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Madeira 3 • July 12-July 28, 2023

Bittersweet Goodbye's

July 28, 2023

Chão Madeira! It is with heavy hearts that we write to you for one final time. We are on our way back home with stories to tell and memories to last a lifetime! Although we are all sad to leave, we have had the best time! Our final few days were some of the best as they were filled with the white sand beaches and crystal clear waters of Porto Santo. We took a ferry over from Madeira to Porto Santo to spend the final few days of our trip on this beautiful beach island. Over the past few days we have spent time on the beach, filled out bellies with ice cream, sea kayaked, snorkeled, paddle boarded, and explored the coast!

Our first day on Porto Santo was spent under the sun and in the ocean. After arriving, we immediately went to the beach to relax and jump off the pier. Alex and Kate were the first to jump from the pier and the rest of the group followed. We then headed down the beach to our sea kayak and stand up paddle board spot. Nan and Georgia proved to be pro paddle boarders as they easily pushed ahead on the SUP board. Max, Dottie, and McCord might have spent more time in the water than on their kayak, but the certainly were having a blast. Despite a small rain shower during our time on the water, the group maintained positive attitudes and everyone came out of the water laughing and smiling. We ended the day with a delicious pizza dinner and soft serve ice cream from the local stand in the town center. Our Moonup spot on Porto Santo is one of the very best of the whole trip. We closed out the day on the water as the sun was setting. It was a beautiful Moonup watching the sun set and the stars come out.

We enjoyed warm, fresh chocolate croissants for breakfast before heading into town to shop, explore, and enjoy some more beach time. Jackson purchased a full new outfit and many of the girls found new bathing suits to wear for the day! We then headed to the natural pools along the coast of Porto Santo to spend the afternoon coasteering. Coasteering involves walking and climbing along the coast and jumping and swimming in clear natural pools along the Atlantic. The water was so clear that Abigail was able to capture some pretty funny moments under water with her GoPro! In one of the natural pools, Reed, Mac, and Jackson discovered that if you swim up to the rock wall edge, you could wait for the waves to come over and push you back out into the pool. After watching their faces fill with joy, the rest of the group joined in on the fun. We all sat facing the ocean waiting for the next big wave to come in push us all around. Spending time in the natural pools, being pushed by the waves, exploring under water with our goggles, and diving for rocks all made us feel like we were little kids again. It was a magical feeling. This was one of the highlights of the whole trip as everyone laughed, swam, smiled, and truly felt care free. The day ended with dinner at one of the oldest restaurants in Porto Santo where we enjoyed trying traditional Portuguese dishes. Mac, McCord, and Max ordered a famous Madeiran dish of meat on a stick. It was hit! We of course followed up dinner with ice cream at the local ice cream stand and Moonup at sunset on the beach. It was another wonderful day in Porto Santo!

Our final day together began again with warm, fresh chocolate croissants, our new favorite way to start the day! We spent the morning snorkeling and admiring schools of fish and bright star fish! After snorkeling we went back to the beach for more relaxing and pier jumping! After soaking up our last hours of sun on the beach, we had a delicious banquet dinner before getting on the ferry back to Funchal. We had an incredibly special final Moonup in the heart of Funchal. Our LODs did the day, Finley and McCord coordinated a wonderful Moonup with thoughtful quotes and meaningful questions. Finley captured our bittersweet feelings best when she said that although we shouldn’t cry because it’s over, and rather she would smile because it happened that the tears were also indicators of how much fun we had. We closed out Moonup with Kate singing and playing our group song, Revival, on the guitar. We had one last group sing along before heading to the airport to begin our travels home.

We can’t believe how fast these last 17 days have flown by. John and I couldn’t have had a better group to close out of final session in Madeira with. This group grew incredibly close throughout the past seventeen days and their bond is something special. There is no doubt in my mind that each person created memories that will last a lifetime. I also am confident that this group will stay tight knit even as they make their ways back to their respective homes across the states.

It was a blast having each and everyone of them along for fun, laugher, and adventure in Madeira. We will miss this crew so much! Thank you again for sharing your wonderful kids with us!All the best,Hailey and John

Surfing and Sunshine!

July 25, 2023

Surfing and Sunshine!

John and I wanted to start out by saying thank you for sharing your wonderful kids with us. These past two weeks have been nothing short of amazing and we can’t wait to soak up our final days with this crew. Each person in this group adds so much and they have grown so close. It truly has been a blast having each and every one of them along for the adventures in Madeira!

We have just finished up our final days on Madeira and we are headed to the island of Porto Santo to finish out the last few days of the trip! These past few days have been a blast and filled with so much fun and adventure. We spent two days canyoning, a day rock climbing, and two days surfing. Before we began our first day of canyoning, we had a delicious breakfast that included fresh chocolate croissants and fruit. Nan said the grapes were the best she’s ever had in her life! We began with canyoneering level one, and all learned the basics in the river. Kate was our canyoneering queen and easily took on each repel and obstacle! After a wonderful day in the river, we enjoyed a much-needed snack break filled with French fries and the traditional Madeiran soda, Apple Brisa. We played cards while warming up in the sun. This first Uno match created a group love and competitiveness for the game. We have played countless Uno games in the past few days! For dinner we had a special traditional dish: beef picado, and everyone loved it!

Our second day of canyoneering included more jumps, repels, and slides! We had a biggest splash content in the water and Reed’s cannon ball won by a long shot. The grand finale of this level was a two-part jump and slide at the end. Everyone in the group loved this obstacle. Max, Reed, Alex, Mac, and McCord all loved the jump so much that they hiked back up to jump three times! We transferred to our new home for the next three days in a small beach town and spent the afternoon exploring. We ate a delicious dinner at a local restaurant right next to our hostel and ended the day with a fun and competitive game of soccer. Abigail and McCord were the soccer stars and we all had a blast playing against each other. It was a wonderful day filled with so much joy.

Our next adventure was a day of rock climbing and swimming. The rock wall is situated facing the coast and the views were incredible. Everyone attempted the rock walls, and we were able to see Georgia show us her phenomenal skill. Finley, Mac, and Georgia all completed the hardest routes! After climbing and taking a dip in the ocean below, the boys played cards while the girls soaked up the sun. We spent the evening playing multiple intense games of Uno, it truly has become a group favorite! We had another wonderful day in Madeira!

Day one of surfing was a hit and everyone crushed it in the water. Dottie and McCord both had the waves of the day, and they surfed them all the way into the beach. The sun came out as we were hitting the water and it was such a fun and adventurous morning in the waves. We fueled up after surfing with a delicious brunch and spent the afternoon soaking up the sun at the nearby pool. We ended our afternoon as we do most days in this beach town, with the jumping spot at the port. We have quite a few adrenaline junkies in the group who could jump for hours. Jackson kept us all entertained at the jumping spot with his countless funny dives and jumps! The jumping spot is a group favorite and always great fun!

Today was our second day of surfing. We woke up to blue skies, the sun shining, and birds chirping! We had an even better day on the water and every single person caught multiple waves!! We had to drag Mac, Alex, Dottie, Abigail, and Jackson out of the water when it was time to leave. We devoured homemade mac and cheese for lunch and headed back to our favorite jumping spot for the afternoon. We soaked up the sun, played football, read our books, and of course spent hours jumping off the port. The day ended with a cooking class at our hostel! We made Arepas, a traditional dish, and filled them with beef, ham, and cheese. They were incredible and Nan was the star of the cooking class with her arepa making skills! We are hitting the hay with full bellies and happy hearts. We can’t believe that we only have a few days left with this amazing crew. It truly has been a blast and we are soaking up every minute! Thank you again for sharing your wonderful kids with us – they are hilarious, and we are all having a ton of fun. Here are a few words for the crew!

Thank you + Shoutouts!

Nan: Thank you Mom for this experience. I’m having the best time. Love you! I’m never leaving!

Mac: hey mom and dad. I’m having the beta time. I’m so thankful for all that y’all for me.

Kate: thank you mom and dad for letting me go on another Moondance, I love it! Y’all are the best.

Alex: thank you mom and dad for sending me on another Moondance. I’m really grateful for it. I hope y’all are having a great time.

Georgia: thanks mom and dad for letting me come to Madeira. I never want to leave!

Reed: Thank you mom and dad!!

Finley: thank you mom and dad for letting me come to Madeira. I love it here!

Abigail: thank y’all for letting me have this awesome experience. I love Madeira and you!

Max: hey mom and dad. Thank you for letting me travel to Madeira. I’m having an awesome time and can’t wait to share my amazing experiences. Love you!

Dottie: thank you mom and dad for sending me on this amazing trip! Can’t wait to see y’all!

Jackson: thank you mom and dad for giving me the opportunity to visit such a cool and interesting place. Love you!

McCord: hey mom and dad. Love and miss y’all. Thank you for allowing me to come on this trip. Having a great time!

Trekking in the Clouds!!

July 19, 2023

Hello again from Madeira! Since we last updated you, we have trekked over 35 miles across the island. This group has overcome challenges, pushed themselves, and become so close. Our second day of trekking was challenging but rewarding. We went to the 25 fountains waterfall and enjoyed lunch above the clouds. We had a relaxing and silly lunch break that has been a highlight of the trip. We enjoyed each others company while fueling up for the afternoon portion of our trek. We had a fun photo shoot before continuing the trek. After pushing ourselves all day, we enjoyed a warm and delicious pasta dinner.


Despite day three of trekking starting in the rain, it was one of the our favorite days. Max, Georgia, McCord, Kate, and Mac lifted the energy at the start of the trek with a sing along. The whole group joined in during one of our tunnel crossings and we all sang our hearts out to Let It Go from Frozen. During our trek, we used our headlamps to cross through two tunnels. Getting to go under the mountains alongside the Levadas the natural water ducts in the mountains of Madeira, was a highlight of everyone’s trek! We had a delicious surprise stop at the end of our trek for hot chocolate and fries to warm us up. After arriving at camp, we were lucky enough to hear Georgia and Kate sing and play the guitar. They are both incredibly talented and it was a true treat to hear them share this with all of us! It was a day filled with lots of singing, yummy food, and great company.


We had an early wake up call the next day to begin our trek to the highest point in Madeira, Pico Ruivo. Abigail brought the good vibes with her dance move that is used to check everyone’s energy. Throughout the day the energy scale and dance move only got bigger as we neared the peak. It was another cloudy day but the group kept the excitement high. We listened to music throughout our hike which helped us all make it to the top. The whole group made it to the top and we are so proud of them! They gained over 4,000 feet of elevation in one day. We celebrated with lunch and chocolate at the top. After trekking down from the summit, we arrived at our mountain shelter for the evening. We enjoyed a much needed and well deserved shower. At Moonup we saw the real Finley come out with her one of a kind laugh. It was the silliest Moonup and we all couldn’t stop laughing.


Yesterday, we trekked to the third highest peak in Madeira, Pico Arieiro. It was by far the most beautiful trek and we were all so excited to see the blue sky and mountains during our trek. Nan kept everyone’s spirits high during the challenging trek and Max and McCord kept us laughing. Alex was the first to make it to the top of the peak and we all enjoyed lunch and ice cream in the sun after arriving. We finished our day by trekking down to our campsite right in the clouds. We warmed up with ramen for dinner and enjoyed good music and even better company. Reed and Jackson started a game of football after dinner and we enjoyed Moonup in the clouds.


Today we finished our trekking section with a shorter trek down to Funchal, the capital of Madeira. In the past 48 hours, we have gone from the highest peak in Madeira to the ocean! Dottie led the pack on the trek and the group was so excited to see the sleds that would take us down the rest of the way. There are traditional toboggans that glide down the streets and into the top of Funchal. We laughed our way down on toboggans and enjoyed the unique way to see the city below. After arriving in Funchal, we had delicious gelato and explored the city. We are now settling into the beautiful mountain cabins that we will call home for the next two days.


John and I are so proud of this group and how they tackled the challenging days of trekking. This group is extremely cohesive and close and it has been so much fun watching them all bond! We have laughed a lot and we can’t wait for more fun and adventures in the coming days. Here are a few words from our crew!


Sending our best from Madeira!!


Hailey and John




Dottie: dear Mom and Dad I love y’all very much and I miss y’all and I’m so excited to see yall. Please Prince and a cookie cake to the airport when you pick me up.


Nan: hi fam! Having the best time. Miss y’all love yall. $?!


Reed: hi mom and dad I’m having a lot of fun


Alex: hi guys. Having a great time. Stay safe and healthy love you. Bye!


Jackson: hi mom and dad. Having a great time! Love and miss you.


Max: Hey fam! Having an awesome trip. Can’t wait to see you. Hehehe


Georgia: hey fam. Madeira is amazing. Can you add money to my debit card? Love you. Hi John and Michael it’s Hailey!


McCord. Hey everyone! Love y’all miss y’all. I need more euros 🙂 $


Kate: hey fam!! Love and miss y’all! Having lots of fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! $?


Abigail: hi momma and pops. Y’all would love it here. I love and miss y’all so much.


Finley: hi guys. I’m having the best time in Portugal. Love and miss you. Hehehe 🙂 $?!


Mac: hey guys. Love y’all. Say hi to everyone. See y’all when I come back.


Hello from Madeira!

July 14, 2023

Hello from Madeira! All is well and we are so happy to be here! John and I met up with the group in Lisbon and we all enjoyed a beautiful flight over to Madeira. After meeting up with our wonderful outfitter team, we took a short transfer over to the coastal town of Porto Moniz. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the sun at the natural swimming pools. The diving board into the ocean was a huge hit, especially for Georgia and Max. We enjoyed a poolside lunch, and everyone got to try out the famous Madeira soda, Apple Brisa. Relaxing in the sun was just what we all needed after a long travel day!


We enjoyed a delicious dinner in town followed by the first of many ice cream stops of the trip. Dottie and Abigail both ironically dropped their ice cream cones within seconds of each other which provided lots of laughs. After dinner, we had a great first Moonup, a time where we come together each evening to reflect on the day and share about our lives. Georgia and Reed were named our first LODS, leaders of the day, and we all hit the hay early to catch up on some sleep and rest up for the first day of trekking!


Today was our first day of trekking! It was another beautiful and sunny day in Madeira. We started the day with a delicious traditional breakfast in town. Jackson and Mac were huge fans of breakfast, and most importantly orange juice. We have come to learn that every restaurant has fresh squeezed orange juice made from the most delicious oranges. It certainly isn’t a bad way to start the day! The first half of our hike was a little bit of a challenge due to the steepness. Finley and Alex led the pack up the hill, and Kate and Nan kept everyone’s spirits high. The views from the top of the hike made the challenge well worth it! After arriving at our campsite, we spent the afternoon swimming in the ocean and exploring the nearby beach. Georgia was the first one in the ocean and the rest of the group quickly followed suit. Swimming in the ocean was the perfect reward after hiking in the sun. Alex, Nan, Abigail, and Reed prepared a delicious feast of Mexican bowls. We enjoyed the delicious dinner and had a lovely Moonup.


Nan and McCord are our LODs for tomorrow as we continue into our trekking section. This group has already gotten so close and shared many laughs. John and I can’t wait to watch their bond continue to grow over the next several days of trekking. We are having a blast and the has only just begun! Talk soon!!



Hailey and John

Safely Arrived in Madeira!

July 13, 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


  • Kate
  • Mac
  • Max
  • McCord
  • Nan
  • Reed
  • Abigail
  • Alex
  • Dottie
  • Finley
  • Georgia
  • Jackson