July 26, 2022
Hi Moondance friends and family!
Man, time flies when you are having fun, and we cannot believe this is the last time we’ll be writing
to y’all this summer. As your kids are making their way back to you now, we are filled with gratitude
to have spent the past two weeks with them. This group has been incredible, and we’re excited to
fill you in on what we’ve been up to the last few days of our South African adventure.
Saturday morning we woke up rested and excited to go after sleeping in a bit later than usual. The
kids got ready and headed to the lodge to enjoy a delicious hot breakfast. It was complete with
scrambled eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, fresh fruit and toast. We then hopped in the safari truck to
head out on our first safari. We traveled through the rocky roads where we saw zebras, wilderbeast,
kudu and lots of warthogs. We arrived at a clearing and our friend Brian, who we met the day
before, greeted us. The group was about to go track cheetahs on foot! After a quick briefing,
Charles grabbed the tracking device with Brian, and we headed off to find the mother and her two
cubs. As the group got closer, the beeping got louder and in the clearing Charlotte spotted the
mother laying down. It was incredible! We walked around them in two groups to get a better view –
the three were just relaxing in the shade together. Isobel made sure to get some great photos on her
camera, and Sebastian’s GoPro videos were amazing! After watching them for a while, we made our
way back to the vehicle to debrief. Brian and our safari guides taught us about the family patterns of
cheetahs and how they compare to the other predators.
We said bye for the day and then drove through the bush to eat a nice picnic lunch. On the way, we
stopped when Dottie spotted a bloat of hippos basking in the sun — they were massive! We even
saw a tiny baby grazing beside its mom. It was the coolest thing, and we watched them for a while
before heading down the road. The group stopped beside the water to eat and take in our eventful
morning together. We then headed back to camp to hang out and chill before our evening game
drive. Luke, Alex, Kate, Charles and Isobel started a great game of frisbee to pass the time. Ava and
Spencer spent some time journaling while the rest of the group hung out and chatted.
The time then came to head back out for our next game drive, and this time we were on the hunt for
Lions! The group was ecstatic to see what they would find. As we drove, we passed zebras and
giraffes which made our group so excited. We met Donald, the head of predator conservation at the
reserve, who used the same tracking device we used on the cheetah to locate the massive male
lion. We were driving through the thicket when Sebastian’s eyes got wide as he spotted the black
mane. We followed the male lion for a minute until he led us to two other female lions with their
cubs! After driving through the clearing, we had a clear view of the pride of lions and we watched
for a while. It was one of the coolest things ever and the best sighting we have seen of the lions all
summer. Joe, Charlotte and Spencer could not get enough of them! The sun began to set as we
made our way back to camp and the kids chatted the whole way back. Sebastian and Jack blessed
their car with their amazing freestyle raps as they drove too. The group stopped for some snacks
and drinks as we watched another amazing African sunset together.
Back at camp, we gathered around the table again for a delicious meal and talked all about our
days. Our safaris leave us full of stories to unpack every day and it’s always a blast. When we
finished, our LODs Ava and Sebastian surprised our group with s’mores at the end of Moonup! The
kids were so excited and it was the perfect way to end such a good day. Tired, we all headed to our
tents to get some rest.
On Sunday we woke up early, grabbed some coffee and rusks, and then we jumped in the safari
vehicles for our first activity of the day. We drove through the bush and we were greeted by some
zebra and impala on our way to the Ground Hornbill Project. Ground hornbills are an endangered
species of large bird that have tons of personality and can live around 70 years, and their life cycles
mirror some of the same milestones as humans. One of the specialists who’s dedicated time and
effort to conserving these animals met us when we arrived, and we all enjoyed learning about these
special birds. Joe particularly enjoyed learning about the ground hornbills, and he loved getting to
hear about their quirky habits. After learning about them, we also got to spot them in their nest up in
the tree. Sebastian was amazed by their low, vibrating call which is how they communicate with one
another. He even tried to replicate the call, and we all had a good laugh!
We then stopped for a packed breakfast of fresh croissants, muffins, and fruit out in the bush
before making our way back to camp. We were visited one more time by the hornbills as we drove
away, and then about 5 minutes out, we ran into an entire field of rhinos! We saw several little baby
rhinos with their moms, and we just sat and stared in amazement as they ran around our car. Ava
thought the baby rhinos were so cute, and it was amazing to see so many together. We then got on
our way again, and when we passed a dam, Charles spotted a crocodile with his eagle eye vision.
Our drivers shared that crocs can weigh about one ton and have one of the strongest bites in the
animal kingdom, and we were all awed as we saw it sunbathing on the bank. We arrived back at
camp for some free time, and then ate lunch at the lodge.
After lunch, we headed out for a surprise afternoon activity, which the reserve calls herbivore
management. Because of the man made barriers of the reserve and modern civilization, the animals
aren’t able to roam about as they would in nature. This means the reserve has to step in and provide
key nutrients during the dry months, and we were invited to participate in the conservation efforts.
We met the conservation team, and Joe and Kate helped toss hay in the back of some trucks. We
then all loaded up in the truck beds and headed out into the bush-veld. We were soon greeted by an
entire crash of rhinos, and the kids started tossing off hay as the truck drove through the field. The
rhinos followed close behind, and everyone had a great time getting a behind the scenes look at
conservation efforts. After feeding the rhinos, we headed back for high tea and snacks before going
back out for our evening game drive. We spotted an aardwolf, which is a close relative of the hyena
and has a similar appearance in face to the raccoon. We saw it cross a field, and then continued on
our way seeing tons of wildlife and enjoyed the tranquil ride. We arrived back at camp in time for a
great dinner and then Alex and Dottie closed out the night with Moonup.
Monday morning we work up early for arguably the coolest experience of the trip — darting a rhino!
We met the reserve manager at the lodge, who described the various veterinary and conservation
tasks we’d be performing on the rhino once it was immobilized. Everyone was pumped to get hands
on experience with the rhino, and Charlotte won a Rock Paper Scissors tournament for an ultra
special task. We took off in the safari vehicles and met up with the entire veterinary team, who
headed out with the dart gun to tranquilize the rhino. We followed close behind, and as soon as it
was safe, we hopped off the vehicle and jumped into our delegated tasks.
Isobel played the vital task of assisting the reserve team in measuring and documenting data about
the rhino — everything from horn length to the serial numbers of microchips. Spencer was the one
who worked on preparing the steel putty to hold the chip in, and Sebastian got to be the one who
actually place the chip in the rhino. Kate, Charles, Dottie helped the team place a tracking collar
around the rhinos ankle, while Jack applied parasite repellant everywhere where ticks were visible.
Charlotte then gloved up for her special task of taking a rectal sample from the rhino in order to
monitor its digestive health and make sure there was no parasitic activity. She definitely has a story
of a lifetime now! Alex also helped clean some area of the rhino while Ava and Joe got to put their
hands in the rhinos mouth to check everything was normal. Luke felt the rhino’s horn to ensure it
was healthy and strong, and we were all amazed to be so close to a two ton creature that could
easily take us out if it were awake. We got to feel its skin and touch its belly as it took in breaths,
and it made us realize just how important anti-poaching efforts are to ensure these majestic animals
don’t go extinct.
After the rhino experience, we headed back to camp to have some down time and get packed up a
bit. We then headed across the reserve to have brunch on a hill that overlooks the entire reserve
and which has a great view of mountains to the north. We feasted on a great meal and it dawned on
us that this was our last full day in South Africa, and we began reflecting on the trip and all the fun
memories we now have with each other. We then snapped some pictures in front of the great view,
and headed back to camp for time to chill, nap, and hang out. The group decided to play another
round of death sac, and Alex won the first round and Jack game out as the victor in the second.
Everyone then finished up packing and snoozed for a while before our last evening game drive.
We took off that afternoon with the goal of spotting one of the canine predator species on the
reserve, namely the hyenas or the wild dogs. We drove for several hours looking for these elusive
species, all the while getting to spot other wildlife along the way. At one point, we pulled into an
open field and Kate exclaimed that we were truly seeing Africa because there was a dazzle of zebra,
4 giraffes, wildebeests, and a group of baboons walking down the road. It was like a scene out of
Lion King! We then got word that the wild dogs had been spotted near a recent kill, so we booked it
to go find them. As we came over the crest of the hill, we caught sight of all four of them. They were
walking down the road and then would plop down, and Sebastian swore they must be closely related
to the domesticated dog because of some of their mannerisms and behavior. They’re cute animals
with their big rounded ears and spotted fur, which garners them the name of the painted dogs;
however, they’re vicious hunters that eat their prey while they’re still alive.
On our way back to camp, a rock got lodged in one of the safari vehicle’s tires and our driver had to
change it. While we waited, Sebastian, Luke, and Ava had a rap battle in the middle of the bushveld
as the the sun was setting — it was an epic way to spend our last sunset in South Africa! With the
new tire on, we headed back to camp just in time for our final banquet! For our first course, we had
a charcuterie spread and celebrated the trip with non-alcoholic champagne. We listened to music
and hung out as we snacked, and we chatted about our favorite memories from the trip and it felt
like we were all old friends. We then sat down for a traditional boma barbecue, which is the meal the
bushmen would make after hunting an animal. We had grilled chicken and lamb chops with polenta,
roasted veggies, and potatoes on the side. For dessert, we finished the meal with white chocolate
mouse and a slice of delicious chocolate cake. It was a proper feast!
Jack and Joe then finished out the night with our final Moonup around the fire. We sat in a circle
around the fire pit, and above us the stars and constellations were bright and clear. The night sky in
the bush is amazing, and it was a magical setting to close out our time together. Jack and Joe asked
great questions that made us reflect on our time in South Africa and Mozambique and all that we
learned and experienced, and it was a special time of looking back and realizing how meaningful the
past two weeks have been. To close Moonup, Jack and Joe hosted a talent show, which was the
cherry on top of an amazing day. We then went to bed happy and full, ready to savor every last
moment of the trip.
On the last morning of our trip, we woke up with the sky still dark and the air cold to go on one last
game drive. With blankets in hand, the group hopped in the vans and off we headed to a rocky bluff
to watch the sunrise. Joe and Kate found a high perch on the rocks while Dottie, Charlotte, Ava and
Spencer chose to sit together on the rocks below. All together we sat and watched as the sky
turned different shades of pink, orange, and yellow until the sun peaked its beams over the
mountain range. It was magnificent and felt like a good way to say goodbye to the African bush. Our
morning was still not over as we set out in the vans to see what animals we could find in the
morning light. We saw our favorite zebras, rhinos and giraffes as we drove. It’s crazy how we
became so accustomed to seeing these wild animals but somehow it never gets old. Around the
next corner, we saw a troop of baboons just chilling and hanging out together in a massive tree.
Jack was extremely excited about seeing them one last time! Then we saw two buffalo, or dugger
boys as they call them here, grazing beside the road. However, the highlight of our morning was
definitely running into 6 elephants in the road. It was an incredible close to our final Safari!
We headed back to camp to eat breakfast and pack our bags for the airport. We had one final drive
on the safari vehicle on our way to the main lodge. Musa, our game driver, made sure to bump to
some music, and it was hilarious. We said our goodbyes and hit the gift shop to get a few last
souvenirs before heading back home. We then made our drive to the airport and ate some lunch in
the terminal before saying our goodbyes.
We are so sad to say goodbye to this group — they’ve filled the last two weeks with so much joy and
laughter! It’s crazy how close a group can get in such a short time, and the bonds this group has
formed are special and a highlight of the summer. They made our final days in South Africa ones
that we’ll cherish forever. Thank you for sharing them with us and allowing them to go on this crazy
once in a lifetime adventure at the end of the summer. We will be telling stories about this session
for the rest of our lives, and we’re glad we were able to give you all a glimpse of it. Make sure to tell
them how much we miss them when they land, and a final farewell to all those who have followed
along on all our amazing adventures!
Lillian and Owen
July 24, 2022
Hello Moondance friends and families!
We’ve had a blast over the past few days, and we can’t believe how fast the trip has been going by. For this segment of the trip, we wrapped up our service project and headed to our last stop at a private game reserve. This group has been so fun and we’re excited to fill you in on all we’ve been up to! This segment started on Wednesday with our second day of service at the elementary school. We woke up, had breakfast, and then walked the short distance to the school. We dove into putting a few more coats on the walls we painted the day before, and several people started on painting the window grates. During a small snack break in the morning, the kids all game out to play. There were so many, and we got to hold them, toss them up in the air, and talk with them a bit — the group loved getting to spend time with the kids! Some of them would even braid the girls’ hair, and Kate and Dottie walked away with some new hairstyles. Isobel and Spencer also found a lemon tree at the school, and they snagged a lemon as a little snack. We then hopped back into work on the school, and after several hours we headed back to the lodge for lunch. There, we ate and had some chill time before walking back to the school, where we really pressed in and knocked out several hours of hard work. The kids killed it, and we were so proud of how hard they worked! We then had snack at the lodge and downtime to shower and cleanup before dinner. We were all laughing and cracking jokes at the dinner table, and then we made a big boma fire. Charles and Spencer closed out the night with a great Moonup around the fire, and then we all headed to bed after a long and successful day. We woke up on Thursday ready to go for our last day of service. The kids gathered their things and headed to breakfast a bit early so we could be at the school when the kids arrived. After our coffee and cereal, we walked down the road to the school where we were greeted by some sweet kids running towards us. We put our things in the school hall, and a teacher guided us through the school to a courtyard where the kids have morning assembly. We were greeted by the principal and all the kids’ smiling faces. The students sang 4 beautiful songs to us as we joyfully watched in awe. It was truly incredible. Then we had the opportunity to share our deep gratitude for each other through some speeches and also learn more about the school itself. It was an impactful experience for all of us.
With our new found motivation and inspiration we went back to the school hall to finish our work. Spencer and Luke made a good team taping off all the windows. Charles, Jack and joe worked on the outside window panes as Dottie, Ava and Kate manned the inside walls. They worked in unison
and perfected the job together. On the other side of the room, Isobel, Sebastian, Alex and Charlotte worked on cleaning up any uneven brush stokes on the windows. We sang songs as we worked and had a blast. Then the students were let out for snack break and our group bolted outside to see them. Our sweet hellos quickly turned into a massive dance party! Charlotte and Ava led the kids in the Cupid shuffle and a dance circle formed around them. Charles and Jack quickly took over when the Whip and Nae Nae came on the speaker. And Sebastian made sure to teach all the kids his go to dance “the sturdy”. We all had so much fun! As some danced the girls wee busy getting there hair braided by the kids. Isobel and Charlotte were even gifted handwritten letters with candy from a few girls— it was the sweetest thing ever. They will definitely cherish them forever. The massive crew of kids continued to grow and we embraced them all. When it was time for them to go back to class we said our goodbyes and went back to work until lunch. After we wrapped up our work, 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 to get some ice cream sandwiches to thank the group for all their hard work, and then we headed back to the school to wrap up our time doing service. When we arrived we saw a mob of kids running up the field to greet us. It was the sweetest thing! Our group dropped our bags and started picking up kids left and right. Kate saw her favorite kid from earlier that day and gave her the biggest hug. Sebastian had a line of kids waiting to be thrown in the air and spun around like a helicopter. Joe had kids chasing him all around the field while Dottie, Ava and Charlotte had tons of kids with them posing for pictures. Charles gave high fives to every kid he passed as we made our way to the class. When we made it inside our group quickly got back to work. Alex, Kate and Dottie worked on putting the finishing touches on the window grates. The rest of the crew focused on cleaning up the remainder of the space. We had students coming up to all the windows to see what we were up to and say hello too. We wrapped up our jobs and took a group picture to celebrate. We were so proud of all the hard work we did and were sad to say goodbye to all our new friends. Sebastian and Isobel both had hard goodbyes to their closest friends at the school. We gave our soccer ball to the kids and headed back to the lodge to clean up before dinner. At the lodge, the kids hung out on the trampoline and competed to do there best tricks. They ultimately wanted to create the perfect “album cover” picture. Then as the sun was setting we made our way to the dining room to eat another delicious meal. We were cracking up the entire time and we talked all about our time in Rooiberg. Once we finished, the group headed out to the fire to have an incredible Moonup under the stars lead by our LODs Joe and Isobel. It was a blast and we closed our time together with a lovely round of ring-around-the-rosy. Tired after a good day we headed back to our rooms to get some sleep. Friday morning we woke up excited to move to our next stop, while also sad to be saying goodbye to
Rooiberg. We all slept in a bit before we had our breakfast, and Luke and Alex were up before the rest kicking around a soccer ball to start their day. We then surprised the group with Belgian waffles as a thank you for all their hard work, and they were all excited to have a taste from home. We then reflected on the kids from the school who had impacted our lives, and it was special to spend one last morning together in Rooiberg before heading off to Mabula, our final stop of the trip. Of course, before we could head out, Luke, Sebastian, and Spencer had to get one more jump on the trampoline, and Joe and Charlotte got a group together to play ninja. It was a fun way to close out our time there, and then we loaded into the bus and made our way to Mabula. Mabula is always one of our favorite stops on the trip, and we love ending the trip here. It definitely feels like the cherry on top of the cake, and the whole group was excited to experience it! Before we had even entered the lodge, Dottie spotted some elephants off in the distance, and everyone flipped out. We got to the lodge and had a nice lunch before the conservation team came and briefed us on our time in the reserve. They chatted with us about some of the tools and techniques they employ in their conservation efforts, and everyone got some hands on experience with the equipment. Isobel and Sebastian got to hold the elephant Collar, which was bigger than the both of them! We then headed to camp, where the students were shocked to find our stilted tents that lay right in the middle of the bush. They got settled into their tents, and Charlotte and Ava commented on how it felt like glamping at its finest. We then met our safari drivers, and we headed out into the reserve.
Pretty soon into our drive, we started spotting some of the infamous wildlife of South Africa. The antelope never disappoint to make an appearance, and Jack pointed out some Kudu, which is the second largest member of the antelope family and can jump 4 meters in the air! We also saw a herd of impala and a dazzle of zebra with a young fowl. As we drove a bit further, Charles spotted a young warthog and it’s mother running across the road and everyone shouted “Pumba!” Just a little way further, Kate pointed out some giraffes just before they started to run. They’re so awkward, and it was pretty entertaining to watch! We then got to see a field with several rhino pairs, and we sat and looked in wonder as they ate and crossed the field. We drove a bit further and as we were passing a big pond, we heard water spurt up and a hippo emerged from the water. Soon enough, a whole hippo family came up from the water, and we were amazed as they snorted water and swam about in the pond. We were on our way to stop for snacks, when all of a sudden we caught sight of elephants just a bit off the road. We turned off the engine and watched as they slowly passed by, munching on tree branches and walking majestically across the bush. It’s amazing to see such big creatures roaming about and hardly making any noise. Afterwards, we all stopped in the bush, had some snacks, and recapped everything we had seen. Charles even reenacted the baboon sighting we had earlier in the drive,
and everyone cracked up as he walked on all fours. We watched the sunset as we snacked and took pictures under a big tree, and then we headed back to the lodge for dinner. Kate and Jack then finished out the night with Moonup around a fire with the Milky Way shining bright above us. We’ve had so much fun roaming around with this group, and we can’t believe we only have a few more days left with them. We’re savoring every moment together as we take in the beauty of the African bush, and we can’t wait to update you on all the fun and adventurous things we get up to in the next few days. The kids also wanted to say thank you, so you’ll find a note from them below. Be sure to check back soon!
Until next time,
Lillian and Owen
Alex: Thank you so much for giving me this beautiful trip. This has been the highlight of my summer and I will never forget it. I have seen so many animals up close and the beach in Mozambique was unforgettable. Love you and see you soon.
Kate: Thank you so much for this amazing trip. I have made so many new friends and seen so many cool things. Love y’all much and can’t wait to see you soon.
Charlotte: Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to go on this trip!!! I can’t wait to tell y’all about all I’ve experienced and show y’all the pictures!! Love you and see you soon.
Dottie: Thank y’all for letting me go on this trip. It’s been super fun and I’ve made a lot of new friends. Can’t wait to see y’all love y’all.
Joe: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to go on this amazing trip. It has been so cool and can’t wait to see y’all, love you.
Jack: Thank you so much for letting me go on this amazing trip, I’ve made so many good friends and seen so many things I would have never been exposed to before. It has been so cool and can’t wait to see yall, love u.
Spencer: Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity, I have had such a great time and seen so many amazing animals. I can’t wait to tell you guys all about what we have done. Thank you again for sending me here.
Isobel: Mom and Dad, I am so grateful for this incredible trip. I have had so much fun and can’t wait to see y’all soon. Love y’all!!
Ava: Hiiii I miss all of y’all and especially the dogs. Thank you so much for letting me go on this trip it’s been so so fun. We are going to Shin Sei the night I come home. Please tell Chloe Mowan I say happy birthday and I miss her okay bye
Luke: Thank y’all for allowing me to go on this trip. I’ve met lots of friends and am having fun. Miss yall!!
Sebastian: Hi Mom and Dad! I have enjoyed this trip so much so far and I’m so glad I came here. Thank you so much for this once in a lifetime trip and I’ll see you soon!
Charles: Thank you family, I’ve had a lot of fun and I’m questioning if i should come back or not. Can’t wait to see y’all, love you.
July 20, 2022
Hello Moondance Friends and family!
Thanks for checking in! We cannot believe that we are reaching the halfway point of our trip. It’s been a blast getting to know each other over the past week. This group has hit it off better than we could have ever 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. We woke up with the sun once again, put on our swimsuits and climbed the steps to breakfast. We filled up on crepes and fresh fruit for the day and headed down the beach to the local surf shack, where we picked out our boards and met our surfing instructors. We split into two groups and the kids headed to the ocean. The waves today were incredible and Charlotte was the first up on her board. Charles was a natural in the water and caught waves left and right. Joe and Ebert stayed in the water as long as possible to get all they could out of the day. After they surfed Isobel, Spencer, Kate and Ava had a great time taking in the Mozambican sun. After spending his time surfing, Luke continued perfecting his photography skills. He went around taking great action shots of people surfing and had a blast capturing the day!
After we finished surfing, the group walked over to a sandy hill on the edge of the beach. We ventured up the rocks to the lookout where we got a birds-eye view of the vast ocean and waves crashing on shore. It was beautiful! The crew took a few pictures and explored before heading back to the surf shack. We said goodbye to our new friends and headed back up to the beach to get some lunch. After sunbathing a bit more and relaxing on the beach, we made our way to the volleyball net to play a game or two. Soon enough, everyone’s competitive side was coming out and our two teams were giving it their all. Charlotte showed off her incredible volleyball skills again, and Ava impressed everyone with her killer serve. Alex and Sebastian used their speed to retrieve the rouge balls from the ocean waves. Everyone was a good sport, and we all had a blast! It started to rain a bit so to celebrate a good game we enjoyed some delicious milkshakes inside. Then we looked out and saw a rainbow covering the entire beach so we ran outside to enjoy the moment. It was magical! The group played and took some pictures too to remember the moment. Then we grabbed our bags we walked back to our lodge to clean up and chill before our afternoon activity.
The LODs Sebastian and Charlotte helped surprise the group with our next activity by telling them just what they need without filling them in on our location. Then when were all ready, Toni, one of our favorite locals who led our cooking lesson a few days before, met us at the lodge. He would be leading us on a sunset dhow boat tour in the cove on the other side of the shore. Excited, we all piled into a bus to make our way there. A dhow boat is a traditional Mozambican sailboat made entirely out of wood and powered by the wind and a bamboo paddle. After a short ride in the bus dancing to some music we arrived at the shore. It was low tide so we made had a short walk through the sand to the edge of the boat. We all hopped in then we were off! On the boat we enjoyed some drinks including the crowd favorite boxes of apple juice and fresh pineapple. As the sun set over the water, we saw a flock of flamingos walking in the shallows— it was so cool! Joe needed a second to cool off so he jumped in the water for a quick swim. Sebastian kept us all laughing with his ASMR and the boys posed for a picture in their matching tank tops. As we finished our guides navigated through the mangroves and brought us back to shore. The sky started turning a bright shade of orange and yellow and as we waited for the bus we had a massive dance party with our guide Bambo. Alex had some amazing moves and Ava kept the song lineup going. It was hilarious and the group took some pictures and videos to document it all. The van pulled up and we made our way back to the lodge. We said our goodbyes to Bambo and Toni and went inside to relax and clean up for dinner. After a delicious meal we went out for our last Moonup under the Mozambique sky. This group is incredible and we love ending every day like this together. The kids were tired so we headed to sleep to be ready for another great day in Africa.
We woke up early on Sunday for a very special occasion — Lillian’s 22nd birthday! We rolled out of bed and went to the beach to watch the sunrise on Lillian’s new year of life. It was also a great way to start our last day in Mozambique and begin the process of saying goodbye to a country we’ve all come to love and enjoy. The sun cut through the clouds, and we sat in awe. A few of the guys then went on one last beach run, while everyone else headed back to the rooms to get ready for the day. At breakfast, we all sang to Lillian and gave her the card we all signed and some sweet treats too. We then got all packed up to head to the airport before visiting the local market to get some last souvenirs. The market was full of hand-made goods and artisans’ crafts, and the kids all headed in to bargain for some mementos from the trip. The group had fun wheeling and dealing, and Alex was particularly proud of some of the deals he was able to score — it was impressive! Jack, Joe, and Luke also walked away with some new matching fits and straw hats, which gave us all a good laugh!
After we finished up in the market, we made our way to the airport. We checked in and while we waited, Sebastian surprised us all with his dance moves and we were all amazed — the kid’s got some talent! We boarded our flight back to Joburg, and made it safe and sound. We caught our ride to our first game reserve, and everyone was excited to experience the South African Savannah, which is colloquially known as the Bush. We arrived later in the evening, and an amazing dinner was waiting for us. We ate our fill and then sat around a campfire chatting and gawking at the stars. We finished out the night with an amazing Moonup led by Joe and Isobel before calling it a night, eager to see some animals when we woke.
We started the morning out early, ready to get out in the safari vehicles. We grabbed a quick snack and some coffee and then loaded up in the trucks. We drove into the bush as the sun was rising over the horizon, and we were amazed by the change of scenery and temperature from Mozambique. It was cold, and we were all bundled up. Spencer said she loved to be out in the game drives, and even though it was bit cold, she felt like she was having an authentic African experience, and we all agreed. We soon spotted some black backed jackals, which look similar to foxes, and we got a good introduction to the antelope family when we saw some kudu, impala, and even the smallest member of the species — a steinbok! We also got to see a big group of zebra, which is called a dazzle because of how their stripes interact in a group and distract a predator. After several hours of driving out in the game reserve, we then headed back to the lodge to get a hearty breakfast and have some downtime.
During the afternoon, the group played a big round of death sac — a hacky sack game that the kids love to play. After getting 3 kicks, the first person to catch the hacky sack throws the ball at someone to get them out. Kate, Ava, and Charles made it to the finals, and Charles won the game. We’ll definitely have a rematch in the days to come! Afterward, Isobel jumped in the cold pool after losing what are the odds, and Luke decided to jump in fully clothed too — it was wild! One of the game drivers invited us all to go on a walk through the safe zone of the bush where our lodge is located, and we all excitedly agreed. As we walked, he taught us all about some of the plants. We came upon a spotted aloe plant, and the game driver cut off a piece for us to try. Charlotte ate a piece and said it tasted just like cucumber, while Jack rubbed some of the aloe on his face as part of his skin care routine. We then had our lunch and headed back out into the bush for a sunset safari.
Early into our drive, we spotted a big herd of impala, zebra, and blue wildebeests, and we were right in the middle of it! We also spotted one of the big five — the infamous group of animals that are the most dangerous to hunt on foot. We spotted the African buffalo, which was an awesome introduction to the animals that make South Africa famous. A little while later, Dottie spotted a pair of two rhinos, and we sat and watched them for as they can so close to our vehicle. Our game driver taught us all about the poaching crisis, and Ava and Dottie were heartbroken that these majestic creatures faced such a big threat. Joe thought it was really sad that by the time our grandchildren are alive, there may not be any rhinos left in the world. We also learned all about the anti-poaching efforts and the amazing people who put their lives at risk to prevent their extinction. Kate also caught sight of our first giraffe off in the distance just before we stopped for a snack and watched the sunset. We were about to pass through the gate to our lodge in the dark when all of a sudden we saw a lone lion walking along the road, and we were so close to it. We then got word that the whole pride was a short distance away, and we quickly drove and saw them. One of them passed right by the safari car, and Sebastian made eye contact with the teen lion as it passed by. He was definitely a bit scared but more awed by the experience than anything! We then went back for another amazing dinner and campfire Moonup under the stars.
We woke up on Tuesday ready and excited to dive into service. We had breakfast, loaded into the van, and headed out to a rural town just north of Johannesburg. We checked into our rooms and walked the short distance to the school where we’ll be doing our service project. All summer, we’ve been working on renovating their school hall, and this group will get to see the project through to the end. We’ve already made tons of progress, and today we jumped into finishing off the final coats of paint. Luke and Spencer joked they were going to start their own HGTV fixer-upper after the summer. Kate loved hanging out with the school kids on all our breaks. On one of our breaks, Ava also taught one of the kids a new dance move, and we saw him walking all the way home doing his new moves. Isobel and Joe befriended a kid named Alfonso and played soccer with him in the afternoon. Sebastian became good friends with one of the kids too, and chatted with him for a good while about mountain biking. Dottie enjoyed just getting to see the school where they studied, and she was grateful to have the opportunity to help the kids we were having so much fun meeting. Charlotte, Jack, and Charles knocked out painting with rollers like pros in the afternoon, and it was overall a great first day of service. After we wrapped up for the day, we headed back to the lodge and got cleaned up before dinner. We ate and then had Moonup around a massive fire, and we were all laughing and having a great time. Then we played a few rounds of pool before bed, and we called it a night.
This group has been awesome to lead, and everyone has really come together and become great friends! We couldn’t imagine a better group, and we‘ve found ourselves laughing hysterically more often than not! We’re grateful we get to spend our last weeks in South Africa with this great crew, and we can’t believe how fast it’s going already. We’re excited for the fun things we have planned ahead and stay tuned for our next update. The kids also wanted to say hello and send a shoutout, so enjoy those below!
Until next time,
Lillian and Owen
Luke: Hey mom and dad! Doing well. Miss y’all!
Spencer: Hi mom and dad, this trip has been incredible and I have so many stories to tell you. Love and miss u guys!
Jack: Hey mom and dad. This trip is amazing and thank you for giving me the opportunity to do this. Love y’all!
Joe: Hey mom and dad. Thank you for letting me go on this amazing trip and make amazing memories. Love y’all and see u soon.
Charles: Hey, it’s been really fun and I’m having a great time. Thanks for shipping me out here. Love y’all see you soon.
Kate: Hi Mom and dad thank you for letting me go on this amazing trip it’s so much fun and I love Africa. Love y’all and see you soon!!
Sebastian: Hi Mom, Dad, and Lucie. I have been having a great time here in Africa and so far I have made some really good friends. Thanks so much for this trip! Love you guys and miss you all!
Alex: Hey mom and Dad, I’m doing fine. Miss y’all and can’t wait to see y’all again soon
Ava: Hey mom and dad and Taylor. I miss all of y’all and Africa has been super fun and cool. Thanks for letting me go on this trip. I’ve made lots of new friends (one girl knows Georgia sealy and Heather G and another girl knows Mimi Miller!) Lots of travel, but it’s all worth it. I want a family dinner when I come home.☺️ Okay bye love yaaaaa
Charlotte: hey mom and dad! Thank you for sending me on this amazing trip!! I’ve met amazing people and have been having a blast! I’ve seen and experienced amazing things since being here! Love and miss y’all.
Isobel: hey mom and dad, I miss and love y’all! Africa is pretty cool and I saw a giraffe. See y’all soon.
Dottie: hey mom and dad. Thank you for sending me on this trip. It’s really cool. Miss y’all.
July 16, 2022
Hello, Moondance community!
We can’t believe the end of the summer has already arrived, and we’re excited to be leading an awesome group through some of our favorite places! We’ve enjoyed getting to know everyone on the trip, and it feels like we’ve known each other for a long time because of how close everyone is getting. The first few days of the trip have been a blast, and we’re excited for you to follow along as we recount our amazing adventures from our Mozambique segment! The kids all arrived later in the evening on Tuesday night, and we were thrilled as they passed through the gates! We chatted with them and then checked into our hotel. We had dinner and then had our first Moonup — the time when we close out the day by sitting and sharing our experiences. We then got everyone to bed for our early departure to Mozambique the next day. We had an early morning on Monday, and everyone was a little sleepy-eyed but excited to start our
African adventures. As soon as we were at the airport, Jack and Joe wasted no time in getting their South African souvenir fits. They walked through the airport decked out in shirts with traditional prints and new necklaces — it was awesome! We then boarded our flights to Mozambique, made our way through customs, and arrived at our final destination in a small city on the East Coast. We took taxis to Tofo Beach, and everyone enjoyed getting to see a snapshot of daily life as we drove through the towns and saw the landscape from the taxi. We pulled up to the scuba lodge where we’d stayed the past few days, and the view of the coastline was amazing. We had lunch, and while it was being prepared, we all ran down to the water and dipped our feet in. Charles and Joe jumped in, and everyone felt refreshed after a few long travel days. After eating and chatting for a while at our lunch spot right on the beach, we walked the short distance back to our lodge on the sand. We settled into our rooms and changed into our bathing suits. We went to the beach right outside our rooms, and Luke, Alex, and Sebastian sprinted to the water. The weather was perfect, and the waves felt so nice! Dottie and Charlotte laid out on the beach and took in the sun, while some of the guys drew a soccer field in the sand. We then started a pickup game, and the competition started! We ran back and forth across the sandy field, and Jack got to show off his soccer skills. Ava also came in flex when she scored the game-winning point! After soccer, we went back for dinner and then had our first LODs kick off the first student-led Moonup. LOD stands for Leader of the Day, and every night two new LODs are chosen to help facilitate the next day. On Monday night’s Moonup, Kate and Luke did a great job of embracing the culture of Moondance, and we had a blast talking and laughing as we sat under the Mozambican sky. Everyone agreed that the long travel days were well worth it, and we headed to bed excited to experience more of the beauty and adventure of the Indian Ocean. Thursday morning we woke up ready for the day after a great night of sleep. The group walked up to breakfast and enjoyed a great spread of cereal, fruit, crepes, and toast. It was delicious and filled us all up for our day out on the water. We ran back to our rooms, put our swimsuits on, and walked down the beach to the scuba shop for our first ocean safari. After a quick briefing, we hopped on the boat and jetted off to search for some animals! In just a few moments we came across 2 massive manta rays and without hesitation, the group jumped in the water! We captured some footage and marveled at the massive animal swimming beneath us. Back in the boat, we cruised around more to see what we could find— and all of the sudden Charles shouted “whales!” We all got so excited and drove close to get a better view. It was amazing! Satisfied with our morning we headed back to the scuba shop to relax and eat lunch. Before we ate we played an friendly game of volleyball in the sand. The whole crew was really into the game. Charlotte impressed us all with her Volleyball skills and Alex blocked a bunch of hits right next to the net. We all had a blast and by the time we finished the first match, it was time for lunch! They
pulled out some incredible burgers and fries for all of us to enjoy. We took a quick break in the sun to relax then we were ready to go surfing! Excited the group walked down the beach to meet our instructors Pumba, Ali, and Toni for our surf lesson. We grabbed the boards and headed to the waves. Isobel quickly got up with ease and rode one to the shore. Ava and Charlotte were not far behind either! Jack was a quick study and caught waves left and right. While Charles focused on getting the perfect shot on the GoPro as he dominated the waves. On the shore, Owen and Luke went to the lookout to snap some cool pictures of the group from above. Overall the afternoon was incredible!
When we wrapped up our surf lessons the group walked down the beach back to the lodge to enjoy some hot showers and hang out. Charles spotted a man o’ war in the sand and decided to hold it up to show the long tentacle to the group. Joe also found a crab on the beach and we gathered around seeing which one would win in a fight—- however, there wasn’t much competition. Once we cleaned up we headed up to the deck to watch the sunset. The sky turned to bright orange, pink, and yellow— it was beautiful! Charles and Joe got on Aux and played some music for the group. Sebastian showed off his dance moves for the group too. Then we headed inside to enjoy our dinner. When we finished we all headed to the back porch and the LODs Dottie and Charles led our Moon up in fashion. It is a great way to get to know each other and talk all about our incredible day on the water. Then we headed back to the cabins to listen to some music and get ready for bed. On Friday morning, a few of the guys decided to go on a morning run before the day’s activities started. Jack, Joe, and Owen headed out for a run along the beach as the sun was rising, and Alex and Ava woke up in time to watch it rise from the lodge. The sunsets over the ocean are beautiful here, and they’ve been a fiery red the past few days. We then had our breakfast before heading out on the water for another ocean safari. It was sunny and the waves were great, and we got sight of a few more manta rays and humpback whales. After searching a while for them, Isobel and Spencer convinced the group we needed a thrill, so the drivers picked up the speed and we hit some big waves — it was a lot of fun! We then made our way back to land. We got back and chilled in the sun and played some beach volleyball before lunch, where we got a refreshing milkshake after so much time in the sun and water the past few days. We ate and then chilled a bit more until our afternoon activity. 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. Luke and Spencer were the first volunteers to try the coconut water and the rest of the group followed close behind. Joe, Isobel, and Sebastian made their attempts 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 and Charlotte had mad skills on the coconut grinder, and Dottie was a natural at making peanut flour. Sebastian also found his new favorite food — the coconut cookies we rolled and baked ourselves. Every student got a chance to design their own cookie and Spencer even designed it on what looked like Lillian’s face. As we waited for the food to cook Jack befriended Toni’s small, white dog and would not leave her side for the rest of our time together. We all died watching as he chased her around the houses in the sand. Joe posed for a picture with a goat and Isobel did the same with a chicken. Then we dined at a beautiful table where Toni and his family served us fresh shrimp, rice, cassava, chips, fresh pineapple, and coconut cookies to end our time in Tofo. We said our goodbyes and headed back to our cabins. Ava, Jack, Charles, and Kate 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 Carmel banana samosas and ice cream. It was a hit with the kids, and every meal we’ve had so far has been amazing. Our LODs, Alex, and Spencer closed out our night on the beach with a great Moonup. We laughed under the stars and recapped everything we saw throughout the day. We’ve had a blast during the first few days 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! Thank you guys for sharing them 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
July 13, 2022
Hello South Africa Families!
We heard from our leaders yesterday 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!