, we set up the beach volleyball net. Soon enough, everyone’s competitive side was on full display and our two teams were giving it their all. Campbell was showing everyone up with her volleyball skills, and Mae was getting really into the game. It was neck and neck most of the game, but one team came out on top and dida victory lap. Everyone was a good sport, and we all had a blast! We walked back to our lodge to have a moment to clean up and chill before our afternoon activity. Toni, one of our favorite locals who led our cooking lesson a few days before, soon met us at the lodge. He would be leading us on a sunset dhow boat tour of the cove, and we all piled into a bus to make our way there. A dhow boat is a traditional Mozambican sailboat made entirely out of wood. The van ride to the departure point was a highlight of the day because everyone was singing along to Ashan and George’s song recommendations. Everyone was belting the lyrics and dancing in their seats, and we’re pretty sure you could hear us coming down the road a mile away! When we arrived at the coast, it was raining a bit so we waited for it to pass while continuing to jam out in the van.It was a short wait, and then we walked through knee-deep water to arrive at the boat. We piled in, and we were off. Bambo was our guide, and he quickly became a fan favorite. Although a bit overcast, we had a great time enjoying ourselves and spotting groups of birds in the mangroves. We had snacks and some drinks as we sailed across the cove, and it was an amazing experience! We disembarked on the other side, and met up with our beloved van. It had a hard time of getting out of the sand, so we all gave it a push and were on our way. Bambo joined us for our return trip, and the energy levels were high! The group was singing along to their favorite songs as we headed back to the lodge, where we had dinner and Moonup under the stars. As LODs, Lilly and Will did a great job of wrapping up our time in Mozambique with one final Moonup there, and then we all headed to bed ready for the adventures that laid ahead.
Thursday morning we woke up rested for our last morning in Mozambique. The ocean air was refreshing as we walked up to eat our breakfast. Over the balcony we watched the waves crash into the beach. We enjoyed some delicious crepes and fresh fruit then went back to our rooms to pack up our bags. We played music to make the time pass quicker and keep us on task too. Before heading out, the group took one last walk on the beach together. It was so peaceful and a beautiful way to say goodbye to the ocean one last time. Then we walked out to the car park where Brodie met us with her truck to take up to the market. The kids bargained and negotiated their way through the different vendors, selecting paintings, woodcarvings, bracelets and even some cool t-shirts. Lilly got a beautiful beaded necklace, and Ashan secured a cool wooden mask! Satisfied with their purchases, we hopped back in the truck to compare what we all got. We then headed to the airport to catch our flight back to Johannesburg. Our travel day went off without a hitch — and Mae and Mackenzie made some new friends on the flight! After a quick layover in Maputo, we arrived in South Africa and made it through customs. They are great travelers! We exchanged some currency at the airport before hopping in our van in route to our next stop. The group sang songs the entire way there, and it was a blast! We arrived at Dinokeng and were greeted by Therese and Ingrid, who showed us to our rooms and then to dinner. Over a warm meal, we laughed about our travel day. Then we headed to the fire to have our Moonup. It was led by our LODs, Paige and George. When we finished our time together under the stars, we quickly headed to our warm beds to get some sleep for our big day tomorrow.
We woke up early Friday morning to go out on our first game drive of the trip. The sun was rising while we enjoyed some coffee and rusks before hopping into the trucks with our guides. They wrapped us up in blankets, and we set off to explore the South African Bush together. We passed Buffalo, Kudu, Gazelles, Zebra, and Wilder Beasts as we drove. Then Ashan spotted 2 Lions laying in a grassy field, so we all went to take a look. Once we pulled up, they were about 15 feet away! We were all in shock as we watched the animals move and communicate with one another. It was so cool! Everyone got great photos and videos from the sighting — it was definitely a bucket list experience for all of us! After the lions, we met up for snacks, coffee, hot chocolate, and tea with our guides. McKenzie, Mae, Grace, and George kept us all entertained with their dance moves. We made sure to update our daily Vlogs too with a “fit check”. After we finished our snacks, our guides were ready for our tracking activity, during which we competed with one another to identify which animal was responsible for each track. It proved to be quite difficult, but the whole group got super involved. Ashan and Lilly were the only two to correctly identify the White Rhino track! It was a great way to learn about tracking and have fun while doing it. We wrapped it up and headed back to the lodge for a delicious brunch. We then had some free time to hang out and explore. Campbell and Paige went on a walk within the gates where they were greeted by Zebras and Impala — they were able to get so close without them running off! George relaxed by the pool and the girls took time to shower and chat. Ashan had the great idea to grab some fresh leaves from a tree and feed a group of Impala! He got Lilly, Paige, Campbell, George and Will to join in and we all marveled at the incredible experience. After free time, we had lunch and then got changed and ready for our afternoon game drive. As we entered the reserve everyone was so excited to see what we would find this time. We spotted different birds, black backed jackals, zebras and more as we drove. As we approached a watering hole, Mae excitedly shouted “RHINO!” As we rounded the bend, we saw a crash of 4 rhinos together — 2 moms with their babies! We could not believe the size and power of the animals but just loved watching them graze the grass. But our night was not over yet! As the sun was setting Mckensie spotted a tall white neck in the distance… it was an Ostrich running across the path! We zoomed over to get a closer look but in a flash it was gone. So as the sunset turned the sky to darker shades of orange and pink we approached a block of vegetation in hopes of finding some large friends of ours. We drove down the path and to our left we saw a giant herd of Elephants! There was even a group of 7 babies eating all together. It was simply remarkable to see! Completely in awe we drove to have a few snacks together and unpack everything we just saw during our drives. We our bellies were satisfied we hopped back into the vans under the moonlight to make our way back home. The stars were magnificent as we drove! Mae and Grace used the spot light to keep an eye out for any animals along the way.
We made it back home and circled up around the fire to warm up before dinner. They made us Ribeye Steak and chicken with veggies for dinner and it was amazing! We laughed and swapped stories the entire meal. After we finished we went around the fire once more for Moonup. One of our safari guides SJ brought out his guitar and started playing tunes we would all know and enjoy. Lillian even played and sang a song for the group too. Then our LODs Will and Ashan started Moonup where we shared funny moments in our life’s and talked about our dreams and ambitions too. It was such a fun time together under the stars! We wrapped up by listening to Lady May together by Tyler Childers. Then we headed to our rooms to pack and go to sleep. It was such a great day! Saturday morning we woke up early and ready for the day. We enjoyed coffee and granola bowls as we waited for our hot breakfast of omelets, bacon, sausage and toast to be prepared. Once we finished, we grabbed our bags and jumped into the van to head to our service location. We jammed to music on the ride and also stopped at a grocery store to snag a few snacks too. Then we arrived in Rooiberg, unpacked and then walked over to the school where we will be spending the next few days working. After a short introduction we divided up and got to work. George, Grace, McKenzie and Mae headed up the paint crew. While Lilly, Campbell and Paige worked tirelessly to sand the window panes and doors down. Will and Ashan used the cement to patch the dents and holes in the walls. We sang, danced and laughed the whole time so time flew by super quick. When we got to a good stopping point we headed outside for some lunch. Before heading back to work McKenzie taught us all about the “circle of death” which is a workout challenge we all wanted to try. It was ridiculously hard but also really fun. Grace also taught the girls a few dances she learned at her summer camp years before. And any lunch break isn’t complete without a competitive game of ninja. Mae and Paige made it to the finals but Owen showed no mercy and ended out on top once again. Then we headed back to work to finish up our jobs. Ashan manned the Aux and kept everyone’s spirits high. Will headed up the tile team to get the remaining blue pieces off the floor. After an hour or so we took a break to relax and decided to go explore the school grounds. There we came across a beautiful lemon tree. Grace and Lilly were the first to try the tart treat— they were so good! Paige spotted a field of cows over the fence so we all ran over to meet them. After our little break we headed back inside for the last hour of our work day. We wrapped up sow sections of the painting and made sure to clean up the floors. Then we packed up and made our walk back to the lodge. When we got back we enjoyed some snacks the kitchen made for us— samosas, veggie egg rolls, crackers and some dipping sauces. George and Paige ordered the most delicious looking hot chocolate and others tried some Rooibos tea. Ashan, George, Campbell and Paige headed out to the yard to play on the trampoline. Then we all got cleaned up and headed to dinner. Mae and Grace kept us all laughing as we sat around the table together. When we were all full and happy we hung out for a bit then started Moonup up to close out our first day of service. Then we headed to bed so we could be rested for our day tomorrow. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip holds, and will continue to soak up every second in this amazing place!
This group is amazing and we feel so lucky to get to know them this session. Nonetheless, these kids miss their fams and wanted to give y’all some shout-outs!
Check in soon!
Lillian and Owen
Mae: Hey fam, I have been having a lot of fun! Shoutout to Gar Dog, I love you king. Also tell girl I love her so much, and I know she misses her fav person. Also I would like to shoutout my queens Helen, Caroline, Moosch, and Olivia. Can’t wait to see you all again. Peace out – Mae
George: Sup y’all it G-money checking in. Ya boi feelin the vibes at South Africa. Hope y’all ok miss y’alll okey. Everyone is a homie and I am loving the vibes out here. No BACKPACKING. Tbh Not goin lie don’t miss that very much. – Best, your favorite kid
McKenzie: Hey mom! Having a great time in South Africa thank you so much for shipping me off! Miss y’all can’t wait to tell you all about it tell sweet Eleanor I said HEY. Love you and I don’t want to leave. -peace out yo fav child
Grace: Hi parentals, and Ella! I’m having a great time here and have made some good friends! I miss y’all and can’t wait to see you but I don’t know if I want to go home next week. Anyways I love y’all! – Grace
Lilly: Hey mom, dad, and Ellis! I’m having so much fun. Thank you so much for this experience! We’ve seen and experienced so many cool things too. Say hey to della for me! Love y’all! – Lilly
Campbell: Hey mom, dad, baker, and Parker. I’m am having much fun! My favorite part of the trip so far is the safari and see the lions and rhinos. I love y’all and miss y’all! -Campbell
Paige: Hey Wheat Fam! I’m loving Africa so much! I’ve tried and seen so many new things and gotten lots of pictures. Make sure to tell Nina I haven’t lost her cameras yet! Really excited to tell y’all all about the trip soon, love y’all!- Paige
Ashan: Hi everyone, I’m having a great time. I enjoyed going to the market. I also like going surfing and the safari other than the flight delay it has been great.- Ashan
Will: Hey Mom, Dad, and any other family members I didn’t mention. I’ve been having a lot of fun here and am connecting with some of the other people on the trip. See you guys in a week! – Will
June 29, 2022
Hello Moondance friends and family!
It’s Lillian and Owen, and we’re so excited to be leading the second session of the South Africa trip! We’re only a couple of days into it, and we’ve already had such an amazing time exploring and traveling with your kids. They are an amazing group, and we can’t believe how lucky we are to be on this trip with them! Thank you for sending them across the Atlantic and trusting us to give them a trip of a lifetime — we’re truly honored and overjoyed! For the first segment of the trip, we made our way to Mozambique and have been enjoying the adventure and beauty of the Indian Ocean since we arrived. Follow along for our day-to-day adventures as we discover the joys and obstacles of traveling through Southern Africa.
After flying for 16 hours from Atlanta, the entire group arrived on Saturday evening. We were so excited to meet the kids, and we waited eagerly in the airport for them to arrive. When we finally caught sight of them, we were thrilled and knew from the smiles on their faces it was going to be a great trip. We were also shocked by how tall some of them are, especially Ashan and George who tower over the entire group. Everyone hit it off in the airport, and it was such a smooth start. We made our way to the hotel, settled in, and then ate Moondance’s infamous day one pizza dinner. At dinner, Grace kept making the craziest connections and George found a new favorite soda — a South African drink called Sparletta. No one else liked the taste, but for some reason George really took to it. We then had our first Moonup outside in the grass. It was a little chilly, but it was worth it to all sit in a circle, learn more about each other, and get excited about the trip. There were a few post-Moonup card games before we all called it a night, getting ready for an early start the next day.
We woke up a little sleepy-eyed but pumped for our first adventure together. We grabbed breakfast and hopped on the hotel shuttle. We made it to the airport with plenty of time to check in, get some water and snacks, and chill at our gate. We soon found out that our flight was delayed, but we were quick to make the best of it. George, Ashan, and Will ventured into an outdoor store, and George and Will walked away adorned with new hats. Meanwhile, Mae, McKenzie, and Grace caught up on journaling the first few days of the trip, and Paige, Lilly, and Campbell took to people watching and making up hilarious fake stories about the other delayed passengers. It kept us all entertained as we waited! The airline got us a nice lunch in the airport, and some of the kids took advantage of the extra time to put their heads down for a nap right on the restaurant table. We got a few strange looks, but everyone woke up recharged and ready to go. Ashan pulled out the cards, and he taught everyone how to play ERS — our new official card game for the trip. Lilly and Campbell decided to get some exercise in before we boarded and walked up and down the steps a few times. We got word that our flight was ready to depart, and we set out on our way to Mozambique. We were so
excited as we touched down in Maputo, and we ate dinner at the hotel buffet. We then sat around outside and had our Moonup by the pool, and we were all laughing and joking after a long travel that bonded us all together. Despite our travel delays, the group made the best of navigating the delays and obstacles that can accompany international travel. We then went to bed tired but even more excited to arrive the next day.
On Monday morning, we slept in a little bit and enjoyed a nice breakfast at our hotel. We then headed to the airport to catch our flight. The kids were excited as we made our way to the shuttle, and we made sure to say our hellos to the friends we made the day before. As we waited, McKenzie bought a delicious chocolate coffee, and we all sat around chatting before going to security. At the gate, the whole group was excited and ready to go. Mae and Grace even started an intense game of ninja to pass the last bit of time before boarding. Afterwards, we scanned our tickets and made our way to the airplane! Campbell, George, and Paige were so excited! After a short flight, we landed in Inhambane and were greeted by our friend Brodie waving from the gate. The group gabbed our bags and hopped in the vans to head to our lodge. The drive through the countryside was stunning. The kids’ eyes were glued outside the windows where they saw bright pink, yellow, and blue houses; passed massive palm trees; and marveled at the women carrying massive loads on their heads. It was all so cool to see!
We arrived at the surf shop and had a hot lunch ready for us — burgers and fries (or chips as they call them here). It was just what the group needed and helped melt away some of the post-travel weariness. Immediately after lunch, the entire group bolted for the water! George shocked us all and drove straight in fully clothed. It was hilarious, but it was obvious everyone was overjoyed to be at the beach! Grace, Paige, Campbell, McKenzie, Mae, and Lilly kept laughing as they ran up and down the beach escaping the waves. We made a quick walk down the beach and made it to our bungalows. There we unpacked and got settled in, but the kids weren’t tired of the beach yet, so we put on our swimsuits and headed to the waves for a sunset swim. The air was chilly, but the water was warm. McKenzie was the first to touch the water and the rest of the group was not far behind. We all dove, swam, and laughed though the waves all while the sky started glowing with bright pink, oranges, and yellow hues. It was magical. Ashan and George showed of their body surfing skills to us all. When the sun had set, we headed back to the lodge to clean up, take a shower, and get ready for dinner.
After an incredible meal, we headed to the porch to star gaze and play some games. McKenzie and Mae introduced the laugh test game to everyone, and it was hilarious. Then we circled up for our first Moonup underneath the Mozambican stars. Our LODs, Grace and Ashan, told some funny stories and kept us entertained the whole night. We laughed about our day and the group was so grateful to get to call this beautiful spot home for the next few days. We wrapped up Moonup and
headed to bed to get a good night sleep.
On Tuesday, we woke up ready to take on our first full day in Mozambique. We headed to breakfast at our lodge, which has a great view of the coastline. We could hear the waves crashing against the shore, and the sky was lit up by the early morning sun. We then walked down the beach to the scuba shop, where we pivoted plans for the day due to high winds and the choppy seas. We surprised the group with an intro to diving session in the training pool, and everyone was excited and a bit nervous. Ashan had a leg up on everyone with his PADI certification, and he had a blast swimming circles around us in the pool. Lilly, Paige, and Will were not so sure about diving, but they decided to get in the pool and give it a shot! Everyone got an intro to diving skills and practiced the basic maneuvers in the water, and we even got to try some back flips and other tricks before floating up. The water was freezing, but we were so proud of everyone for stepping outside of their comfort zone and diving in. After getting out of the pool, we headed to the hot showers, sipped hot chocolate. and sat in the sun to warm up. While we were sunbathing, the guys convinced a local to cut down some coconuts for us as a post-dive snack. We then ate lunch and went for a quick dip in the waves one more time before heading back to the lodge.
In the afternoon, we met up with a local who’s become one of our favorites. His name is Toni, and he led us on a tour of the village on the way to his house. From the moment we arrived in Mozambique, Mae told us she wanted to meet some of the local kids, and she was so happy to run into a few of them playing on the road. They were so kind and gave us all high fives as we passed. Once we got to Toni’s house, he climbed up a tree and had us taste test different coconuts at various stages of ripeness. We then learned how to cook a local meal called Mataba, which is made only from cassava leaves, ground peanuts, and homemade coconut milk. Nearly all of the ingredients are harvested from his land, and the kids all got a chance to make the meal. McKenzie and Paige had fun making some coconut biscuits into fun shapes, while George, Will, and Lilly helped grind the coconuts to make coconut milk. Campbell, Grace, and Mae sampled the coconut biscuits first, and they loved them. Ashan also got some firsthand experience cooking, and then he went around capturing some great pictures of everyone preparing the meal. We all sat down for the Mataba meal with some crab, and it was delicious! Afterwards, we made our way back to the lodge, where had some downtime to hang out and clean up. Lilly pulled out her hair tinsel, and the girls had a great time putting them in their hair. We all headed down to the beach soon to play a round or two of football before sunset, after which we played a few group games and hung out before dinner. Campbell and Mae closed out our night as LODs with Moonup under the stars, and we headed for bed after a full day of fun activities! It was a great day, and we’re so glad everyone had fun as we experienced the thills of Mozambican everyday life.
We’ve had a blast during the first segment of our trip, and we can’t believe it’s passing so quickly.
We can’t wait for the kids to experience the other activities we have planned in the days to come and be sure to look out for our next trip update!
Until next time,
Lillian and Owen
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!