July 9, 2023
We are back on the coast after spending 5 days in the mountainous villages of Nambukelevu and Wainadiro! Monday morning, we packed up all of our gear and headed up into the mountains. Sadie and Beau, our LODs for this travel day, helped out during our grocery run before taking off to the village to buy drinking water for our next section. They showed some real muscles loading all the cases on to bus! After, we were off to the mountains!
We piled into an awesome open-air bus and enjoyed the views as the scenery changed from crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches to luscious green trees and jungle vines. We arrived in Nambukelevu, brought all of our gear into the house, and immediately grabbed our sulus for the opening ceremony! In our bright colored, batik sulus, we walked down to the Chiefs house where we were traditionally welcomed into their community by taking part in their kava ceremony. Griffin sat next to the Chief and asked questions about village life to help us understand traditions in Nambukelevu!
As we left the Chief’s house, we were greeted by children and dogs which we played with before lunch. Olivia was enthralled by all the dogs wandering around the village and couldn’t wait to give them some tummy rubs. Later that afternoon, the kids came back from school, and we all walked across the river to play some rugby. The match was intense. Running up and over hills, tossing the ball “backwards” but running forwards, dodging the opponents to score a try… wild! Jim was immediately into it, scoring tries and laughing with the locals. With the sun setting on our first day in Nambukelevu, we had dinner at our house and settled into our tents excited to meet more friends in the village the next day!
On Tuesday, we woke up with the roosters crowing, had a big breakfast with Fijian pancakes and prepared for a morning hike in the jungle. We hiked up a trail through the jungle with some local villagers. Everyone was wearing their fair share of jungle mud, so the group was excited to be reunited with the river and swim back down towards the village. However, not before some of the locals could show us how they use spears to catch tilapia and eels in the river. William, with his snorkeling mask, swam alongside them and even spotted a few fish for them to spear as the rest of the group walked, waded, and swam down the river. With our fresh catch, our new friends showed us how to cook fish in bamboo over an open fire. We all really enjoyed the riverfront fish fry as a fitting activity for our 4th of July abroad!
After the cookout, we wound down the river back towards Nambukelevu for an afternoon of rest, rugby, and games in the schoolyard—and, of course, meeting more new friends. Walker and Beau ran on one side and made some great plays and fit right in with the locals playing one of their native sports! Rugby was a great way to meet more people and everyone from the Moondance group and the village locals enjoyed playing with each other. After dinner, we had surprise candy as a small treat to celebrate the fourth of July, and the village children made sure that the Moondancers were invited to watch a movie with them. We all gathered around a tv and enjoyed watching “Another Cinderella Story” with all of the kids!
After a long jungle hike the day before and a big day on the river coming up soon, Wednesday was a restful day of spending time around the village and making connections with the local community. We spent much of the day preparing food to be cooked in the Lovo, a traditional stove dug into the ground for cooking chicken, cassava, and tarot. We built the fire, prepared coconut, peeled cassava, cut tarot, and marinated chicken to be cooked for dinner. Hailey and Sadie quickly mastered the tool the locals use to scoop the meat out of the coconuts, and Harrison, Pierce, and Leighton conversed with some of the village women while peeling and cutting tarot. We sat and enjoyed our dinner before joining the villagers in the community hall for an evening of singing and dancing. As we moved our things to the truck, the local kids followed their new friends closely even chasing the bus as we pulled away! With Nambukelevu behind us, we wound down the jungle road as a bright full moon lit up the mountainous jungle around us.
We arrived at our jungle campsite near our rafting outpost and enjoyed some hot chocolate and had a great Moonup in our torch lit jungle campsite. All fell quiet until a sudden commotion erupted as Amelia and Hailey found a spider in their tent. Despite the gargantuan size of this jungle spider, Beau showed no fear going right into the tent to grab the spider and relocate him to another part of the jungle floor. With our tents free of unwelcome critters, we slept soundly with the sound of the flowing river nearby. Thursday morning arrived and everyone was stoked to get on the river!
Our outfitters trucked in some breakfast, we got our lifejackets and helmets on, and we loaded up in our rafts ready to conquer the rapids. The black canyon walls that rose high above our boats with their waterfalls and hanging vines made for a legendary venue for our adventure down the river. In the periods of calm between rapids, Pierce, Harrison, Jim and William ensured that everyone had their opportunity to fully enjoy the river as people they pulled their dry friends in. Battles between rafts ensued and we all had a great time. We stopped for lunch on a riverbed before continuing on. Eventually, the canyon walls receded, and the river widened, and we soon came upon the Wainadiro village which would welcome us as guests for Thursday night. We packed up our rafts, climbed up the riverbank to our house and switched out our bathing suits for sulus as we were off to another welcoming kava ceremony at the Chief’s house. In Wainadiro, Micah, the spokesperson for the chief, made it clear that the villagers wanted to hear about the lives of the Moondance kids back in America. As our group described our traditions, hobbies, and the flow of our everyday life, the villagers hung onto every word. Our group asked questions about life in Wainadiro and it was immediately clear that this dialogue was having a really genuine positive impact on the group. Walker stood up and asked a local to dance which prompted hoots and hollers of celebration from everyone in the room! Soon everyone joined in as well making a conga line! It was a tremendous way to wrap up our 4 nights in the villages.
The next morning, we packed our dry bags and readied our kayaks and rafts for our last section of paddling. Many of the boys packed into the raft as others chose to pilot their own kayaks. We paddled down the rapids, sometimes turning a section of flowing river into a scene that resembled bumper cars. We reached a place where a creek converged into the Navua, and we beached our boats to explore. Hiking along the creek for 20 minutes, we found a waterfall dumping a deluge of water from over 100 feet in the air. Ella was one of the first to go under the downpour to find a dry spot under the waterfall. She came out of the white water saying it was one of the coolest things she had ever done! After the waterfall excursion, we walked back down to the riverbank to enjoy sandwiches and fruit. Jim made a peanut butter and Pringles sandwich that he said, “was FIRE!” and everyone followed suit. With full bellies we hopped back in our kayaks and continued down the river for about 30 minutes enjoying the sun and calm waters. Parker had his turn at steering the big raft the rest of the way, bringing the passengers safely to the exit point. After a long day of rafting, we packed up all of our gear and hopped back on the beloved open-air bus to head back to the coast!
Next up ~ Surfing!!!!! Hoping to shred some crazy waves over here!
Until next time!
Marthanne and Parker
July 3, 2023
William- happy birthday dad miss you guys I’m having a ton of fun and scuba diving was super cool especially shark diving
Leighton – hey mom dad and mase! I am having the best time in Fiji! Miss y’all have fun in Scotland dad
Sadie- Hey mom! It’s so pretty here, we just finished scuba diving it was so cool. I am having a fun time, miss you and please tell Cora and Camille I miss them so much too
Griffin- Hey mom and dad, having lots of fun and making new friends! Scuba diving was amazing and we saw lot of cool sharks and fish. Thank you so much, and give S. Bear lots of love from me!
Olivia- Hey guys! missing y’all so much but having a blast in Fiji. It’s amazing here and I love everyone. See y’all in a week. Tell Henry he’s ugly for me. Love you guys!
Hailey-Hey guys, I am having so much fun in Fiji and scuba diving was so much fun! We are going to the village and I’m so excited. miss and love you so much. Also, Hi Benny misses you!
Ella- Hey guys! I am having so much fun in Fiji! I did a shark dive and now we are on our way to the village. Hope you guys are having a fun time on your trip too! Love you and miss you!
Amelia- Hey, everybody! I hope you all are doing well. Fiji is amazing and scuba diving was so cool! I love and miss you guys so much! Thank you for everything!
WALKER- hello mom and dad, I am having a great time in Fiji it is very fun. The people and activities are great. We went scuba diving with sharks and it was pretty sick! Thanks for letting me come here! Love you:)🤠🙈😎❤️
Beau- hey mom and dad I’m having a great time in Fiji we just finished scuba diving with sharks and now we’re going to the village. Love y’all
Harrison- Hey mom and dad I miss y’all tell Sidney and Phillip I said hey. Im having a really great time and I’m excited to tell y’all everything that has happened and what we have done! Love all of you so much❤️
Pierce- hey guys, hope y’all are doing good I love you guys 🧑🎤🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶🎶💁😳
Jim: hey y’all, hope y’all are doing well. Fiji is awesome! Tell Henry I wish him happy birthday and tell the dogs I say hello. Miss you guys, can’t wait to see y’all soon.
July 3, 2023
Bula Bula! We have had such an incredible four days diving! After being united with our friends Harrison and Pierce at the airport on Wednesday, we left Nadi for our new home in Pacific Harbour. Upon arrival at our waterfront diving lodge, we immediately started learning all the ins and outs of scuba with an afternoon pool session. Leighton and Beau shared some of the scuba expertise with the group as they learned how to set up their BCDs and check their air. To celebrate our first day of scuba skills we enjoyed an amazing dinner where everyone got dishes from different Asian cuisines. Thursday morning, we all went to the beach which became the venue for a high stakes death sack tournament. The championship came down to Walker and Amelia, and ultimately Amelia triumphed. As “We are the Champions” blared on the speaker, Amelia was presented with her championship prize: a fresh pair of newly made jorts which she wore to dinner later that day with great pride. After conquering the pool on Wednesday, the group was ready to take their new skills to the open water on Thursday. After a scenic boat ride to an island nearby, our dive boat anchored in a protected cove with a picturesque tropical beach. For the group learning to dive, they jumped off the boat like pros with their instructors and practiced important skills for safely exploring the reef. Beau and Leighton dove with another guide around the reef spotting fish and soft coral. In between our two dives of the afternoon, the group gathered on the top deck of the boat, rocked out to music, jumped off the boat to cool off, and tapped into a new tank to prepare for the second dive of the afternoon. Walker wowed the group with an impressive array of acrobatics off the top deck of the boat. After our second dive, we rode back to Pacific Harbour with an unbelievable sunset over the mountain ridges of Viti Levu.
On Friday, we woke up and had a great pancake breakfast before returning to the beach for a morning of games and relaxation. The crew made a drip castle and attempted to defend it against the incoming tide. As their attempts to defend their beach fortress proved futile, Pierce and William opted to make a big Moondance sign in the sand with a Moondance flag on a bamboo flagpole – Olivia documented the whole thing. After a big lunch, we returned to the dive boat for another day of diving. That night we went next door for dinner, and later that night William played some guitar for the group after Moonup.
Saturday was a day dominated by a grand competition to determine who would be crowned the Iron Chef of Fiji. Two teams were created, and ideas brainstormed before going to the grocery store to get ingredients for a creative meal within our budget. After the grocery store run, we played games at our lodge before getting back on the boat for another day of diving. We dove on the swim through city dive site where the group saw sea turtles, many sets of clownfish and anemones, and even got an opportunity to swim through a coral tunnel. With almost no wind and a glassy surface of the ocean, the visibility was incredible which made for an exciting dive. The crew popped up out of the water with smiles from ear to ear after one of the most beautiful dives we have done.
However, our day was far from over, we still had the most prestigious cooking competition in all of Fiji to conquer. The teams shook hands and parted ways as team one dominated the kitchen first. Head chef Pierce was running the kitchen, Sadie was masterfully chopping the garlic for the delicious garlic bread that ended up being the plates best aspect. Olivia put all of her focus on the presentation of the plates, as that was a large category for the judges. Overall, team one came out with a spin on penne a la vodka… take that lightly!
Although the pasta might not have been the best thing we’ve ever eaten, it provided a lot of laughs and great memories.
But we were not done! Team two swooped in the kitchen with a plan! Amelia immediately started shredding the chicken to go in the ramen that Hailey and Jim were preparing. Walker was sous chef, finely chopping bell peppers and shiitake mushroom (the mystery ingredient) to mix into the ramen. Thirty minutes later, the judges were served a delicious chicken ramen meal, topped with sweet chili sauce and served with sparkling mango juice. Overall, it was a very fun night for all!
Sunday we spent the morning in the arts village buying sulus to prepare for our village experience this coming week. We were also able to purchase local crafts and souvenirs for friends and family back home. We spent the afternoon doing our final two dives in Fiji and let me tell you- they were memorable! We got to the dive sight and our awesome guides surprised us with a shipwreck dive. Before we jumped in, we saw four nurse sharks circling the boat and you could feel the excitement buzzing! Everyone jumped in and dismissed their fears to live in the moment! Griffin loved the shipwreck dive and seeing all of the sharks, he said it was one of the coolest things he’s ever done! Our jaws were on the sea floor as we watched two 8 foot bull sharks swim past our crew. We ascended and smiles were seen on all faces! To celebrate our last dives in Fiji we ate an amazing dinner and splurged on dessert from chocolate bubble waffles to brownies and ice cream!
Signing off from pacific harbor! Next stop = the village!
Parker and Marthanne
June 27, 2023
A big BULA from Nadi! After dropping our bags in the hotel, we sat down and enjoyed a lovely continental breakfast while we got to know each other! Following mounds of toasts and endless bowls of cereals, we moved our bags into one room for the day. Beau was a beast and helped us move some of our bigger bags from room to room! Then we hopped on a bus and headed to the port to jump on a catamaran that took us out into the South Pacific Ocean for the day! We relaxed on the trampolines and listened to music as we watched the blue waters and green islands pass by. About an hour later, we arrived at our snorkeling location! We suited up and laughed at each other’s smiles with our snorkels on. Marthanne got some awesome close ups of our silly smiles. We all jumped in the crystal blue water and swam off to see the beautiful sea life of the area. William and Griffin were swimming around like fish, diving down to take a closer look at the vibrant coral and colorful fish. We saw a lot of small electric blue fish and some gorgeous bright purple starfish! Afterwards, we hopped on the inflatable raft and played a quick game of king of the raft, laughing all the way because it was sooooooo slippery! Walker fearlessly showed us his backflip off the raft as we watched in awe, then took turns giving it a try.
Many giggles later, we swam back to the boat to enjoy a delicious wrap and some of the biggest grapes I have ever seen! On the way back, we were surprised with a fruit platter, including coconut! Leighton and Amelia jumped right on the coconut, loving every bite. Once back at the port, we loaded up the van and headed back to the hotel for an afternoon of pool time and activities. Olivia and Hailey went straight for the slide at the pool saying it was one of the fastest slides they have ever been on! We played a quick game of nuke em, Ella and Sadie dominated their side of the court every game! As a groupm, we played many rounds of death sack, Jim showed great skill as he got many people out. With an afternoon full of outside activities, we worked up an appetite. So, we showered and headed back to the port where we enjoyed 3 huge, decadent pizzas. We left feeling full and happy! Tonight, as we go to bed, we are thinking about Harrison and Pierce flying over the Pacific Ocean and can’t wait to meet them tomorrow so our team is complete!
Moce from Nadi! Next time you hear from us we will be Scuba certified!!!
-Marthanne and Parker
June 26, 2023
Hello Fiji Families!
We just heard from our leaders, and most of the group has landed safely in Fiji! Harrison and Pierce are having a bonus day in LA and the rest of the group cannot wait to meet them tomorrow! We are so excited 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!