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South Africa 1C • June 6-June 22, 2023

Group Hugs & Goodbyes

June 22, 2023

Hello for our final update!!

Day 13 – 6/19/23

Today we kicked off the day bright and early to get some morning action from the animals. The girls all trickled out of their tents to the main dining cabana all bundled up in their gear. We sipped on coffee and tea while enjoying a light breakfast before loading up the game vehicles. Our first stop this morning was to pay a visit to a super cool conservation project they are running here at Mobula. We had the pleasure of meeting a wildlife conservationist who introduced us to three ground hornbills that live on the property. She told us all about the bird species and their way of life, she started by blowing a whistle and the birds came soaring in from the trees. These birds are giant black birds with a red neck. These birds prefer to walk along the bush floor and only fly when necessary. We saw how Mabula helps to facilitate a natural breeding process for these birds by making and planting manmade nests for the birds to take too. This has been a trial-and-error process over the past few years, and they have found a great success rate. They also work save, raise, and protect baby birds that might not survive and then work to re-introduce the birds into their natural habitat once the bird is strong and accepted by the others. It was great to be able to get out of the trucks and walk around and learn about their natural habitat and all the work Mobula does to help this endangered species. Next, we went to a beautiful lookout picnic spot to enjoy a more fulfilling breakfast. The girls (especially Sims and Campbell) loved the lemon poppyseed muffins. While eating we all laughed and sang songs, starting with Harper who performed a full one man show of songs from Hamilton. This soon led to the whole group breaking out into different High School Musial songs. The day was still young, so we headed back out to see if any animals were out and about looking for breakfast as well.  On our ride we stumbled upon a group of 5 giraffes! The giraffes stuck around allowing us to snap picture and chat to them. The group includes two large adult female, one adult male, and two youth males. It was beautiful to witness the animals in their natural habitat, they played, ate, and even ran! When running, Campbell and Palmer noticed how it looked like they were running in slow motion, and this is because they move both their front two feet and back two feet together at the same time. After moving on from the giraffes the next animal we saw were rhinos! At first, we only spotted two rhinos, one mother and child, then before we knew it three more rhinos joined in to graze on the same field. We parked the vehicles and watched as these special animals enjoyed breakfast and before we knew it, they were crossing directly in front of our vehicle! Jaws dropped open, eyes opened wide, and excitement was running through our veins we sat still and silently as they wondered past unbothered by our presents. Once returning to camp we enjoyed some journaling, reading and game time by the pool and beautiful game view. At lunch we all munched on same homemade veggie lasagna and the most amazing avocado and tomato salad that has been an ongoing fan favorite. Jake and I informed the group that they were in for a special fun afternoon and to get pumped!!! This afternoon we had the opportunity to work closely with the vet team, conservation efforts, management, and transportation teams to assist animals! Today’s efforts were focused on relocating zebras and eland. The zebra and eland populations have began to grow to large here at Mabula, especially with male domination. When this occurs, it can throw off the balance of the environment as well as cause turmoil within herds causing the males to fight for dominance leading to negative outcomes. Therefore, Mobula has partnered with other game reserve properties that would benefit by adding these animals onto their land. This whole process helps increase the biodiversity, create stronger genes and create safer environments for all the animals in the area. The girls were able to participate hands on in this protect! First the team brought out a Zebra and we were able to help give the zebra medical attention before he was transferred. Violet even got to give the zebra an antibiotic shot! Next, we saw a massive eland. With him we learned about the different tick species that the vets were treating and how you can tell his age based on his teeth. Also, the vets showed us the different types of trucks based the distance of trip and what animal they are transporting. Every member of the team we were working with was eager to get the girls involved and were so knowledgeable! It was such an honor to be able to learn from them. Once the excitement ended our group got back on our game vehicles and got the pleasure of continuing a drive through the game! We stopped for a snack stop and enjoyed a spectacular view of the sunset and mountains. When we got back to camp the girls all sparked up a group game of wave length! We all snuggled around the fire and played until dinner was served. For dinner we had a stir fry pasta dish. Campbell was absolutely obsessed!!! To our surprise we were treated to mini lemon pies and hot cocoa to sip on around the fire during Moonup. Harper and Gracie put on a silly skit that got everyone laughing to kick off Moonup. Samantha and Harper graciously lead us through one of our last Moonup’s of the session. Tomorrow, we have another exciting day working with the Vets and we can’t wait to see what opportunity await us.

Day 14 6/20

Another early morning to get involved with the vets and ecologists. We woke up just before sunrise to grab a light breakfast and meet with the reserve manager Ivan. Ivan briefed us on today’s activities. The girls shrieked with excitement; we were about to join the vets on two rhino darting! We finished our coffee and ran to the game vehicles ready for this once in a lifetime opportunity. We headed out to catch up with the rhinos. We located them not far from camp, out grazing in an open plain. The vet, Andy, explained to all of us why the darting was happening. Andy’s team had several procedures to execute to take care of this rhino. They planned to attach a new collar, administer some medicine, take some blood samples, and measure the rhino. Each one of these procedures is critically important to the rhino’s health and safety and to further collect data on the rhino population at Mabula. The girls were so excited and each eagerly volunteered to assist with one of the procedures. Violet, Maya, and Campbell were lucky enough to join the vet and his team in their truck to get an up-close experience of the entire process. The vet team went ahead and the rest of us followed closely behind. We arrived to the plain and quickly spotted the target rhino. The vet and his team moved in for the darting. The rhino ran around for a little after being darted before stopping for a quick second then it took off and ran towards the thick brush. The medicine takes a few minutes to kick in, so the team needed to act quickly to find the rhino. The vets were worried about the way the rhino would lay down, since they are such large creatures, the weight of their body and compress their diaphragm and make it difficult to breathe. A high-speed chase followed the darting to locate our rhino. The vet and his team along with Violet, Maya, and Campbell found him first and had to immediately jump into action. The rest of the group was a little behind since we had to get a much bigger truck through the brush. Campbell was placed on collar duty; she assisted an ecologists with placing the collar on the rhino. Maya and Violet handled the measuring of the rhino, they measured everything from length to height and even took measurements of its horn. Samantha jumped in to help administer an anti-parasitic medicine all over the rhinos skin to help him fight off any parasites he had. We all had the chance to feel the rhino’s tough skin as well as its horn. The vet team was flawless in their execution even in these difficult circumstances. The team each had their responsibilities, executed, and got out to wake the rhino up and let him back into the bush. It was the coolest experience to be a part of and were in shock the rest of the day. We did not do a second darting since the vets said the behavior of the other rhinos after the first darting was high stress, so they would help that rhino another day. We did a lap of the plain before heading back to camp for brunch. We got to hang out at camp in the late morning until brunch was served. After brunch we had the girls write letters to themselves and fill out a Moondance staple about 20 things they want to do in their lifetime. It was a peaceful time of reflection and making goals for our future selves as our spectacular trip together was ending. Before heading out on our last game drive, Michael surprised us with chocolate milkshakes! We slurped them down, grabbed our warm clothes, and headed out into the bush one last time. We were on the prowl for the elephants and wild dogs, two animals we had not had visuals of just yet. The elephants were last spotted way on the other side of the reserve, so we took off to find them. After a long but unbelievably scenic route to the other side of the reserve we still did not find the elephants. We had a quick bathroom stop near a pond before continuing on. Everyone got out to stretch their legs and Jake started a game of tag! We all ran around the small little opening belly laughing the whole game. It was such a blast getting some built up energy out of our system. We left to keep looking for elephants, but soon headed to our last game drive stop. We had our game drive stop on top of a mountain that overlooked a stunning view of the reserve. We took some last group pictures, had way too much fun singing Disney songs, and of course indulged in the pretzels and soft drinks provided. Harper continued to serenade us with all sorts of songs and dances. We packed up and headed out to continue our search. A sighting came in on the radio and we quickly drove to the spot.  It was the wild dogs! There was a pack of about 10 dogs trotting all along the road. They walked right past our vehicle! The sun was setting which meant it was time to head home for dinner. We arrived at camp welcomed by Lucas with fresh juice. Tonight, we were having an African braai in the Boma. We had chicken, ribs, and sausage on top of avocado salad and soup. It was such a great meal! Gracie surprised the girls with little tiaras, South Africa flag key chains, and little notebooks for everyone to write a note to each other after dinner. We sat around the fire with our chocolate cake desserts after dinner passing notebooks and writing heartfelt notes to our new best friends. It was such a beautiful moment. After writing notes it was time for Moonup. Campbell and Avery did such a good job picking out a quote and questions for our last one. One question was “what was your funniest moment from the trip” and everyone had so many stories to recount we were allllll belly laughing. It was such a bittersweet moment wrapping up Moonup. We closed with one big group hug, a hug none of us will soon forget. We all headed off to bed with tears in our eyes as we knew what came with tomorrow, but we all had so much to smile about from our new best friends to getting out of our comfort zones to living in the moment and experiencing the trip of a lifetime. What a blessing SAF 1C girls are, sending them back home tomorrow, each one is so excited to tell all friends and family about this amazing trip.

Day 15 6/21

The day we we have all been dreading is officially upon us 🙁 our last morning together was quite peaceful and allowed all to cherish each other’s presence. This morning Harper and Gracie thought it would be silly to put on bright red lip stick and act as if nothing was different about their appearance. This had the whole group slightly confused but laughing very hard. We all enjoyed our last cups of Mabula wonderful hot cocoa and cappuccinos on this cold morning. The sunrise was beautiful as always, but especially special this final morning with shades of pink, orange and blue. Our Safari guides Thabo and Tiaan came and wished the girls fair well and safe travels. This touched all our hearts because of all the fun memories we created while being driven around the bush, these two will be very missed by all the girls. We were served one last spectacular hot breakfast and all traded our favorites of course. Once we concluded breakfast, we gave the girls the opportunity to learn about some of the trips they could possible go on next summer. This got the girls day dreaming of new adventures! We then checked out of Mobula Lodge and loaded up the vans and headed off to the airport for some last hoorah moments. The girls were all so helpful when we needed to carry the group gear inside and this just exemplified how much they have grown over the past 2 weeks as a group and individuals. When we got to City lodge, we were all in super silly goofy moods and shared so many giggles. The girls were ready for lunch so we dropped our bags and headed to the food court. Sims and Violet lead the group through looking at all the options and then made. Group decisions on two spots to eat. Half of the girls got chicken and the other half got burgers, but they ALL got milkshakes of course. The milkshakes were in the big old fashion cups with whip cream and rainbow marshmallows – such a treat! Once we finished up, we headed back to regroup and finish up some end of the session paper work. Our time was coming to a near ending and none of us wanted to admit it. We took the girls to the bookstore and Palmer of course intensely browed the isle to find the best book for the flight. Once the girls were all situated and pleased with their puraches we headed to check in. The girls at this point are all professional work travelers and went through the check in processes seamlessly, especially Maya who knew exactly what to do! Once the girls were all checked in we found a spot to sit and have one last Moonup. Sims shared a beautiful quote about friendship and our inseparable bonds we’ve created that we could all now so perfectly relate to. We all shared what we were looking forward to this summer and our core favorite moments of the trip. We shared many laughs as well as happy tears. Lastly we all gave hugs and even more hugs, and hugs again as well as group hugs until it was unfortunately time for the girls to leave us. Jake and I are sure that the girls will continue to share many laughs during their travels but it won’t be the same.

From the bottom of our hearts, it has been the greatest joy leading this phenomenal group of girls. We miss them already but cannot wait to reconnect when we are back home and hear about all the exciting things they have been up to. Samantha, Harper, Sims, Violet, Maya, Caroline, Campbell, Palmer, and Avery, we love you, we miss you, and we cannot wait to see you again.


Newly Certified Girl Dad aka Jake and Proud Mom aka Gracie signing off from a trip of a lifetime!

Cooking with Coconuts!!

June 19, 2023

Hello again South Africa Families and Friends!!!!

Today is our last day in Mozambique and our itinerary is much different from the previous two days; today we have the opportunity to learn more about Mozambique traditions and immerse ourselves into the culture. Our group started with a slower morning, jamming out to Morgan Wallen while the girls woke up, got ready, brushed their teeth and more. We made our way up the sunrise deck to enjoy our final prepared breakfast at Talika lodge. This morning we enjoyed chocolate and sugary crepes, fruit, yogurt, and cereal. Palmer and Maya conducted morning huddle letting everyone know that we had the chance to attend a local market full of rich culture through art and food, as well as attend a cooking class led by a local family. All the girls got dressed and ready for the day and met down at the beach for a group yoga session to kick off today’s activities. Gracie began the yoga flow by having the girls do some yoga poses, stretches, plank, and try balancing poses! Maya impressed all of us with her balancing ability in all the one-legged poses. Harpers flexibility came in handy for all the stretching positions and every girl truly gave it their all! I was so impressed and loved having this moment to share my love for yoga and fitness with the girls! Everyone was feeling lively, limber, and ready to tackle the day. First, we headed to the market and got to ‘travel like locals’ in the back of a truck bed. Once we got to the market it had just opened so it was quiet and calm, just perfect for our group to enjoy. The market was full of beautiful canvas oil paintings, sculptures, pottery, carvings, jewelry, clothes and so much more. The girls were given time to browse around to look at all their options and decide what they want to purchase if they were to do so. Palmer of course got some super cute, beaded necklaces! Many of the girls got gifts for their parents and friends (but I will keep that a surprise). The locals were all very appreciative of the girl’s business and shared many thanks for their support. Once we finished our time at the market, we made our way to Tofo Scuba for a delicious lunch, todays meal was fresh chicken sandwiches with salad and fries, Yum!

After lunch, the whole group had our last beach walk back to our home base Talika lodge to get ready for the afternoon. While we waited for our guide the girls sat around a big picnic table chatting and listening to music while Jake and I both danced like crazy people. Sims shared she was getting secondhand embarrassment from our dancing, and of course this made us keep dancing. During this time we all giggled together as we soaked up our last day of warm beach weather together. Our guide Big Tony arrived, and it was time for our walking tour and cooking class! As we walked, we learned about different buildings and homes along the way as well as plant life in the area. One of Tony’s friends showed us the traditional way of getting a coconut out of a tree and he scaled the whole thing to the top and began to twist the coconuts until they fell down to the ground! He was able to stay up there with his strength for so long. The girls were given the chance to climb the palm tree themselves! Campbell jumped right up and climbed as high as her air force ones would allow. They showed us the traditional way of opening a coconut and let us all drink the fresh water straight from the coconut. Tony then showed us his family garden where they grow fresh produce that they use every day in recipes. His garden was very impressive and had a variety of food sources; including a cashew nut tree, banana plants, tomatoes, potatoes, matapa, berries and more. We learned about the matapa plant and leaves and how they use it to cook. The matapa leaf and roots can be used for a variety of different purposes. One aspect of the culture and cooking standards here is the importance of zero waste. For example, when using a coconut in a recipe they will ensure that they dedicate a purpose to each part of the nut; the water will be drank, the meat can be shaved down or eaten raw, the inside can be turned into milk and the outer shell will be used as fire wood. This is such an admirable practice and makes the food preparation process so special, I am hopeful the girls gained a new perspective from watching this in real life. Now for the fun, the girls turn to participate in cooking! Tony had some family members show us all how to cook the traditional dish and even gave us the opportunity to try it! Maya was always eager to get involved and her spirit and attitude for getting involved is so contagious! Using all traditional methods, we crushed nuts up into a soft powder, shaved the coconut meat, milked the coconut, and then finally mixed it with ground matapa leaf and heated it together. These processes made a dish called matapa which can be eaten as a soup, on rice, with potatoes and more! Next the group made a traditional cookie! These cookies were a light fluffy dough with coconut pieces. They formed the dough like pizza dough and could make any shapes they desired. Palmer and Avery got super creative making snowmen, flowers, lampposts, twisty ties and more. To bake these cookies, they use a method that involves the coconut shell, they place the cookies in a large pot cover it with a large lid and place the smoking fiery coconuts in the top to heat the bowl below. While we waited for our food to heat and bake, we huddled together for a group game! This got the girls active and smiling especially sims who took the game very seriously. Once the food was ready the family was so kind to have given us a proper traditional experience for a meal in Mozambique. They treated the group to matapa rice, crabs, pineapple, and our cookies. We were blown away by the meal and so appreciative to the family for giving us such a beautiful display. The girls gobbled down everything and everyone loved the meal! Especially Campbell, who loved the pineapple! Through this experience we were able to see a beautiful display of community, sustainability, family, and love that is all a part of the Mozambique culture. We are all so thankful for this wonderful experience.

Once we returned to home base it was time for the girls to get ready for this evening’s surprise! The girls changed into water shoes, grabbed a sweatshirt and we were off. After a short walk until we hit water’s edge, the girls were still clueless as to what we would embark on next. We revealed that we would be going in a traditional Dhow sailboat ride for sunset! The Dhow boat is a small wooden boat with a sail that is manually powered by pushing a large bamboo stick through the mud to move the boat. Dhow boats are typically only used in mangrove areas that have fluctuating tides. This boat ride was a magical moment for the whole group. We listened to slow jams, took photos, and chatted as we made our way through the calm waters. The sunset was spectacular with shades of orange, yellow, purple and blow light up the sky and reflect perfectly down on the ocean below. We watched as the sunset just got more breath taking as each moment passed and sat mesmerized by the beauty of the world around us. We returned to the lodge for our last meal which was followed by brownies and ice-cream that put big smiles on everyone’s faces! We concluded our last night at Tofo beach with Moonup under the stars on the beach. Running around the beach in the dark all dancing and laughing put the cherry on top of this special day. We are so thankful for our time in Mozambique at Tofo beach and our grateful for all the memories we created here. Next stop, Safari time!

This morning we had an early wake up to say goodbye to beautiful Tofo Beach. The girls were said to say goodbye to the warm sunshine and sandy beach but excited to head back into the bush to spot some more African game. This small beach town now had a special place in all of our hearts and we all hoped to be back soon one day. As we pulled out, the sun was coming up. We swung by the beach and caught a glimpse of an amazing sunrise, truly the best way to end such an amazing time at the beach. Still tired from the week, the girls settled in for the long ride back to the airport. Many continued to sleep during the first part of the trip and later opened up their books to continue their summer reads. Overall, a quiet and peaceful trip back to the airport. We arrived at the airport right on time. The girls, already professional travelers at this point, seamlessly went through check-in, security, and customs and we sat down at our gate. We had a short wait before the plane arrived and we were able to board. There was a small snack shop at the gate and many of the girls grabbed some chips and chocolates to munch on before getting on the plane. Soon enough, we were wheels up flying over the beautiful blue water of the Mozambique Coast. The flight was short and smooth, and we even caught a glimpse of some beautiful mountain tops. We landed back in Johannesburg and were picked up by the bus again! They drove us to the terminal, and we headed towards customs to get another stamp on our passports! Another seamless process through customs we were so proud of the girls. We ran to get our bags to and then were on our way to check in to our lovely hotel. We let the girls relax and hang out before we regrouped to game plan for dinner. LODs Violet and Campbell gauged the group and helped coordinate a dinner plan. Gracie and I were so proud of the girls on both travel days to and from Mozambique, and we decided to treat them to dinner at the hotel! We secured a table for the lot of us and all dived into reading the menu to pick out the best meal possible. We indulged on pastas, pizzas, and salads. It was DELICIOUS. We ate and left no crumbs. With almost full bellies, LODs led us through the airport shops on the hunt for something sweet. The girls stopped at Woolworth’s to grab desserts and snacks. It was such a fun night. You could tell the group was growing closer and closer together and it put a big ole smile on mine and Gracie’s face. We made our way back to the hotel to get ready for bed and Moonup. Violet and Campbell had some great questions for this Moonup. Samantha shared a story about her dog Banana that had all of us belly laughing! Sims and Avery were named LODs as we head into our first day of our final section of the trip. Talk again when we are back in the bush!

Back to the bush!! Today started off with another spectacular breakfast at City lodge, the breakfast buffet here is unbeatable! All the girls gathered around two tables and shared excitement for our new adventure onto the last portion of our trip. We packed up our bags and loaded up the vans to embark on our short road trip to Mobula private game reserve and lodge. The girls have all been quite the book worms during the drives and all spent this time reading their perspective novels. Many of the girls have been trading and sharing books which has been so fun. Once we arrived at Mobula game reserve we got a warm welcome from all the staff we would be working with over the next few days. We reserved a briefing from the managers while we enjoyed lunch! Lunch today was a buffet with burgers, salad toppings and chicken. Once we finished our briefing, we got into game vehicles to head to our new home base. We got a sneak peek game drive on our way to camp and saw giraffes, warthogs, wildebeest and more! Once we arrived, everyone was blown away by the accommodations. The room had a boho Safari theme with beautiful woven light fixtures, comfortable cushioned chairs and couches with wooden detailing. The view out the back of the hut is the most wonderful backdrop of endless game land. Today we could see a giraffe in the distance eating from the trees. The girls were shown to their perspective luxurious tented cabins that have a minimalist natural boho chic with a hint of the African culture vibe. Each room has three beds, a bathtub, outdoor shower, and more exciting details. We all felt right at home being back in our tented Safari camp! The girls all got settled in before we met back up at the pavilion for high tea! The staff provided us with a coffee machine to make our own cappuccinos and lattes complimented by some cookies and other snacks. We all sipped on our coffee and snacked on the treats excited for our final adventure in the bush. After high tea, it was time for our afternoon game drive. We all jumped in the Safari vehicles ready to explore a new landscape. The drive was spectacular! Mabula is positioned perfectly alongside the Waterberg Mountains so our Safari not only had amazing wildlife but also a phenomenal backdrop to all of our sightings. We stumbled upon a lot of wildlife and even ran into some rhinos wayyyyy across on the other side of a clearing. We had our usual stop for game drive snacks and soft drinks and watched the sun set behind the beautiful mountains. When we arrived back to camp, we had hot chocolate and a campfire waiting for us! What a treat! We sipped our hot chocolate and warmed up around the fire continuing to share stories and soak in the great company we had around us. Dinner tonight was chicken, potatoes, and vegetables with lentil soup! Delicious! We filled our bellies and ran back to circle around the fire for Moonup. Sims and Avery led a great first Moonup in our final destination, emphasizing our time together is almost over so we all need to live in the moment and make the most of the experiences we still had left. After Moonup, it was off to bed for some much needed rest before a bigggg day in the bush tomorrow!

Gooooooood morning and Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers of SAF 1C, we are all so thankful for each and every one of you and miss you all so so much! Gracie and I woke the girls up with some killer tunes. We had our own personal dance party out on the porch of the tents until the girls confirmed they were up and out of bed ready for the day! We started off with some coffee and breakfast. The girls are big fans of the coffee machine we have available to us. Breakfast was a classic English style breakfast with eggs, hash browns, sausage, ham, toast, tomato, and beans! After breakfast it was time to hit the road to catch up to one of the ecologists, Brian, for cheetah tracking. After a decent ride to meet Brian, we got out of the vehicles to walk to the cheetahs. Since the cheetahs have collars, the vets and conservationists are able to locate them when necessary. Brian had a big ole antenna with a radio that directed us towards the cheetahs. Within about 15 minutes we arrived at the scene. Brian began pointing to the cheetahs for everyone to catch a glimpse. We all looked far out towards the horizon expecting them to be a good distance away. However, when we looked just a few meters away from our own feet we found two cheetahs relaxing in the shade of a tree! It. Was. Wild. We were so close it felt like we could reach out and touch them! As we watched in complete awe of this moment, Brian educated us on the cheetah and their personality. Surprisingly enough, cheetahs and humans get along pretty well, which is why we could get as close as we did. The girls, with their jaws on the floor, snapped soooo many pictures and videos of this awesome moment. Another WOW moment in the books. We rotated around a bush to catch a glimpse of the other cheetah. He gave us a big stretch and yawn, and rolled around in the grass before sauntering over to join his brother by the tree. We were all in shock as we headed back to the truck. What a crazy encounter! We parted ways with Brian and the cheetahs and continued cruising the African Bush. We came across a group of 5 giraffes, some munching on a tree out in the clearing. We continued our drive until we came across Elephants deep in the bush. Our first elephant encounter! As we arrived at the sighting, we did not have a great visual, but all of us could see the outline of these large animals. They were not interested in us at all, and they made their way deeper into the bush and out of sight. We circled around to another road in the direction they were heading to park and wait for them to exit. We waited in silence, listening to the tree crushing steps of the elephants, as they waded their way through the brush. Sadly, they decided to hang out there for the time being, but it was time for us to get some lunch anyways. We had a surprise lunch in the bush at crocodile dam. No worries, no crocodiles were around, but we did see some hippos allll the way on the other side of the pond. Our first hippo sighting! After hearing these guys non stop at Little Mongena it was such a relief to finally see them. There was a group of 5 hanging out in the water and on the shoreline. They were huge! Avery’s binoculars finally came in handy, allowing everyone to catch a glimpse of the hippos. Lunch was a hit with the whole group. We had ham and cheese sandwiches with apples, bananas, and a muffin! After lunch we headed back to camp for a little rest and relaxation. The girls read, made friendship bracelets, and played some card games during this time. Pretty soon it was time for high tea! The girls all ran to grab another cappuccino or latte from the machine, and our coffee was complemented with some cookies, chocolate cake squares, and chicken nuggets. Campbell was the most excited about the chicken nuggets!

We snacked on our treats before heading out for another game drive. Our guide Thabo and Tiaan told us we were heading to see the lions. Little did we know how crazy of a sighting this was about to be. We left camp and headed straight for the lions. On the way over, Jake and his group continued to play the riddle from the bus ride. Before we even got to the lion sighting, Sims, Violet, Samantha, and Caroline all figured out what grandma loves! We picked up another ecologist on the way over before we arrived at the sighting. As we pulled up to the scene, our jaws hit the floor. We learned the lions have been hanging out in this exact spot for almost a week now, it was clear to see why. The lions were feasting on a giraffe they had hunted about a week ago. Most of the giraffe had already been gobbled up, but the male lion continued to snack on the meat he could find. We were so shocked. We learned that lions typically do not hunt larger animals such as giraffes unless they have not eaten for almost 7 days. Lions will usually eat every 3-4 days and hunt for impala or zebra, but since these lions were hungry, they went big on the hunt. Once the male lion was satisfied, the females all jumped in to fill their bellies with giraffe steaks. We could not believe what we were seeing. Sims and Palmer asked some great questions to gain a better understanding of the lion’s habits. Harper and Campbell were “vlogging” the entire encounter. Cannot wait to tune in to their vlog once it’s posted! We said goodbye to the lions and let them continue eating dinner in peace.

The sun was beginning to set, so we headed for a good spot to watch the sunset. We pulled up to a rock outcrop that we climbed to setup the table with soft drinks and snacks. We had a fantastic 360 degree view of the entire Mabula property. The sun sank behind the mountains and we were left with the beautiful red, orange, and yellow horizon melting into the light and dark blue of the coming night sky. Sims climbed one of the free standing rocks to catch and even better view. Harper, Violet, Maya, and Caroline soon followed, each trying to summit the rock. Maya even compared it to summiting Kilimanjaro! We shared some laughs, snapped some more group pictures, and soaked in what we knew is one of our last game drive stops. We packed up shop to head back to camp. We were greeted with a campfire and more hot chocolate. Dinner tonight was a buffet! We had rice with beef stew, potato soup, green beans, avocado and tomato salad, and some rolls! One of our favorite meals of the whole trip! The avocado salad was easily the group favorite. We had some fantastic dinner conversations, the girls have grown so close to each other and it is so special to be able to witness how far they have come in such a short time. Gracie and I are so blessed to be part of this amazing group of girls. They have formed a bond that will never be broken! We concluded dinner to head to the campfire for Moonup. Maya and Avery led a wonderful Moonup. They closed Moonup by asking everyone to say something they admire or appreciate about the person on their right. We all went to bed feeling so loved.

Day 2 in Mabula is on deck but here are a few words of gratitude from the girls of 1C!

Harper: Hi Mom and Dad!! I miss you dearly but this trip has done a great job of distracting me from thinking too much about it. Thank you so much for sending me on this trip, it has been incredible. Also literally everything has reminded me of Mimi. I can’t believe I’m here and I’m so excited to show you all the photos and talk to you for hours about everything I’ve done. Love you and miss you again!!

Caroline: Hey mom and dad! I just want to tell you how thankful I am for this opportunity. I’ve seen and learned so many amazing things and this is an unforgettable experience. I have made so many new friends. I have a ton to tell y’all on Thursday. I love and miss y’all !!

Samantha: Hey mom and dad! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be surrounded by beautiful things and for the opportunity to learn from the people I met along the way. Thank you for opening my world. Love you and see you soon!!

Palmer: Hi Mommy and Daddy, I just wanted to tell you how grateful I am to be here right now. I have already learned and seen so many amazing things that I can’t wait to tell y’all when I get home. Looking forward to seeing you on Thursday! I love and miss y’all lots

Avery: Dear mom and dad, I just want to tell you both how thankful I am that you let me come on this trip! I cannot thank you enough for this amazing experience and all the fun I have had this entire time. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to be adventurous and experience this once in a lifetime trip! I have made so many amazing memories and learned so much which I cannot wait to tell you all about. Thank you so much and I love you guys so much!

Violet: Hi mom and dad! It’s almost time for me to come home and I just wanted to say thank you guys for giving me the opportunity to come on this trip and see so many new things and meet new people. I can’t wait to see you guys and tell you all about it. Miss you all!!! <3

Maya: Hi Mom and Dad, I just wanted to let you know how thankful and grateful I am for you guys encouraging me to do this trip to South Africa with Moondance!!! Thank you for allowing me to explore and discover the world around us!! I have been able to experience and see so many amazing animals and try so many interesting foods! Love you lots and I will see you very soon!!!

Sims: hey mom and dad!! The trip is coming to an end and I’ve had the very best time. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to come on this trip and supporting me with everything. Thank you for also pushing me to try new things too!! I miss y’all so much and can’t wait to see y’all!! The food has been sooo good and I’ve eaten literally everything. We are currently on our last part of the trip and staying at Kwafubesi. I’ve seen so many cool animals, and done so many cool things here. Not going to lie I’m dreading the flight but cannot wait to share all my memories I’ve made on this trip with y’all and show y’all all the incredible photos and videos I’ve taken!! Love and miss y’all very much.

Campbell: Hi Mom and Dad!!! The trip is almost over and I just wanted to let you know how much fun I’ve had and how many amazing experiences and memories I’ve made in the past couple of weeks. I’m so grateful and thankful for this opportunity and I’m so happy I decided to go on this trip. I’ve seen so many cool things that I think we should come back on a family vacation so we can all see it together. I’ve missed you so much and can’t wait to show you all the cool pictures of animals and other things we’ve seen. I’ve tried some awesome foods and went surfing and have seen baby animals!!! I can’t wait to see you guys I love you so much

Gracie: Hey Hey Barnum Family, I miss you all and hope you are having a blast at the lake and enjoying summer! I love you so much.



Super Surfing in South Africa!

June 15, 2023

Hello SAF family and friends! We are so excited to catch you all up with what we’ve been up to!

Day 6

Today was officially our last wake-up call with the most amazing breakfast in Little Mongena, as well as our first official night on the beach in Mozambique! The girls appreciated a comfy slumber in their warm beds last night and enjoyed many omelets and avocado toast for breakfast the next morning. Sims and Violet conducted our morning huddle and prepared the girls for a long day of travel, reminding them the finish line was the beautiful Tofo Beach. Violet shared such an amazing quote to encapsulate the day ahead which was “we travel not to move around, we travel to be moved.” The girls said their final goodbyes to the wonderful caring staff and guides, and then we were off. Our first stop was the airport and the girls were so focused and cooperated so well. Jake and I were so proud of every single girl’s attention and absolutely amazing behavior in the airport. When we got to the gate, they had us all get into a standing van and drove us to our plane. The flight was quick and easy,  and they also served us chicken salad sandwiches! Once we landed, it was time to go through Mozambique customs and the girls were ready to focus. All the girls were so excited about getting a new stamp on their passports! I told the girls they are all officially world travelers and their maturity was very impressive.

Although we had finished the flight portion of our travel, but we still had not reached our final destination. We loaded up the van and had quite the car ride ahead of us to our beach destination, but the girls were troopers. They began car ride with a group card game and all chatting up a storm. The girls later settled in and took some time to read, journal, make bracelets, and nap. As we were driving, the local schools were letting all the students out so it was neat to see all of them in their uniforms. Jake introduced a riddle for the girls to solve during the last portion of the drive, but nobody could figure out what Grandma loves! We finally pulled into our beautiful villas on Tofo Beach and were greeted like an old friend by Brodie! She got us all settled in the bunk rooms and the girls ran up to get dinner as soon as they dropped their stuff. We had chili and baked potatoes with a small salad. It was fantastic and exactly the kind of hearty meal we needed after a longgggg travel day. Brodie briefed us on the activities for tomorrow before we headed off to Moonup and bed. Moonup was so funny! We were all delirious from the bus ride and rehashed all the hilarious moments from the crazy day. Harper said she was starting to get abs from laughing so hard! We had a great first Moonup at Tofo and headed off to bed exhausted from today but eager to hit the beach tomorrow. Campbell and Samantha were named the LODs and we couldn’t wait to have them lead us through our first beach day!


Day 7

This morning, we had the pleasure of waking up to some sunny and warm weather! The girls got all their stuff packed and their bathing suits on and were ready for the day. We started our day with some chocolate and cinnamon sugar crepes… so yummy, the girls all gobbled them down so quickly. The morning’s first activity was surfing & the girls were pumped to catch some waves! First up – Harper, Samantha Avery and Campbell hit the water. We had three amazing local surf guides, Manuto, Ali, and Tony, teach the girls how to pop up on to their surfboard as well as how they should stand and look while surfing. In the water, the guides assisted the girls by yelling “paddle, paddle, paddle, and UP!” All the girls were catching waves left and right, and before we knew it, we were all basically professionals! Harper and Gracie even joked around about starting a surfing team. The girls enjoyed chatting with the guides and learning more about the local culture and lifestyle in Mozambique. The group swapped surfboards and it was the other girls’ turn to catch some waves! Palmer was so graceful on the board and seemed like she was born to be a surfer! The girls enjoyed getting killer great shots of them surfing on the go-pro, along with some great wipe out shots! Once everyone had salty hair, sandy feet and tired out we headed back to the ‘Surf Shack’ to rinse off and grab our bags.

On our way back to Tofo Scuba, we all conducted a beach clean-up! This was a great idea, and the locals and marine life all appreciated it very much. Upon arrival, the group had some time to relax on the beach, read, chat, and play beach volleyball. When lunch was served, the girls’ faces lit up with excitement because today’s lunch was some good ole burgers and fries! After lunch, it was time for our ocean Safari!!! On the Safari, we were looking out for mantas, dolphins, whale sharks, and humpback whales!! We were lucky enough to spot two whale sharks and jump in the water to snorkel with them. These particular whale sharks were speedy, so the visits were short lived. We explored down the coast and all the girls loved being out on the boat. Towards the end of our ride, we spotted multiple humpback whales, and we were all blown away! We watched as the whales swam by, blew water out of their blow holes, and even flipped up their tails. After our wonderful sunny boat excursion, we returned to Tofo scuba to disassemble gear and clean up. Jake and I surprised all the girls with the treat of milkshakes which came in cute cups with striped straws! The girls were thrilled! Once the girls all slurped down their milkshakes, we gathered our stuff and headed back to camp. We walked as a group down the beach as the sun began its descent, listening to music and dancing the whole way home. This was such a beautiful moment for the group and filled our hearts with happiness. When we got back, the girls were free to freshen up and relax until dinner. Palmer, Maya, and Caroline all snuggled up to watch the sunset on the patio. Avery, Harper, and Samantha had a journaling session while listening to the ocean waves crash. Dinner this evening was rice, rolls, salad, and bean gumbo, followed by an amazing dessert of course! Lastly, Campbell and Samantha lead us through Moonup while we all sat together around a big picnic table. During Moonup, this group always shares so many stories and laughs together. Caroline and Harper were pronounced LODs for tomorrow and we were so excited for this duo! We went to bed eager for what a new day of surfing and snorkeling would bring!


Day 8

Tofo Beach Day 2 here we go! After some gooooood sleep, the girls were ready for another day full of sunshine and the Indian Ocean. We started off with a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast before getting ready for the day. Instead of surfing first, we switched things up! We headed down the beach for Tofo Scuba to kick things off with the ocean Safari and snorkeling. As ocean Safari veterans, we all grabbed our gear and ran to help get the boat in the water. Pretty soon we were back out in the water cruising the waves of the Indian Ocean, on the lookout for mantas, whale sharks, dolphins, and humpback whales! We had the COOLEST encounter ever with Humpback whales. Off in the distance, we spotted a mother and her calf breaching the water. We caught up to them to get a closer look and suddenly…they started swimming TOWARDS us. We were all so shocked. Since we do not swim with humpbacks, the guides said they usually keep their distance. The two broke the surface for one last big breath about 10 meters from our boat before diving under us. WOW moment for sure!!! We saw them resurface a good way away and they were joined by a playful dolphin! We continued zigzagging down the coastline for other marine life but soon headed back to snorkel along the reef. The water was just the right temperature after being out in the sun and we all loved snorkeling the reef.

After snorkeling, we headed back to Tofo Scuba for lunch. Lunch was locally sourced barracuda which was fantastic, and it tasted a lot like chicken. We had some bread on the side and some girls had the bright idea of making a fish sandwich with the bread and greens that came with the fish. Truly a great meal! After lunch, we had some time to hangout before surfing. All the girls laid out on the beach chairs to read or take naps and pretty soon, it was time to hit the water again!  Gracie took Palmer, Violet, Sims, Maya, and Caroline down to The Surf Shack to catch some gnarly waves. It was a little windy today, so the waves were a lot bigger than yesterday, and the girls were ready for the challenge. Jake took Samantha, Harper, Avery, and Campbell on a beach cleanup walk. Sims stepped up as videographer of the surfers and caught some great footage of all the girls. After about an hour, we switched. You could tell the water was a little more intense today, but the girls were eager to catch some waves. Jake, Harper, and Campbell had a competition about who was the best surfer. The three of them all caught a wave together and guess who did not make it all the way to shore… that’s right, Jake. Campbell and Harper were so excited about their victory. Meanwhile, Samantha and Avery were showing these “big” waves who was the boss! We caught our last few waves before heading back in, said goodbye to our amazing instructors, and headed back to catch up with the other group before walking home to clean up before dinner. Tonight was pasta night and it was delicious! We had some funny talks during dinner and really enjoyed each other’s company. Dinner was followed by a chocolate mousse dessert which, of course, was amazing. Several girls were licking the bowl clean it was so good! After, we wrapped up and headed off for Moonup! Caroline and Harper led a great Moonup with everyone walking away feeling so so loved. Maya and Palmer were named LODs for our last day in Mozambique and all the girls are looking forward to soaking up the sun just one last time before heading back to South Africa!!


That’s all from Jake and Gracie but here are a few words from the girls of SAF 1C!


Maya : hi mom and dad!!! I love you and miss you so much!! I hope the boys are having a blast at fishing camp and that you’re having fun in Florida. It is so interesting to see all the animals and sights! Happy Father’s Day dad!!!! Btw can I buy Wi-Fi on the plane back?! Lots of love from South Africa – Maya

Harper: Hey Mom, Dad, and Lovie!! I love you and miss you so much, I can’t wait to see you. Dad please some to Atlanta I can’t handle sky zone (I will literally drive with you.) Thanks!!

Campbell: hey mom and dad I love you so much and I miss you guys so much and I miss not being able to talk to you but I am having the best time and having so many great experiences and opportunities and I am so happy that I decided to go on this trip I have gotten so many great presents to bring home and I can’t wait to see you guys and go to Rhode Island for the Fourth of July. much love from South Africa.

Avery : Hi mom, dad, Grace, and AJ, I miss you guys, so so much and love you! I’m having a blast here and can’t wait to tell you all about it and show you all the pictures. I hope you guys are having fun at the beach and I can’t wait to be home! Love you guys so so much!

Palmer: Hi mommy and daddy- We are having fun at the beach, speaking of the beach: I am unsure if I am going to baileys river house for Fourth of July so we can figure that out when I am home because I will buy Wi-Fi on the plane! Also we can talk about the dates for UVA squash camp. I bought papa a birthday present and I got hammy Stevie and Bailey and serpell some small gifts but I didn’t know what to get y’all that y’all would actually like. Hopefully I have enough room in my bag! Excited to see y’all in like a week and I love all of y’all <3

Caroline: Hi mom and dad, I miss y’all! We are at the beach right now and it’s really fun. I can’t wait for the Bvi. I probably going to buy Wi-Fi on the plane because I have a feeling I have so many text. Anyway I love y’all and miss you so much!

Sims: Heyyyy mom and dad!! I miss y’all a lot. We are on our last full day in Mozambique and it’s been really fun but I definitely miss home a lot. I also think I’ve gained 15 pounds bc the food is way too good. I love everyone on my trip and it’s been so fun but very unexpected. Tell Patrick I miss and love him. Also I’m going to lake w Abby for 4th of July and we can talk about Charleston when I’m home. Cannot wait to see y’all!!! Sending love from Mozambique and South Africa

Violet: Hey guys! Happy Father’s Day dad and happy late birthday bubbie I wish I could see you guys. The food is way better than expected but it’s also a lot colder than expected. Everyone has been super nice but I miss y’all a lot. Love you and can’t wait to see you guys!!

Samantha: hi mom, dad, Lindsey, and Megan!!!! I love you guys so so much and I can’t wait to tell you all about Africa. Tell pickles I love her and make sure to catch up on the kardashins so we can watch to together.……. LOVE YOU SEE YOU SOON!!!

Lions, Hippos, and Birds! Oh my!

June 12, 2023

Greetings South Africa Families- Gracie and Jake here! We are so excited to start this summer off with your girls and explore beautiful South Africa. One by one, the girls began to arrive to the Atlanta airport, first spotted was Sims lugging her bag through the airport and I was so excited to see her, soon after followed Maya with a big smile on her face! Quickly following, all the girls gathered and immediately started chatting! After grabbing some snacks, I returned to all the girls circled up already hitting it off… it brought the biggest smile to my face, and I knew we were in for an amazing trip. After the long 16-hour flight, we safely made it to South Africa! Jake was there greeting us with a big smile as we walked in. We enjoyed some pizza as a group and had our first Moonup of the summer. We got the girls situated in their respective rooms and everyone was in for a good night of sleep dreaming about the adventures we would embark on tomorrow.


After catching up on some much needed sleep, we woke up for breakfast at the hotel. EVERYONE was ready to get this adventure started! We wrapped up breakfast and ran to get our bags to check out, hit the road, and head to Little Mongena, where we would be staying the next few nights. After a quick drive, we arrived at Mongena for check-in, and transferred to Little Mongena via safari vehicles. On the way in we spotted lots of warthogs, some kudu, and several impala. At Little Mongena, we were greeted by Obi and Harry with warm towels, warm smiles, and Mongena Sunrises! After checking out our awesome tents, we had delicious salads and burgers for lunch while overlooking the lake. After lunch, Palmer spearheaded a friendship bracelet session that Maya, Samantha, Caroline, Campbell, Violet, and myself all jumped in on. We listened to some Taylor Swift as the sun started sinking lower and lower.


Soon enough, we were all on a boat cruising across the lake on the prowl for crocodiles and hippopotamuses with our local guide, Monré. We did a lap of the lake, saw several birds including white breasted cormorant, white faced whistling duck, spur wing goose, African Jackana, Swamphens, and Reed Cormorant. We even spotted a croc sunbathing on an island. We entered the dam channels which are only twice as wide as the boat and the reeds along the shoreline were taller than us. This is when it hit us. We. Were. In. The. Bush. As we navigated along the channel, deep bellows kept coming from the reeds. That’s right — a hippo. A hush fellow over the boat as we craned to locate this beastly animal. Sadly, it did not show its face. Soon after, we stumbled upon another crocodile at least 9 feet long hanging out right on the bank. Our first up close encounter with wildlife. It was wild!! We wrapped up our boat ride by idling in the middle of the lake watching the sun go down. The sunset was beautiful. After sunset, we returned to camp where Harry was waiting for us with hot chocolate! We gathered around the fire waiting for dinner to be prepared when suddenly traditional dancers entered the camp. They were amazing, and all the girls were thrilled! We ended up joining them for a dance party and just had a ball letting loose and engaging with these awesome people. It is amazing how a little bit of singing and dancing can bring people together so easily. After dancing, dinner was ready and we loaded our plates with traditional African dishes such as Boerewors, Pap and Sous, and Potato Bake. We topped off dinner with some crème brûléeMalva pudding, and cornbread. We rounded out the day with Moonup around the campfire. The group spoke about how they are all super excited to become close with one another and learn about the South African culture in the coming days. Palmer and Samantha were named LODs – Leaders of the Day for tomorrow and we are so excited for the rest of the trip to begin!


After our evening concluded and we all headed off to our tents for bed, we had a few more unexpected but quite exciting “visitors” throughout the night. Throughout the night we heard the evening game animals in action providing us noises from surrounding friends such as hippos, jackals, birds and more. As you can guess this led to some great breakfast conversations! Samantha, our LOD took the lead in waking everyone up with some Taylor Swift Jams to pump everyone up for their first day in the community. At breakfast, Maya and Sims shared how they swore a Hippopotamus was sleeping on their porch from how loud the snoring was, this had the group belly laughing. Breakfast was amazing all around, but everyone had their eyes on the flap jacks Campbell order that were about 2 inches thick with whip cream and fruit…Yum! Our first Leaders of the Day, Palmer and Samantha graciously guided us through our morning huddle to prepare the group for the day. Today was officially the first day of our community engagement portion of our trip, as well as our very first experience of an African Safari Game drive, so the group was feeling great! We arrived at Kekana and were able to see firsthand how they have been delivering a healthy and safe water supply to this given community and how the locals receive it. This was such an impactful and meaningful moment. Once we got to our project the girls were ready to work, especially Sims in her bright pink work gloves. Over the course of the next few days, we have been given the opportunity to work with a local family to give their house a makeover, including painting and fixing up their home. Our group was able to meet and work alongside Bull and Ana, who coordinate all community projects. First, we started by clearing out the home and priming the walls with paint primer. The girls one by one tackled this job making the work look seamless having a rotation system going. Avery was killing it with the roller brush and Harper and Violet really made the place look official with the detail brushes. With amazing effort and teamwork, the girls got two bedrooms, a living room, and bathroom all double primed with paint before lunch.


Our lunches were packed perfectly with an assortment of options and was just what we needed to reboot our energy. Our LODs gave us a pep talk and we were back to work. The second half of the day we got the first coat of cream paint on all the rooms and the place was really starting to come together. As a leader it was so enjoyable spending this time to get to know the girls better, watch their friendships begin to form and of course hear their silly stories. Once we concluded the paintwork for the day we hopped back on the truck and headed back to our home for the next few days, Little Mongena. This afternoon, we were in for our first taste of the African wildlife. The girls changed their clothes, grabbed their warm layers and loaded up the Safari truck. We could not have wished for a better first Game drive, the African Bush was quite lively tonight allowing us to see a plethora of different animals including, Zebras, Impala, Kudu, and Wildebeest. As our game drive ended, we drove home while watching the most immaculate sunset. With smiles on our faces and excitement in our bodies the girls were so happy, little did they know it was going to get even better! Moments later, after we arrived back to Little Mongena and settled in by the warm fire and dinner table, we heard a lion’s roar come from the bush we left behind! Morné, our Safari Guide, came back in full of excitement and said “Get back in girls let’s go find those lions” and we were off! Full of adrenaline, excitement, and anticipation we all cuddled in close and had our eyes wide open. Campbell, Harper, and Gracie piled in the back giggling endlessly about who knows what. Then before we knew it, wow. Two full sized lions, Marakele, the male, and the northern pride female sitting calmly on either side of the road looking directly at us. They proudly sat and let us admire their beauty. Morné told us all about these two lions, including that the female is one of the oldest known wild female lions aging at 15 years old, all the girls listened so intently. He also mentioned she is one of the largest female lions he has ever seen. We knew that meant she is not to be messed with. The lions eventually stood up and we watched as their big bodies so slowly and quietly walked away. Once we returned to camp there was an amazing meal prepared for us! Campbell, Sims and Caroline all agreed that this was their favorite meal yet, all ordering completely different dishes! Compliments to the chef. After dinner we all warmed up around the campfire and enjoyed our dessert dishes while Morné educated us about the African Game.To conclude our evening, Samantha and Palmer closed out our day with an amazing Moonup allowing the girls to grow even closer as friends and reflect on our day. We are so pumped that we have a whole new day here in Little Mongena and cannot wait for our LODs Caroline and Harper to lead us through our next adventure.


The next morning, we were eager to get back to work in Kekaha for day 2 of Community engagement!! Harper got everyone up and going this morning with some music. Breakfast was once again amazing, many girls switched it up and got the awesome pancakes, but others kept it consistent with an omelette. During breakfast Harper and Caroline led Morning Huddle, briefing us on all activities, weather, and necessary gear. We ran back to the tents to collect our stuff and head back to Kekana. Today consisted of touching up some parts inside the house while the primary goal was to paint the outside of the house. With no need for primer, the girls flew through painting the outside. The teamwork shown was amazing to witness, everyone was getting involved and a bonus was being out in the warm sun for most of the day. By lunchtime, we had almost completed everything we could for the day. After lunch, detail queen Violet continued to knock out the window frames and door frames. We found a good time to wrap up the day at Kekana to head back to Little Mongena for a little surprise. We had a bush walk planned for us, but the girls did not know about the surprise that was soon to come at the end of the game walk!


Gracie and I strongly encouraged the girls to pack warm for the game walk we had ahead of us reminding them of the cold from the game drive. Sims was so prepared she even packed toilet paper just in case! We headed out on the Ganda to get to the start of our bush walk. We split up into groups of 4 and 7 for safety reasons and trekked into the bush with a soon to be setting sun overhead. Our guides, Morné and Dean, educated us every step of the way. Although there was not much game in the bush, we were able to learn a lot about plant life and tracking the animals. Morné showed us a unique game he played when he was younger with dried impala poop called Bok Drol Spoeg and we all gave it a try! Over in Gracie’s group, the girls stumbled across a full set of wildebeest bones. They all took turns picking up the skull and snapping some pictures. The skull, with the horns, weighed almost 40 pounds! We continued our trek through the bush as the sun continued to sink lower and lower. Morné and Dean told the group we were “headed back to the truck” but that was far from true. We rounded a bend to a bonfire, dinner being prepared, and a large tarp with sleeping bags spread out. Surprise! Bush sleep out! The girls quickly circled around the fire to warm up as the sun was beginning to set. We enjoyed another fantastic dinner with soup, salad, lasagna, and rolls! Campbell loved the rolls so much she went back for more and even brought back a bucket of them for the rest of the group! We wrapped up dinner with fruit kabobs and marshmallows around the fire. Harper entertained all of us with a funny movie synopsis before Moonup. Avery and Maya were named LODs for tomorrow! After a long day in Kekana and a walk through the bush, the girls were exhausted. One by one they headed to slip into their sleeping bags. Watching everyone get into their sleeping bags was probably the funniest part of the entire night. Gracie had to help Campbell shimmy into her sleeping bag similar to the way you shimmy a pillow into a pillowcase! We were allllll belly laughing! Once in their sleeping bags, they looked very much like big blue caterpillars. They all rolled and squirmed their way to group up to stay warm through the night, it was hilarious! Once settled in we fell asleep under the stars excited for one last day in Kekana and Little Mongena tomorrow.


Today’s wakeup call was slightly different from the past few mornings, because today we woke up after a long sleep in the bush! The day started with our LOD Avery crawling around in her sleeping bag waking everyone up, this was super silly and got everyone laughing first thing in the morning. All the girls climbed out of their warm sleeping bags into the cool crisp air that immediately got them moving. This morning’s first challenge was attempting to get the sleeping bags rolled up and back into their bags, with the added challenge of the cold. All the girls faced this task head on, and we were all packed up and ready to roll swiftly. The girls spent some time warming by the fire until we loaded up the game vehicle to head back to base camp. To boost energy, Jake and I burst out into song and then the whole ride home was filled with the group singing all the current hits. Once we arrived back at camp, we enjoyed the best breakfast ever as usual which brought the group smiles to their faces. Today is our last full day at Little Mongena and enjoying our time in the Kekana community. Avery and Maya led the morning huddle, inspiring the group to really take in this last day with the community and be appreciative and mindful for this wonderful opportunity! As leaders, we were so impressed with Avery and Mayas morning huddle talk. Once we got to Kekana we needed to finish up some paint work and add the finishing touches for our project to be complete. The girls broke into three teams to tackle all the jobs. Two groups had doors and one group had window seals. I was so impressed with everyone’s teamwork and genuine care for this project. This house went from a dust-colored home that needed some love to a beautiful cream, white and copper with the help of all your girls!


The girls worked on the house very diligently and put lots of effort into this project, as well as creating bonds of friendship and sharing laughs together along the way. Once the house was looking complete, we took some time to celebrate and hang out with the local children. We circled up and played call and repeat games and danced. It was so fun to see the girls light up, get silly, leave their comfort zone and have a great time with the kids. The smiles on their faces were unforgettable and I’m sure this moment was unforgettable for them as well. When it was time for us to go we shared many hugs and thanked the homeowners for allowing us to work with them and touching our hearts. We loaded our painting equipment and headed back to Little Mongena. Upon arrival we had lunch and then had some free time to relax and unwind from the long night prior and early morning full of activities. Avery, Harper, Samantha, and I all enjoyed some time talking by the pool, followed by some dancing in the grass. Palmer dropped by to say hey and then went on a walk around the yard to read her book, while doing so we watched her run into two sets of trees (she was all okay) but it did provide some laughter for the rest of us watching. Next up was our last game drive in Dinokeng with our favorite guide Mornae. Maya got to sit in the front seat during the game ride today and she sure was lucky because it was a great one! Today’s game ride began with great excitement when we stumbled across a whole herd of African Water Buffaloes, our guide shared that in this herd was approximately 250 members! We watched as they were crossing the road, they would turn and stare at the car, they are known for always looking so grumpy, it made Gracie laugh every time they turned and looked at us.


During the rest of the game drive, we were on the lookout for a leopard and her cubs as well as a mama rhino and her kids, but unfortunately no luck. That’s why they call it a game, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose… but you always have a good time! We enjoyed a beautiful sunset, coke, sprite, and snacks and took a plethora of photos. Once we returned to camp, we all snuggled up around the fire with a nice cup of freshly made hot cocoa and told all sorts of stories. The menu for dinner today was steak, tuna or pasta, Campbell got pasta of course and was so thrilled when it arrived. We all enjoyed our meals and returned to the fire for dessert and Moonup. Tonight’s Moonup led by Maya and Avery allowed everyone to reflect and value the individuals in their lives and was touching to be a part of. To help navigate our travel day to Mozambique LODs Sims and Violet were selected! To close out our final night at Little Mongena we all howled at the moon. We have absolutely loved and enjoyed every moment that we have spent on this portion of our trip and are sad to leave, but we are so excited for our beach portion of the trip to begin tomorrow!



Gracie + Jake

Safely in South Africa!

June 7, 2023

Hello South Africa Families!

We heard from our leaders and the group has landed safely in South Africa! 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


  • Avery
  • Caroline
  • Harper
  • Maya
  • Palmer
  • Samantha
  • Sims
  • Violet