July 8, 2023
Friday, July 7
Friday was our last full day all together as a group. We woke up in the bush after a night together listening to the animals and sharing stories by the fire. We headed back to the lodge for the usual breakfast buffet and omelet bar. Everyone was eager to warm up after a chilly night and we spent breakfast exchanging funny stories and perspectives from the adventurous night. After breakfast, we had a couple hours of nap time which was much needed due to the lack of sleep the prior night. Once the group was well rested, we split in half and played a few thorough rounds of family feud, a game that was enjoyed by all. After lunchtime, we headed to the big lawn and played kickball and frisbee until late afternoon. Our final official activity of the trip was one last game drive with Rebecca and Lauren. We loaded up the cruisers and saw rhinos, impalas, lion cubs, and a gorgeous sunset. We got out of the cars at sunset and enjoyed some snacks, photos, and moments of reflection on the sun setting on our time together. As always, we enjoyed a feast on our final dinner at Little Mongena and everyone enjoyed steak, tuna, sides, and desserts. Our leaders of the day led our final Moonup and we savored the last time around the fire opening up and reminiscing on our weeks of growth and fun times as a group.
Saturday, July 8
Today is the day! We got to sleep a little later today and enjoy a big breakfast before the student’s travel began. The group loaded up the vans one last time and we hit the road towards the Johannesburg airport. We dropped the bags off, and everyone was eager to grab some lunch at the food court. We had a few groups get pizza, chicken, and Asian food and run some errands to the pharmacy and grocery to pick up a few things for their long flight ahead. We also had the opportunity to go by the bookstore and souvenir shop before our banquet. We had banquet at the hotel restaurant, where everyone enjoyed steaks, burgers, and really anything they desired. The students were not boarding the planes with empty stomachs! Sadly, it was time to say our goodbyes and we wished them farewell and sent them through security. What a special couple of weeks together with such a special group of students. We are so proud of their growth over the trip, and we are so grateful that you all have decided to send your kids with us to experience this wonderful experience! Give them a hug for us when they land back in the States!
Lots of love!
Anna and JMO
Here are some thank you’s from our amazing students!
Sara- Hey Mom and Dad! Thank you so much for sending me on this trip. I had the best time ever and I can’t wait to see y’all soon.
Cassie- Hey fam!! Thank y’all for letting me come on this trip! I’ve had so much fun here and want to come back sometime!! Love grass, see you soon!
Patterson- Hey Mom and Dad! Thank you so much for sending me on this trip-I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity!! Love y’all!
Chloe- Thank you so much for sending me on this trip I’ve had the best time and I am so grateful that you let me have this opportunity. See you tmr!
Andy- Thank you for sending me on this trip. It was great and I had lots of fun. Can’t wait to see y’all.
Jack- Hey Mom and dad thank you so much for sending me on this trip I’m so grateful and thankful for y’all. I’ve had such a great time. Love y’all.
Cannon- Thank you so much for sending me on this trip! Can’t wait to see y’all!
Charlotte- Thank y’all so much for sending me on this trip! I have loved every moment of it! Love y’all!
Liam – Thank you for sending me on this trip. It was great and I had lots of fun. Love y’all
Tyler- Thank you so much for sending me on this trip I am so grateful. It was amazing. Love y’all.
Wills – Thank you so much for letting me do this Moondance dad I appreciate it more than you could know
July 7, 2023
Tuesday, July 4
Happy Fourth of July! We woke up the students playing iconic Fourth of July songs and ate an early breakfast before one last activity that Mabula surprised us with before we departed. The veterinary team needed to dart anther rhino to put a tracking collar on its ankle and check a few vitals to make sure everything was on track. We had more time with the rhino this time and everyone had new roles to play in helping the vets. Patterson and Chloe measured the horns, Wills injected, Cassie collected more horn samples, and Sara put the collar on the ankle. Interacting with the animals so closely will never get old and it is so impactful for all the students to be hands on alongside the vets. Afterwards, we headed back for a big brunch and loaded up the van to head to our final destination: Little Mongena, where we would be doing our community engagement work. Upon arrival at Little Mongena, we settled into our new “tents” and got adjusted to our new home. Before dinner, we got to go on a sunset boat ride around the lake by our lodging. We saw hippos, crocodiles, and beautiful birds and listened to music while we watched the sunset and ate snacks. Charlotte took some photos and Tyler and Jack led some games. The festivities continued with sparklers! Everyone enjoyed lighting the sparklers around the fire in honor of Independence Day, and trying to take cool photos of the light trails. Rounding up the night, the group was surprised with traditional dancers and singers before dinner. Everyone had an amazing time dancing and clapping along to the music. Wills even said this was his favorite activity of the trip so far! At the end of the night, we were able to share a banquet feast with plenty of traditional side dishes and grilled meats; Liam and Andy even had a sausage eating competition in honor of Joey Chestnut. Boat rides, dancing, cookouts, and sparklers made today feel a bit more like the traditional Fourth of July we were all used to and reminded us a bit of our families and friends back home.
Wednesday, July 5
After a delicious breakfast buffet and omelet bar, we got ready for our first day of community engagement. We headed into the town and got to work painting a retirement home for elderly in the town. Everyone did a great job from start to finish and we were very impressed with the group’s motivation and hard work. Before lunch we had already completed one huge room where a lot of the residents sleep. After a quick packed lunch, we got back to work and started on the second bedroom. It was incredibly eye opening for the students to be invested and truly put themselves in this new environment different from where they are from. We wanted the students to try to focus on what they could learn from the community and really get to know the people we were working alongside. Midafternoon, we went back to the lodges and had about an hour of free time to shower off and change before a game drive. This was our first game drive in the new reserve so everyone was excited to see how the animals and experience would differ from Mabula. We saw impala, rhinos, ostrich, and more before the sun began to set and we were forced to head back for dinner. We were lucky to have the option to choose individually what meals we wanted and ate like kings around the fire. Cannon and Chloe, our leaders of the day, led us in Moonup and we had a very intentional conversation regarding the work we were doing in the community and what we were all looking to gain and give during our time painting.
Thursday, July 6
On our second day of painting the retirement home, we headed back to the town after the breakfast buffet and omelettes. During our day working, we completed another large bedroom and the interior and exterior of one side of the building. Everyone had great attitudes and we enjoyed spending time together working towards a common goal. The hours flew by with good music and sunny, warm weather. We were so proud of the progress we had made and excited for the residents to enjoy their newly refurbished living space. We headed back to the lodge and ate a late lunch off of the menu, mostly consisting of beef and chicken burgers. The students had no idea what was in store for them the rest of the night and we wanted it to be a surprise. We set out in two groups on a bush walk, a guided safari on foot. The guides showed us different animal tracks, unique plants, and we even followed a herd of Buffalo. What the students didn’t know was that the walk ended at a beautiful campsite with great pathways, lanterns, and a prepared buffet dinner. The set up looked like something from a fairy tale and they were all surprised when we told them we would be eating dinner here… and spending the night! We walked a little further and there was a campfire, huge tarp on the ground, and sleeping bags. We had warned them to dress warmly and bring nighttime medicines so everyone was ready to go. It was such a thrilling change in scenery to eat and sleep amongst the animals in the bush. We had multiple guides with us who stayed awake the entire night to make sure nothing dangerous wandered into camp. The bush sleep out was the perfect bonding experience for the group to wrap up their Moondance trip and spend the night under the stars together.
Hootin and Hollerin,
John Morgan and Anna
July 3, 2023
Thursday, June 29
Today was a big travel day for our group. We woke up early to set off for our last long drive of the trip. This was a bittersweet day for the group because we were so sad to leave our tropical paradise in Mozambique, but everyone was ecstatic to be headed to the safaris soon. We had a great van ride; we got to see a lot of the country of Mozambique and spend more time getting to know one another. Chloe enjoyed catching up on some reading on the ride and Wills led some of the group in a game of categories. Upon arriving back in Johannesburg, we picked up a bunch of snacks and everyone enjoyed them while we got the crew checked in. We had a long travel day ahead so everyone decided to have a little time to relax, and then headed to the food court for a Nando’s chicken dinner. Nando’s is a South African and European staple so it was exciting for everyone to try it out for the first time. Jack even tried churros for the first time and now has a new favorite dessert! Everyone was pretty tired so we headed back and commenced an especially intentional Moonup before heading back to our rooms for bed.
Friday, June 30
On Friday, after a nice morning sleeping in, we walked downstairs to a wide assortment at the breakfast buffet. Everyone loaded up on pancakes, fruit, omelets, pastries, and more before the transit to our first game reserve of the trip! Everyone was well-rested, had full bellies, and were ready to go. After a short van ride to the Mabula Game Reserve, we were greeted by our host, Ivan, along two guides who would be leading us on our game drives over the next few days. We settled in for an educational briefing of what to expect and how to be respectful to the wildlife we would be seeing very soon. Afterwards, we enjoyed a quick lunch and got settled into the beautiful “tents” we were so lucky to stay in. “Tents” is a humble way to describe the wonderful lodging we had, complete with heated beds and warm private showers under the stars. The group was so surprised and excited to learn we would be going on our first game drive tonight! We eagerly loaded up two game drive vehicles, open air Land Cruisers, and pulled out the binoculars and cameras. Off the bat we got so lucky, spotting a herd of Impala and a mother and baby rhino. We also saw a lot of beautiful, native bird species, more rhino, and zebra. Later on in the drive, Liam and Cannon even spotted a giraffe! The sunset was a gorgeous view to admire on the ride back to the lodging and a beautiful ending to a great first day in Mabula. Everyone was overjoyed to have such a successful first drive in the bush and we were ready to eat a warm dinner and have a nice Moonup around the fire.
Saturday, July 1
Our first full day at the game reserve was one to remember. We woke up to a big, warm breakfast of eggs, oatmeal, bacon, and more. After filling our bellies, we all piled in the cruisers, but the students had no idea what the morning activity had in store. Everyone was so excited to learn we would be cheetah tracking! There was a pair of cheetahs walking along the road in the bush so we were able to follow them and see them up close and personal. This was a rare moment to witness these animals active at this time of the day, and we got so lucky with the long length and high quality of the encounter. Afterwards, we stopped for lunch next to the lake and ate a packed lunch and saw a group of hippos! It will never get old being so close to such extraordinary animals. We took a little post-lunch break back at the lodge before setting off for our second exciting sighting adventure of the day… lions! We rode into the lion section of the reserve and saw four females and one male lion lounging in the grass. They had just enjoyed a large meal prior so they were full and happy. Patterson and Charlotte were able to take incredible photos with her camera and capture the moment. We were accompanied by the lion specialist of the reserve, and had the opportunity to ask plenty of questions about these magnificent animals. We rode back to the lodge with another gorgeous sunset and gathered around for lamb, rice, and veggies. Charlotte and Liam led the Moonup tonight as leaders of the day and we all appreciated the warmth of the fire and the beauty of the night sky.
Sunday, July 2
Today in the Mabula Game Reserve, we woke up earlier for an educational lesson with conservationists from the Ground Hornbill Project. It was so interesting to learn about the endangered ground hornbills, and even have the opportunity to see a few close up. The project is working diligently to save these birds and prevent their extinction. After this enlightening experience, the group ate a packed picnic brunch with a gorgeous view of the mountain range. We headed back to the lodge for a couple of hours of free time, consisting of ultimate frisbee, friendship bracelet making, and more. After lunch, our activity was working with herbivore management to feed the rhinos and buffalo. It was so unique and exciting to have an intimate encounter with two species of the Big Five. We split into two groups and fed them fresh hay from the trucks. We topped off another great day in the bush with a sunset game drive and headed home for a warm dinner and toasty fire. Leaders of the day, Cassie and Tyler led us in our nightly ritual of Moonup and we all went to bed excited for what the last day in Mabula Reserve would have in store.
Monday, July 3
Monday was our final day at this reserve, and we saved some of the best activities for last. We woke up with the sun today to join the veterinarian team in a rhino darting. The vets needed to put this young rhino to sleep temporarily to attach a tracking bracelet, test its vitals, and retrieve some samples. This rhino is quite active and moved from group to group so the team needed to be able to have a method of locating it, especially due to the critically endangered and poaching conditions of the rhino species in Africa. Everyone had an opportunity to play a role in this operation and get very hands on. Wills took ear samplings, Sara and Andy did the injectables, and Cassie took samples of the horn for DNA testing. This experience was truly once in a lifetime, and we were so grateful to the veterinarian team for allowing us to join them on this unique operation. After the darting, we did a brief game drive and saw a family group, known as a journey, of about 6 giraffes eating lunch in the trees. We enjoyed a picnic buffet for lunch on the rocks, overlooking the gorgeous mountain range, and headed back to camp for some free time. We went out on an evening game drive before dinner and had an incredibly thrilling hippo encounter. Our skilled guide, Cedrick, took the group out on the bank to see the hippo up close. We knew we were safe and in good hands, but it was such an exciting and adrenaline pumping experience. We were graciously served a fabulous feast to celebrate our last night in Mabula with chicken, sausages, oxtail, and plenty of side dishes and a yummy dessert. We gathered around the fire for one last Moonup led by our LODs and prepared for an exciting morning and travel day to Little Mongena.
Hey everyone I am having a great time on my Moondance and I’m getting good pictures and videos. I also gave shots to rhinos and swam with whale sharks and manta rays,
Hey mom hey dad I love it here, I don’t wanna leave. Miss y’all so much and miss annabeth and kaylee.
Hey dad how are you? I hope dropping off the girls at camp wasn’t too hard, I’ll be home in a bit. I love it here, South Africa and Mozambique are amazing and i can’t wait to tell you about it when I get home.
Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having so much fun! I love and miss y’all so much! I can’t wait to see y’all soon.
Hey Family I’m having a great time on the trip and miss y’all. I hope y’all have been doing great. We got to swim with whale sharks and manta rays it was awesome. We have been on the safari the last few days and it’s been so cool. Love and miss y’all.
Hey Mom and Dad! I am in Africa. We have seen some crazy junk and ill show you when I get home.
Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having a lot of fun. I also put a tracking chip in a rhino. And, I got to swim with a whale shark. See y’all soon, love y’all.
Him Mom and Dad! I’m having so much fun. I saw a crocodile and swam with a whale shark. I also went surfing and it was a lot of fun. See y’all soon.
Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having a lot of fun and we got to swim with whale sharks and today we touched a rhino! Love y’all and see y’all soon!
Hey fam! I’m having the best time in Africa. I swam with some sharks and saw a manta ray. Today I got to put a tracker on a rhino’s leg which was pretty cool. We also saw lions. Hi Ali & zack. Can’t wait to see you guys soon and show you guys all the pictures.
Hey Mom and Dad! Miss y’all, and I am having so much fun! I’ve gotten to see so many cool things-love y’all!
June 29, 2023
Day one started around dinnertime when we met up with all our students for the first time in the Johannesburg airport. We were so excited to meet up with everyone for the first time and we eagerly awaited plenty of hugs and warm pizza. Everyone was tired from their long travel day, so we promptly checked the group into their rooms and initiated our first Moonup. Moonup is a nightly discussion that every Moondance group holds, no matter where they are or what they’re doing. Tonight, we kept it brief so everyone could get to bed, and we did some introductions and planning for the travel day that awaited us in the morning.
Day two was a busy and exciting one! We woke up and ate a delicious breakfast provided by the plentiful buffet at the hotel, then we were off to the races. We headed back to the airport to check into our flight to Mozambique-it was already time to head to another country! We made a pit stop before boarding our small plane and grabbed some snacks for the journey. Today was primarily focused on traveling to our first stop of the trip, a beach villa in Tofo Beach. Upon landing, we loaded the bus and began our drive. We arrived at the lodging around dinner time and we were greeted by the owner, Brodie, and a welcome dinner at the dining table that overlooked the ocean. Spirits were high as we all knew our first day of fun in the sun began in the morning.
Day 3 was a great one to say the least! Today was our first full day in Mozambique and we had exciting plans. Anna woke up for a sunrise run, and our entire group wanted to wake up and enjoy the view as well. We were so pleased with their enthusiasm and it made us happy that each of the students really wanted to get the most out of the experience and soak it all in. After a relaxing and scenic morning and a family-style crepe and fruit breakfast, we walked down the beach to our first activity: an ocean safari! After a quick safety briefing and fin fitting, we all hopped aboard the boat and went in search of some amazing sea life. Much to our surprise, we were quickly greeted by a spectacular manta ray so we jumped in to see it for ourselves. Later in the safari, we were lucky to spot a couple of humpback whales and a pod of dolphins. All that swimming made us work up an appetite, so we gobbled down some burgers back at the scuba shop. We promptly enjoyed a game of beach volleyball and had about an hour of free time in the sun to relax before heading to our final activity of the day. Later in the afternoon, we had our cultural immersion experience, which included a cooking class! Everyone had a fantastic time eating fresh coconut meat straight from the coconut and helping cook a local cookie and sauce dish. Day three was definitely not short of food… we enjoyed the dishes we had prepared, along with fresh fish and crab! We walked back to our lodging very satisfied and somehow found some room in our bellies to enjoy a nice dinner a couple ours later after a game of capture the flag on the beach. As always, a night on Moondance is not complete without coming together for a Moonup discussion, led tonight by our Leaders of the Day, Charlotte and Andy!
Day 4: Today was another beautiful day in paradise! Some of the group decided to wake up again for sunrise and start the day intentionally with one another. We enjoyed a great breakfast of eggs and toast before heading off for our last ocean safari. Hopes were high to spot a whale shark this time around. However, we didn’t see one… we saw three! We had three opportunities to jump overboard and swim alongside these gorgeous gentle giants, longer than the length of the boat we were all on. Wills especially loved being out there with them, he was the first one in the water and the last one out every time. The whale shark swims were just the beginnings of our great day. Later, we enjoyed lunch accompanied with some Shema, a local dish that the boys requested. Tyler and Jack scarfed it down and even ate it with their fingers, as suggested by the locals. Surfing was next up after lunch and we split into two groups. One group did a beach clean up while the other did surf lessons, then swapped. Cassie and Patterson stood out during surf lessons, catching waves easily left and right. It was a fun and meaningful rest of the afternoon that was thoroughly enjoyed by all. As always, we rounded out another amazing day with a fantastic dinner served by Brodie and her cook crew and Moonup conversation under the stars.
Day 5: It was hard to believe it was already our last day in Mozambique. Everyone would agree the time in the sun and sand was much needed and proved to be the perfect location for everyone to get to know one another and form a positive group dynamic at the start of our trip. On this day we headed straight to surf lessons right after sunrise and breakfast. Today, Charlotte really showed off the skills she learned and we loved her enthusiasm for her newfound love for surfing! After a couple of hours of catching waves, we ate chicken sandwiches for lunch, then headed to the market. Everyone loved looking around at the homemade decor, paintings, clothing, and jewelry. We also wandered over to the fruit market next door where there was a plethora of delicious, fresh, local fruits to choose from. Cannon even bought an entire pineapple from to share with the group! We had one last surprise in store for the group to wrap up our time in Mozambique… a sunset Dhow boat ride. Dhow boats are traditional sail boats from Mozambique and we had the unique opportunity to enjoy a sail this night. It was so much fun all being together out on the water, listening to music, and recalling all the great memories we had already shared as a group so far. Liam, Chloe, and Sara collected sand dollars on the island we stopped at midway and we snacked on pineapple and coconut. After the sail, we had one last dinner served at Brodie’s lodge and headed back to our cabins to pack up after Moonup. We had an early day of travel awaiting us in the morning.
Until next time!
John Morgan and Anna
June 25, 2023
Hello South Africa 2B 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 as they head to Mozambique.
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!