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Madeira 1 • June 6-June 22, 2023

Bittersweet Goodbyes!

June 22, 2023

It’s with heavy hearts that we write to you from the Madeira airport, having sent everyone through security. We just said goodbye to this awesome group and we already are wishing we were back together making jokes and laughing. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun, and these last few days have been a blast!

We rounded out our adventures in Portugal on the island of Porto Santo with snorkeling, sea kayaking, and relaxing by the beach. After a short ferry ride over from Madeira, we were immediately in awe of the bright blue waters and white sand beaches. This group was the first ever Moondance group to go to the island of Porto Santo! We felt pretty special getting to be the first Moondancers to explore the island. Our first day on the island consisted of swimming in the ocean, reading books, making sandcastles, and sea kayaking. Margaret, Allie, and Calder led the construction and oversight of the sandcastle building while Walker and Hunter led “book club.” We have quite the group of readers on this trip, and everyone has taken turns swapping books and reading during downtime! We spent the afternoon in the ocean exploring the coast via sea kayaks. Hunter and Allie serenaded us all by singing Taylor Swift the whole time. The highlight of the sea kayaking adventure was the race between boating teams to finish out the day. Calder and John won the race with Hugh and Marg in second! We ended the day with dinner by the beach and ice cream.

Our second day on Porto Santo consisted of coasteering, which involves hiking along the rocky coastline and swimming. Julia and George were the coasteering experts and made it up and down the steep canyon in no time. At the bottom of the canyon, we enjoyed lunch and an afternoon swim in the natural pools alongside the ocean. After a challenging morning, we all enjoyed some much-deserved relaxation by the beach. We enjoyed fresh fish sandwiches while soaking up the sun. It was another awesome day that ended with ice cream and Moonup!

This morning, we began our final day together with a snorkeling adventure. While snorkeling, we saw many colorful fish and even had the chance to touch an octopus named Arthur! We ate one of the famous local cuisines, Bolo do Caco, which is a traditional flatbread for lunch. After fueling up, we hit the town to shop and explore. Willy B and Aspen led some of the group to a jumping spot they found by the pier. Half of the group took the courageous jump to cool off and get one last dip in the sea before heading back to the States. We ended the afternoon with a delicious banquet meal in the town center. We all were happy and full as we headed out for the ferry ride back to Madeira. We spent the ferry ride on the desk of the boat watching the sunset and the coast of Porto Santo fade away. Once we arrived back in Funchal, we celebrated Nicholas’ 16th birthday with traditional gelato! We had one final Moonup in the town center before heading off to the airport.

John and I were both teary eyed waving goodbye to the kids. This was an incredibly special group and it was a true joy watching them all grow close and form friendships that will last a lifetime. Thank you all for sharing your wonderful kids with us. Without each of them, this group and experience wouldn’t have been what it was. They were all essential parts of this incredible group. We can’t wait to stay in touch and wish them well as they head into the rest of the summer and a new school year in the fall. We miss them already but know the memories made these past 17 days will last a lifetime!All the best,Hailey and John

Magical Moments in Madeira!

June 19, 2023

Wow! We’ve been even busier and having a blast! We have just finished up the canyoning and surfing sections of our trip and have never laughed harder or smiled bigger than we have these past few days. Canyoning or canyoneering is a water mountaineering activity that involves repelling, climbing, jumping, and swimming. After suiting up in our wet suits, harnesses, and helmets, we hit the river to begin this new adventure. Aspen, Allie, and Hunter had all done canyoning before, but the rest of us were in awe of how fun this activity was. A highlight from the first day on the river was the backwards slide with rushing water. After a morning full of fun, we headed into Funchal for a special local activity. On our drive into Funchal, our eyes remained glued to the window as we could see the city meet the Atlantic Ocean. The thrilling adventures continued as we climbed into toboggan sleds and were pushed down the winding city streets. As we slid down the pavement during this unique Madeira tradition, we once again were struck by the beautiful views of the city and ocean below. Walker, Hunter, and Hailey shared a toboggan and were still laughing and smiling ear to ear once the ride was over. It was truly the perfect day in Madeira!


Canyoning on day two consisted of longer repels and more challenging obstacles. Nicholas led the pack the entire day with George and Willy B close behind. Allie impressed us all with her cannon ball technique and won the biggest splash contest with ease. It was another awesome day on the river and John, Willy B, and Calder all agreed that it was their favorite part of the trip so far!


After a quick ride out of the city, we arrived at our home for the next few days, the quaint surf town of Porto da Cruz. Porto da Cruz is a small, beach town with breathtaking views of the ocean. We stayed just steps away from the water and took every opportunity we could to swim and jump into the ocean! We spent a day rock climbing and swimming in a beautiful cove. Aspen proved to be a rock-climbing wizard as he easily scaled up the hardest climbing route in under three minutes! Nicholas, Aspen, Hugh, George, and Willy B stayed by the rock face all afternoon to concur the hardest routes. We were so impressed by their desire and determination to ascend the challenge.


The fun in the sun continued with our first surfing lesson the following morning! Before hitting the water, Julia mentioned that she wasn’t sure surfing was her thing, but by the time the lesson was over, she had caught the most waves of anyone and said it was her favorite activity! We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the beach and swimming in the sea. We ended our evening with a fun, competitive game of soccer. Calder and Aspen were the MVPs of their teams and Hugh being named top defender. It was an intense and hilarious game that had us all on the floor laughing.


On our second day of surfing, Margaret and Calder stole the show! They both displayed their phenomenal surfing skills and Marg even surfed backwards! Walker was the last out of the water as she wanted to catch every wave possible. This group loved surfing and it was a blast watching them improve from the first day. Everyone was able to catch their own waves by the end of the lesson! Hugh and John led some of the group on an afternoon exploration of an abandoned fort on the top of town. Many of us ended our afternoon by plunging into the ocean from a popular jumping rock near our hostel.


As we embark on our last few days of the trip, John and I wanted to say thank you for sharing your wonderful children with us these past two weeks. They are a very special group, and it has been a joy watching each of them grow and seeing this crew come together. We have loved soaking in everything this beautiful island has to offer alongside all of them. They’ve kept us laughing and smiling and we can’t wait to finish out this trip with sea kayaking, coasteering, and snorkeling in Porto Santo! Here are a few words from our crew:




Hunter: thanks Dad for creating an amazing opportunity for me and everyone around me. Thanks Hailey and John for being the most awesome leaders ever.


Julia: Thanks to Mom and Dad for letting me come on this trip! I miss you guys and I love you.


Willy B: thank you so much for letting me go on this trip. I am having a lot of fun and making a lot of great friendships.


Nico: Thank you for letting me have this great opportunity!


Margaret: thanks for sending me on this trip!


Aspen: Thank you for this opportunity!


Hugh: Thank you for letting me have this great opportunity! I miss my cats.


Calder: thank you for sending me to the island of Madeira. Big shout out to boss man.


Allie: thanks for letting me go on this trip! I’m having so much fun!! I miss mab & haz.


Walker: Thanks fam! I’m having the best time!


George: Thanks for this opportunity. I’m having fun



Much love, Hailey and John

Mountains and More in Madeira!

June 14, 2023

Hello again family and friends!

We just finished our trekking section of the trip, and it was AMAZING! Some of the prettiest views and moments in nature we have ever experienced. We have loved watching this group connect over the past few days and we are even more excited for what is to come! After a very sunny first day on the trail, Margaret found aloe plants to help soothe our skin. We also quickly discovered how fresh and delicious the produce is in Madeira. The tomatoes at dinner the first night were so good that Julia, Hailey, and John ate them like apples! We finished our first night of trekking with Moonup on the beach, at a spot where the newest Star Wars was filmed, as the sun set. It was a special way to begin this section of our trip. Despite the second day of trekking beginning in the rain, the group showed a great tolerance for adversity and kept the positive vibes going with a pre-trail dance party. One of our LODs for the day, Hunter, shared an encouraging quote that said you believe you’re 70% of what you actually are. This resonated with all as we were prepared to tackle whatever was in front of us! After a 9 mile day, the group enjoyed a delicious pasta dinner to fuel up for the next day.

Although our plans for day three of trekking changed due heavy rainfall in Madeira last week, it ended up being one of the most fun days on the trail! One of the many highlights of the day was the hiking in ancient tunnels through the Madeira mountains. The trek ended with ice cream and lots of laughs thanks to Hugh and his constant energy and jokes. We all enjoyed playing football at our campsite and filled up on delicious Mexican bowls. George and Calder perfected the grilled chicken and Allie used her secret rice recipe to create the perfect meal to end a great day.On the fourth day of trekking, we summited the highest peak in Madeira! Nicholas, Julia, and Aspen led the pack as we made our way to the top. After ascending through the clouds, we reached the top of Pico Ruivo and admired the stunning 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and valleys peeking through the clouds. Our hard work throughout the trekking section was rewarded with a relaxing night at a beautiful bread and breakfast. We all enjoyed much needed showers and a comfy bed!

Days five and six were shorter trekking days but equally as challenging with significant elevation gain and loss. Throughout the trekking section, the whole group has fed off Willy B and Walker’s optimism and excitement for each day! We start our first day of canyoneering tomorrow and can’t wait to tackle this new adventure together! Here are a few words from our crew! Also a big happy early Father’s Day to all of the Moondance Dads, we are so thankful for you!


Hailey and John


Walker: hey fam! I miss y’all! I’m having fun! Love you!

Hunter: hey fam squad! I miss y’all. I’m trying new foods, please give the dogs hugs! Love y’all!

Hugh: hi to my family and my cats. I can’t wait to see y’all in Lisbon!

George: I’m having fun. About to start canyoneering. I’m hyped for it.

Willy B: hey parents! I’m having a lot of fun and feeling great. Could you switch my flight to the one Calder is on? I miss lulu. I plan to fish the tournament on the 23rd.

Allie: Hey everyone! Having so much fun. Miss y’all and tell the dogs I miss them too!

Margaret: happy birthday Christoph! I’m having a lot of fun! Hi Mom and dad and Phillip!

Calder: hola familia! I’m having a great time and I haven’t eaten gluten! Celia has stayed away. Give Sadie a hug!

Aspen: hey family! I’m having a blast and I’m doing great! Happy Father’s Day!

Nicholas: hi

Julia: sup King dynasty. I’m having fun! Miss you!

Exciting First Day Complete!

June 8, 2023

Olá from Madeira! We are so excited to be here! Our journey began in Miami airport where most of our group arrived and flew together to Lisbon. George kick-started the group bonding with the football he packed for everyone to throw around in the airport. After meeting up with Nicholas and Calder after our arrival in Lisbon, our group finally felt complete! It was so special to finally have everyone together! It was a quick and stunning flight into Funchal and our adventure was officially underway! Our first stop of the trip was at the Porto Moniz natural swimming pools. On our drive over, Calder commented on the surrounding and said, “it’s so lush” and Willy B (William) said, “this is sick!” They couldn’t have described the island any better. Green mountains were met by the clouds in the sky and the blue ocean below. We were all in awe of how beautiful this island is. The Porto Moniz natural swimming pools were incredible and more fun than any of us could have imagined! George and Aspen were the first to jump off the diving board into the ocean. The rest of the group followed suit and even when everyone had dried off, Walker, Calder, and Hunter rallied for a few more turns off the diving board! The water was crystal clear and so refreshing after a long travel day! After our first showers since being in the States, Hunter and Margaret lifted the vibes with their guitar playing while we waited for dinner. On our way home from dinner, we were caught in a sudden but brief tropical rain shower. Allie led the pack while we ran up the hill back to our hostel. We all got soaked, but by the time we made it to the top of the hill, the rain had cleared to reveal a magical double rainbow. It was the perfect ending to a joyous first full day in Madeira. Tomorrow we begin our trekking section of the trip where will spend the next six days hiking across the island and exploring all that the mountainous area of Madeira has to offer. Our inaugural leaders of the day (LODs) are Julia and Hugh. They have already begun to lead this group with their positivity and big hearts. This is an awesome group of kids and can’t wait to watch this group grow closer throughout the next section of our trip.


Talk soon!

-Hailey and John

Made it to Madeira!

June 7, 2023

Hello Madeira Families!

We heard from our leaders this morning and the group has landed safely in Madeira! 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!

-Moondance HQ


  • Allie
  • Aspen
  • George
  • Hugh
  • Hunter
  • Julia
  • Margaret
  • Nicholas
  • Calder
  • Crawford
  • Walker
  • William