July 9, 2023
Today we kicked off the day bright and early in order to see some special animals get fed before they were set free to roam all day. After a musical wake up call from Jake and I, 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 some oatmeal and crumpets before loading up the game viewers. Our first stop this morning was to pay a visit to a super local and special conservation project they are running here at Mobula. We had the pleasure of meeting Ann, who introduced us to 3 ground billhorn humble birds that live on the property. The conservationist working on this project told us all about the bird species and their way of life. These birds are giant black birds with red throats and chests. These birds stand about 3 feet tall and walk on their tippy toes along the bush floor, only flying when necessary. We saw they help facilitate a natural breeding process for these birds by providing man made nests for the birds to take too. They also protect baby birds that might not survive and reintroduce the birds into their natural habitat. We were able to get out of the trucks and walk around to learn about their natural habitat and the work Mobula does to help this endangered species. Next we went on a short ride to a beautiful lookout location to enjoy a picnic breakfast. The breakfast included yogurt, ham and cheese croissants, fruit, eggs, muffins and more! Once returning to camp we had some time to chit chat, relax, read, swim and hang out with one another. As the afternoon rolled around, the girls made their way back to the main area and we all grubbed on some veggie lasagna and salad for lunch. Out in our “backyard” view we saw a mother and baby rhino. Opal shot some epic photos of the animal. After lunch we headed out to work with the animal management team on a common winter maintenance task. Today we got to participate in their processes of feeding the wild Buffalo nutrient rich feed. The buffalos only get this food in the winter because of the lack of nutritious natural grasses around. They benefit from this feed because it keeps them strong through the winter months. All the girls were able to sit in the back of the feeding truck and throw the hay feed to the buffalos. Finley and Mills laughed endlessly as the buffalos chased our truck. After our feeding experience, we headed back to the lodge for high tea. Lizzie loved the little brownies we got as a side today. Our last activity was upon us so we loaded up the game viewers for an evening game drive. We learned a vast amount about different uses for plant life in the bush. We had our water break at a beautiful little pond and gazebo and listened to some tunes. Once returning to camp we snuggled around the fire and told stories. Opal and Mills closed out our day with a thoughtful Moonup conversation underneath the stars.
Our final day of activities at Kwafubesi and for our adventure as a whole, a day we hoped would never come. We woke up extra early to make the most of our final day. Jake woke the girls up by having a personal dance party on all their tent porches. Lizzie really appreciated being woken up to ‘Get Down On It.’ This was a big morning, and even though the girls had no idea what the plan was, they could sense something fantastic was brewing. We had a light breakfast before we were greeted by Dory, one of the conservation management team members. Dory briefed us on today’s exciting activities. We were going to join the team on a rhino darting! The girls let out a shriek of excitement! The purpose of the rhino darting was to re-notch the rhino since they duplicated this particular notching, and take samples and measurements for the young calf to gauge its health. Before we could embark, we had to wait on the vet and they had to locate the rhino. In the meantime, we went on a search for the wild dogs. Wild dogs are extremely difficult to catch a glimpse of because they are always on the move unless they are eating or sleeping. After searching for a while, we got the call from the vet and headed to meet the team near the rhinos. All the girls were divided into teams to help tackle the check up. Tess, Colby, Caroline, Finley, and Mills were lucky enough to join the vet on the actual darting process. They hopped in the back of the truck and headed out with the vet. Once darted, the team went to work. Lizzie helped monitor the blood oxygen levels with a device. Opal injected some medicine. Finley and Avery helped with the microchips. Charlotte measured the horns. Ellie and Meg took blood samples. Giselle helped wake up the rhino after we all snapped some pictures. After an exciting time with the rhino, we thanked the team for allowing us to join in on a once in a lifetime experience and headed out for lunch. We had lunch on a rock outcrop and it was amazing! We had chicken wings, quiche, potato salad, and rolls! We ate until our bellies were full then got our second surprise of the day, we were headed to see the lions! There are 5 lions on the property at Mabula, one male and 4 females. We were lucky enough to catch all 5 of them napping in the sun. Next, we headed back to camp after a long morning and exciting afternoon. After some quick naps it was time for our final game drive of the trip. We loaded up on the trucks one last time and set out into the bush. Jake had the girls do his hair up in a super short ponytail on top of his head, he looked hilarious and had all the girls laughing. Jake’s vehicle all started doing their best accents and impersonations. We all had a little dance party at our last water stop while the sun set slowly overhead. Once we returned to the lodge, we were greeted with warm glasses of ginger and cranberry juice! Tonight we were eating in the Boma and we capped off our time here with one last African Braai! The girls were surprised to see little picture frames on their place mats for dinner. We surprised all the girls with a printed out picture from our sunset cruise at Little Mongena. It was one of the first pictures we took as a group and it was a great way to kick off our banquet night by showing everyone just how far we have come as a group on this adventure. Before dinner we had a big dance party to some throwback songs. Lindani even got into the dancing spirit! After we had lost our breath from dancing our hearts out it was time for dinner. We wrapped up dinner with some Malva pudding and even chocolate cake! Moonup was simply hilarious. We re-lived all of our favorite moments from our trip. It was a beautiful time of reflection that all had us feeling loved, appreciated, and accomplished. We concluded Moonup with a big group hug. We had some leftover sparklers from our 4th of July celebration. We had the bright idea of drawing ‘South Africa❤️’ with our sparklers and snapping a picture. Our time together on this adventure has come to an end, but the relationships formed and memories made will last a lifetime.
The day we have all been dreading is officially upon us 🙁 our last morning together was quite peaceful and allowed all to cherish each other’s presents. The girls got to sleep in and pack up all their things in preparation for our travel day ahead. We all enjoyed one last AMAZING breakfast in Kwafubesi around a big table one last time. Once we concluded breakfast we gave the girls the opportunity to learn about some of the trips they could possibly go on next summer. This got the girls day dreaming of new adventures! Next we snapped a few last pictures with our game viewers and our Safari guides Empo and Sedrick came and wished the girls farewell and safe travels. 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. After our long car ride and check in process it was time for our final meal together as a group. We went to a super yummy Italian restaurant that had the most perfect long table for all of us. Colby got a ‘bussin’ looking cheese pizza and Caroline got a fantastic looking burger. Once all our bellies were full and happy we went to gather the girls bags and things. Jake and I decided to treat the girls one last time to some YUMMY SNACKS for their long voyage home! Lizzie got chocolate bars of course and Opal got her new favorite snack, dried mango! Once the girls were all situated and pleased with their purchases we headed to check in. The girls at this point are all professional world travelers and went through the check in processes seamlessly. We all gathered in a circle one last time and 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. We had the girls text us when they were at the gate to ensure they boarded their plan safely. Jake and I are sure that the girls will continue to share many laughs during their travels but it won’t be the same.
It has been such a joy leading this amazing group of girls. We miss them already but cannot wait to reconnect when we are back home! Opal, Caroline, Charlotte, Avery, Meg, Finley, Colby, Ellie, Tess, Lizzie, Mills, Giselle we love and miss you! Hope to see you all very soon!
Jake & Gracie signing off from a trip of a lifetime!
July 6, 2023
Hi everyone! Day nine was our last full day at the beach, and it was still packed full of super fun activities to ensure we experienced all things that Mozambique and Tofo beach has to offer. This morning’s schedule allowed for the girls to have a later wake up call to sleep in slightly. We all enjoyed breakfast while looking out on our ocean view and even saw some dolphins jumping in the ocean. After breakfast we all departed for our final beach festivities. Gisselle, Colby, Lizzie, Charlotte, Avery, and Meg all got to surf first today, and they did not disappoint! These six girls absolutely LOVED surfing and became quite professionals with an extended surfing lesson. While Finley, Caroline, Mills, Ellie, Tess, and Opal all conducted a beach cleanup. The girls all began to surf solo. I was blown away by their abilities. Colby was even using an 8-inch board. Lizzie spoke of how she’s going to start surfing at home and cannot wait to show off her new skills in the States. After surfing and our beach clean ups, we all enjoyed delicious burgers, fries, and salad for lunch. To accompany lunch, we surprised the girls with Milkshakes!!! After lunch it was time for our Market experience where the girls had the opportunity to visit an authentic Mozambique market and purchase girls and nicknacks if they wished. The market consists of beautiful artwork, sculptures, Jewelry, woodworkings, clothing and much more. All the items for purchase were authentic to Mozambique and the culture. Many of the girls got jewelry, paintings and more. Opal got a little blue whale shark with her name carved in it to remember swimming with the sharks. During the market, I snuck away to buy a surprise for all the girls. Once we got back to Tilak Lodge to freshen up for the evening Jake and I gathered all the girls around to give them their surprise. We played music and called each girl up one by one as we gifted them matching shorts with Mozambique art on them! They all had the biggest smiles and loved it; we sent the girls off to change into their shorts so we could match for the evening. Next, we were off for a traditional sunset boat cruise. The boat we sailed on was a real Dhow boat that they used to fish and get place to place. We enjoyed viewing and learning about the mangroves and birds. We even saw a flock of flamingos set sail. The sunset was absolutely stunning and was such a beautiful way to close out our last evening. Once arriving back at the lodge, we had a lovely dinner and brownies! Lastly, we, of course, had Moonup that was wonderfully led by Gisselle and Finley.
The next day was a travel day! We woke the girls up just before sunrise to grab their bags and load up the bus. We waved goodbye to our new best friends, Brodie and Fenton, one last time and drove out of Tofo Beach while the sun came up. Most of us continued sleeping on the bus but soon woke up to munch on our packed breakfast Brodie made for us filled with sandwiches, fruit, juice, and of course, a couple of sweet treats. After waking up and eating all the girls jumped right into their books for the rest of the ride. Pretty soon we arrived at the airport ready to check in and head back to Jburg. The girls were phenomenal with check in and showed great patience even when the system went down! We made our way through security and border patrol with no hiccups and settled down to wait to board. Many of the girls ran to the snack shop at the gate and grabbed all sorts of goodies from pringles to sodas to chocolates. As we sat and ate our snacks, our plane came in for a landing and we all got to watch it unfold; it was awesome! We jumped on the plane and took off, flying over the clear blue waters of Vilankulo. Lunch on the plane was amazing! Many of the girls got the pesto pasta which was delicious. We landed and seamlessly made our way through customs again, excited to be back in Jburg. After grabbing our bags, we made our way to check in to City Lodge, our favorite hotel! While waiting to check in, Colby entertained everyone with more silly stories while they all waited. Once we checked in and dropped our bags, it was time for some airport fun! We went to Woolworths for some snacks and the girls had a field day. Opal snagged her favorites, some dried mango slices. Lizzie, Caroline, and Charlotte all indulged in a latte. After loading up on snacks, we ran to the bookstore for everyone to grab one last good read before the trip ended. We all shared recommendations, bought the ones we could find, and even exchanged some books for our last trip section. These girls sure do love to read! Once we wrapped up airport fun, we went back to the rooms for showers to get ready for dinner. Dinner tonight was at the hotel! The margherita pizza and chicken Alfredo were a big hit. After we filled our bellies, we headed off for Moonup. Meg and Ellie led a great Moonup with some fun questions. Tess and Caroline were named LODs for our first day in Kwafubesi! We could not wait to be back in the bush!
The next day was the Fourth of July! Hope everyone’s holiday was just as special and magical as ours was. This morning began with breakfast at City Lodge hotel that the girls have been eagerly anticipating because they LOVED the muffins they serve. All the girls helped themselves to a variety of breakfast foods from the buffet but not a single girl went without a muffin. Next, we loaded up the vans once more to head to our final destination. We and the girls are all SO excited to be headed back to the bush and look forward to some wildlife interaction. Once we arrived at Mobula private game reserve, we were greeted by their lovely staff with an overview presentation accompanied by lunch presented by the management team. We had the opportunity to meet our private staff at our tented camp location known as Kwafubesi and our Safari guides. Jake and I were pulled aside by the conservation team and were informed that our group was lucky enough to be invited to view a very special rhino introduction. One thing we love about Mobula and their team is that they always want to get our Moondance students involved in all the action happening on the reserve, even if it’s out of the original schedule. We felt honored, lucky and so thrilled to be a part of this moment, especially on our arrival day. We headed to our tented camp, Kwafubesi, to unpack and prepare for our surprise excursion. Jake and I, of course, had some 4th of July surprises to include in the evening festivities. All the girls were given red, white and blue beanie hats to wear, and we had fun face paint!!!! Gracie introduced the face paint to the girls by drawing flag-colored lines on her cheeks and USA on her forehead! Lizzie jumped right in and was quite the artist drawing fireworks and American flags in everyone’s cheeks! Charlotte was the first to go all out and write USA across her cheeks. While we were all painting our faces, we noticed rhinos wander up to camp to get a drink from the watering hole right beyond the fence at the perfect time. We snapped a group photo and then loaded up the vans for the surprise conservation activity. Once we arrived the conservationist, managers and vets briefed the group and answered ALL their questions. Today they were releasing two female and one male rhino into the reserve in efforts to diversify breeding. They placed all three crates out in an open field and allowed us to have a front row view as they took their first steps onto the Mobula land. We stood and viewed from a high up semi-truck bed, so we were out of the rhinos’ way completely. It was such a beautiful and peaceful experience to watch. The girls all vocalized how they couldn’t have wished for a better way to spend their Fourth of July. After such a magical moment and a million photos later, we hopped back into our game vehicles. We cruised around looking for more wildlife and enjoyed a drink stop to watch a marvelous sunset. This was truly such a wonderful welcoming experience to Mobula and got the girls so intrigued and excited for what’s to come in the following few days. Once returning to camp we enjoyed chicken, rice, and veggies for dinner. After dinner we snuggled around a big fire pit, eating cookies while reminiscing on fun 4th of July memories. Tess and Caroline conducted a lighthearted and heartwarming Moonup that was perfect for the day’s mood. Lastly, Jake and I surprised the girls once more with EXTRA LONG sparklers!! The girls lit up with excitement and it was the best possible way to close out The Fourth in South Africa.
The next day was the first full day in Mabula! Gracie and I woke up the girls with a little bit of music to get our morning started on the right foot. We made our way to the breakfast table where we were served a buffet style breakfast of eggs, toast, hash browns, and oatmeal! We scarfed down our food and grabbed some coffee from the amazing coffee machine at our disposal. Ivan, the reserve manager, came to have a coffee with us to brief us on our exciting morning activity. We were going to join the predator management team on a cheetah walk! The girls were thrilled! We polished off our coffees and ran to the vehicles. Once we arrived, we split up into two groups and had a short bush walk to track the cheetahs. Finally, we stumbled upon the two brothers, known as a coalition, and the girls’ jaws hit the floor. We were barely 10 yards away from them! We could almost reach out and touch them if we wanted to, such a WOW moment! We all snapped our pictures of our new furry friends and trekked back to the vehicles, still in awe of our most recent encounter. We went on a short game drive after the cheetahs and ran into some awesome animals. We rounded a corner and boom – a huge giraffe right next to the road was towering over us and the vehicle. The girls let out a shriek of surprise but quickly tried to contain their excitement to not scare him off. Unamused by us, the giraffe wandered back into the bush, but not before showing us his good side and allowing us to snap several pictures. We rounded the corner again to see even more giraffes! There were at least 6 of them all around us! One was even in the middle of the road before running back to the group. We continued driving until we came across the elephant herd! There were 6 total in this herd, one male and five females. The male was huge! He was a few yards into the bush, almost completely camouflaged, ripping off large branches for a mid-day snack. There were about 3 others out in the middle of the road. One stared at us for almost a whole 5-10 minutes before heading into the bush. The girls loved the elephants! After a crazy morning, we headed to the dam for our picnic lunch. We had chicken and cheese sandwiches with fruit and a muffin. We enjoyed our peaceful lunch out in the warm African sun up until it was time to head back to Kwafubesi for some down time. The girls took naps and some time to read their books. Pretty soon we were off and running on another game drive this afternoon. We had an amazing view for our drink stop as the sun set behind the mountains. On the way up the mountain, Gracie’s truck was escorted by a giraffe! He walked them up the road for almost the entire time! Our guides, Cedric and Impo, taught us a couple of fun games we all played. Before loading up the bus, Colby organized a game of Bubble Gum Bubble Gum in a Dish; we all jumped in to play. As we wrapped up the game, the giraffe that escorted us up the mountain came by to say hello one more time before heading back down. We made our way back to camp for dinner. We were greeted with some hot chocolate when we got back. For dinner, we had rice, beef stew, veggies, soup, and of course some rolls. It was all delicious! Afterwards, we ran off to the campfire for Moonup. Avery and Lizzie led a fantastic Moonup that had us all belly laughing! Mills and Opal were named LODs for tomorrow, and we cannot wait for them to lead us through another full day of surprises!
The girls of 2C wanted to share some words of gratitude to everyone who made this trip possible!
Finley – Thank you mom and dad for sending me on this amazing trip. South Africa has brought me so many new experiences and memories. I have had a great time and I can’t wait to tell you about our adventures. See you soon! Love y’all❤️
Caroline: Thank you to my awesome parents who are the sole reason why I am here in South Africa right now. This has honestly been the trip of a lifetime and I can’t wait to see you very soon! There is so much to tell you about what I’ve been doing these past few weeks! Love you all so much! 💞
Opal: Thank you Mom and Dad for giving me the amazing opportunity of this trip. It has been so incredible so far and I can’t wait to see you and tell you all about it! Love you so much and I’ll see you soon! 💞
Ellie- I want to say thank you to my parents for sending me on this trip. I have learned so much, met some great people, and seen so many cool animals. This has been an amazing trip and I have created wonderful memories that I can’t wait to share with you guys. I will see you soon, I love you guys the most❤️❤️❤️❤️
Charlotte- Thank you so much mom and dad for sending me on this amazing trip to South Africa. It has been incredible and gave such cool experiences. I can’t wait to see you and tell you all about it! Thank you and I love you 💗💗
Lizzie- Thank you so much mom, dad, and Mimi for this amazing opportunity to go on a Moondance! I have been having an amazing time and I am so excited to tell you all my new stories from the trip when I come home. See you soon and happy early birthday Mom! 💕💕💕
Mills- Thank you mom for giving me this opportunity to travel to South Africa. I have never been out of the country before, and I have been able to cross many things off of my bucket list. This trip has taught me to go outside of my comfort zone and to live in the moment. I’ve met many amazing people on this trip and have shared the best memories with everyone!!
Avery- Thank you to my mom and dad for giving me this opportunity to come here. I’ve never done anything like this before and I am so amazed with everything I get to do here. Thank you to my sisters I miss you guys more than I thought I would!! Thank you to all the amazing friends I’ve met here. I know all of our friendships will be long lasting! 💗💗💗
Colby – thank you mommy and daddy and sissy, for giving me this opportunity to travel to South Africa. I have had the best time of my life and I am with the best group of girls. Everyone is so kind and funny and I am so lucky to be on this trip. I have met life long best friends I will never lose touch with and I never want to leave. It’s so beautiful here and I miss you guys so much and I can’t wait to see you soon. I’m so fortunate to be here right now and I have learned so much this 17 days. Love ya!!❤️❤️❤️💕💕💕💞💞💞💗💗💗💘💘💘✌🏼✌🏼✌🏼🥳🥳🥳😋😋😋😍😍😍🐬🐬🐬🦈🦈🦈
Meg- Thank you mom and dad for pushing me out of my comfort zone and sending me to South Africa. Thank you for the opportunity. I’ve seen some amazing things and have sooo many stories. I have met the best people and am confident that I will always be friends with these girls. I have come out of this trip more outgoing and adventurous. I am so excited to come home and show you all of my pictures and tell stories. Love you guys so much! Talk to you all Saturday! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
Tess – Thank you so much Mom and Dad for allowing me to come on this incredible journey. I have learned so many interesting things about new people and about myself, which has given me a change to grow as a person. I cannot wait to tell with you both the stories and show you all the pictures I have from South Africa. I’m so excited to finally be able to see you guys, as well as Fielding and Elsa. I love you so much and I cannot wait to give y’all big hugs when I get home! Talk to you on Saturday!!!!!!!!!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️😘😘😘😘🥳🥳🥳😍😍😍💕💕💕💗💗💗💞💞💞
Giselle – thank you mom and dad so much for sending me on this amazing trip. I have had so much fun and have done so many incredible things and met so many great people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I hope you guys know how grateful and happy I am that I got this opportunity. You guys will be so surprised that I have even gotten into reading and have already finished one book! I will be sad to leave but I can’t wait to tell you guys about all the cool things we have done and all the places we have stayed. Love you guys so much and can’t wait to see you soon! 💗💗💗💞💞💞💞😘😘😘😘
July 2, 2023
Last full day at Little Mongena and we are not ready to say goodbye to this wonderful place. After a quiet night sleeping amongst the wild animals in the African bush, we woke up as the sun meet the horizon and the stars began to fade away. Remaining bundled up due to the crisp morning air, the girls packed up their sleeping bags and gathered their things and headed to the trucks for a quick ride back to tented camp. Upon arrival, we enjoyed a hot breakfast, hot showers, and some rest. Then we debriefed our sleep out in the bush. After everyone was feeling refreshed, we headed back to the village of Kekana to finish up our project. All that was left was some detail work and the back wall, the girls got right to work and finished swiftly and efficiently. This gave us ample time to play with the local children that attend the day care. The girls shared nothing but smiles, joy, and laughter with the youngsters. Ellie lit up as she made connections chatting and dancing with the young girls. Tess was such a natural leader as she played and talked to the kids. Charlotte was constantly seen laughing and sharing smiles and Caroline took time to chat with the owner. The group as a whole was so energetic and involved while the kids played on the jungle gym and went down the slide. After a long and loving goodbye from the daycare we headed back to Mongena. Once we arrived, we had some much needed time to relax by the pool, read, journal, and regroup from our long night in the bush and day of work. This afternoon the girls joined Gracie for some Yoga Fusion on the dock to get some movement before our Safari. It was a blast! Per usual we split into two game vehicles and were off on our next adventure. Mills was asking some great questions throughout our final drive. Both groups had the pleasure of seeing the oldest and largest female lion known to man in South Africa! This lioness is known as ‘Northern Pride Female’ we watched as she snacked on her most recent hunted prey. One van had the pleasure of seeing a family of Giraffes including a pregnant mother. While the other Van had the opportunity of seeing a mother lion and her two 6-month-old cubs. These two cubs have not been seen out and about in the past three months! The lioness sat patiently as her two cubs played about, it was adorable. Next and unbelievably special moment occurred when all three lions were ready to leave and walked RIGHT past our vehicle looking directly at us. Our Safari concluded as the sky got cloudy, and rain began to fall. When we got back to camp we had an intimate dinner setting with candle lit lanterns and a dark ambiance in the dining room that included the most delicious pasta. We enjoyed ice cream and cheesecake around comfy chairs and couches as we told silly stories. Lastly Lizzie and Meg lead a wonderful Moonup to wrap up our time at Little Mongena. Tomorrow, we have another early morning and then a long travel day with the BEACH as our final destination.
Travel day! This morning we woke up just before sunrise to have breakfast on the patio deck. We all indulged in muffins, croissants, and omelettes one last time before heading back to the main lodge for our transfer to the airport. We waved goodbye to our new friends Obi, Lauren, Rebecca, and of course Oreo the cat as we left Little Mongena. Despite the early morning, the girls were lively on the way to the airport, chatting the whole time about how exciting the first part of our trip has been. We arrived to the airport and headed to check in to grab our boarding passes and get to the gate. The girls were flawless and displayed excellent traveling skills throughout the whole day. We arrived to our gate just before boarding the bus that took us to the airplane. Gracie ran off on her own to grab some snacks and surprises for our drive to the beach. On our flight, we were treated to chicken or beef sandwiches or a veggie wrap. Upon arrival, we moved through customs with ease with everyone getting a new stamp! We grabbed our bags and headed out to meet our driver who was patiently waiting for us outside the airport. We jumped aboard for the long haul to the beach. Gracie passed out chips and sandwiches for everyone to snack on during the ride. Many of the girls settled in by taking naps or reading. Later the girls had a new wave of energy and spent time all singing and jamming out to some Taylor Swift oldies. As the drive began to run long Gracie surprised the girls with Twix candy bars and that brought up the spirit. Colby surely kept the group entertained and belly laughing the whole last portion of the car ride. Once we pulled into Tilak Lodge all the girls erupted with woots and hoorays. Luckily, dinner was already ready for us so all we had to do was drop off our bags, wash our hands and head up to dinner. The dinner that was served was white rice, a potato veggie stew, salad, and rolls. The girls gobbled down their dinners and were thrilled to hear we had chocolate mousse for dessert. This group surely doesn’t lack a sweet tooth. After dinner the group was ready for a comfortable night’s rest. LODs Gisselle and Mills led a wonderful Moonup that officially opened up our time here at the beach! We cannot wait for some sunshine, surfing, and snorkeling tomorrow.
Our first official day at the beach and we could not be more excited for the adventures that lie ahead. As the sun rose over the ocean horizon our day begins with another music wake up call summing all the girls to breakfast! For breakfast we enjoyed homemade crepes and many girls shared this was their first time ever having these. Lizzie especially loved it! After breakfast and morning huddle led by Colby and Ellie it was time for some fun in the sun. Surf group 1 (Tess, Finley, Ellie, Mills, Opal and Caroline) headed down to the beach for a morning beach walk to ‘The Surf Shack’ where we met our local surf instructors and got geared up and ready to hit the water. Before we knew it the girls were all popping up on their boards and catching the waves. Tess surfed like a natural as she was so calm and collected when she got up on her board. After some practice, Opal impressed us all with her ability to catch waves all on her own. Ellie was riding the waves, as well as making everyone laugh. Finley, Mills and Caroline made great friends with the instructors and caught wave after wave as the time flew by. In the meantime, surf group 2 (Colby, Avery, Meg, Charlotte, Lizzie, Gisselle) was conducting a beach clean-up! They walked the beach scanning for and collecting trash that would likely cause harm to the reefs and aquatic life. They even found a backpack and a flip-flop. Then the two groups swapped. Lizzie was a natural with the surf board! After some gnarly surfing it was time for some lunch, hydration, and relaxation. We had chicken sandwiches, fries, and a salad, yum! Once the girls regrouped it was time for our afternoon Ocean Safari to begin. The girls all got equipped with fins, mask, snorkels and a rash guard and then we were briefed on our upcoming experience by the scuba instructors. We all helped push the boat into the big blue sea and jumped aboard as the captain took off into the large swells. Everyone’s faces lit up with pure enjoyment and excitement as we sped off towards the horizon. Before we knew it the captain spotted the first whale shark, and he was HUGE. The girls geared up and slid into the water, we swap around looking to set eyes on the massive whale shark until he was suddenly directly below us. The girls were overcome with excitement. Once back on the boat we also saw over 4 humpback whales and were left speechless every time they flipped their tail in the air. We were then lucky enough to spot another smaller whale shark. This guy became all the girl’s best friend. He allowed us all to swim with, around, next to and behind him. He was so calm and slow, making the experience so special and personal. I know this made such a big impact on the girls who got in the water to swim. Once returning to the beach with salty skin and hair we gathered our things and headed back to our home base: Tilak Lodge. This gave the girls ample time to shower and get ready for the evening. Once everyone was fresh and clean, we played two big games of cards. Dinner time soon rolled around, and we made our way to the restaurant to enjoy chili, potato’s and salad followed by cheese cake! To close out our night our LODs lead us through a thoughtful Moonup. The girls were surely tired out from a long active day in the sun but are already amped up about tomorrow. Can’t wait for LODs Avery and Charlotte to guide us through another Ocean Safari and some Cultural immersion experiences.
Beach day twooooo woohooo!!! We started off this morning with a little earlier wake up to head out on our ocean Safari! The girls came to breakfast ready for the day. We had eggs and toast for breakfast along with the usual chocolate puff cereal and some fruit. We scarfed down our food and headed out to the beach to walk down to Tofo Scuba. The girls were professional ocean Safari-ers at this point, they collected their fins and shirts and headed down to the boat. The ocean was calm this morning, it was a great day to be out on the water! We immediately spotted a couple of humpback whales. It simply does not get old, we especially love it when they flip their tails out of the water! We kept on zig zagging along the coast until we ran into a pod of dolphins! These dolphins were extra friendly and swam right up to the boat! It was crazy! We all immediately jumped into swim with our new friends. Finley had the biggest smile on her face when she got back in the boat! WOW moment for sure! After a fun swim with the dolphins, we continued to zig zag along the coast until it was time to head back. We were all able to hang out in the sun, relax, read, or play some volleyball until lunch. Lunch was fresh kingfish and fries! It was fantastic! After lunch, we quickly ran back to our rooms to get ready for a cooking class this afternoon! Our guide, Tony, was born and raised here in Tofo Beach. His house was just a short walk away from where we were staying. We were greeted with some fresh coconut water after a friend of Tony’s climbed this superrrrrrr tall tree to knock them down. We sipped on the coconut water as Tony explained the dish we were going to make called matapa. Matapa consists of matapa leaves, some seasoning, crushed peanuts, and fresh coconut milk! First, we opened a coconut and started shaving out the white meat on the inside. The girls all jumped in to help out. Next, we crushed some peanuts into a fine flour using the “crusher.” With the fresh coconut shavings, we added a little bit of hot water to milk the coconut. We mixed the fresh milk into the peanut flour and then strained it into the already prepared matapa leaves and seasonings. All that was left to do was boil the mixture for about 25 minutes! In the meantime, we all made some cookies! Tony had already prepared some dough for us so we all jumped right in. The girls made so many different shapes for the cookies. Lizzie made dolphins, smiley faces, and even a unicorn! Opal made a giraffe and Finley made a big F for her name. The cookies were amazing! Everyone loved them and we all took some pictures of Lizzie’s cookie craftsmanship even after they were cooked. Our traditional dish of matapa was served over rice along with pineapple and some crab! We filled our bellies with all of it. The matapa was a huge hit with the group, Caroline even asked if we could have it for dinner! After eating, it was time to head back to the lodge. The girls were able to get cleaned up and hangout by the rooms up until dinner. Dinner tonight was pasta and all the girls loved it. Pasta was followed up by ice cream with banana samosas, another fan favorite! We devoured our sweet treat and ran off to the beach for Moonup under the brightest full moon we had ever seen! We did not even need our headlamps it was so bright! Avery and Charlotte led a spectacular Moonup asking some amazing questions. Finley and Giselle were named LODs for our last day at the beach! Cannot wait to soak up the sun one more time!
To wrap up this update, the girls of 2C had a few things to share with all you friends and family that are following along!
Mills: Hi family! I am having so much fun I even swam with a whale shark! I swam right beside two of them! I could almost touch it. I missed the beach with everyone and I hope it was a good time. Tell Mae Mae I say hi! P.S. I am actually reading!
Ellie: Hey fam! I miss you guys so much and hope you guys are doing well. There is so much to tell you about this place, it is amazing. I swam with a whale shark and ate KingFish for lunch, I’ve also met some great people!!!! I hope you guys are having fun in the Bahamas and Eli I hope you enjoyed seeing Morgan!!!! Tell Charlie and Remi I can’t wait to see them and give them extra kisses for me💋💋. Peace and blessing I love and can’t wait to see you guys. ❤️❤️❤️❤️✌🏼✌🏼✌🏼✌🏼💗💗💗💕💕💕💘💘💘
Tess: Hi Mom and Dad!! I have a lot to tell you when I get home! I have seen lions, giraffe, rhinos, buffalo, and elephants. Now we are at the beach, and I tried eating crab and King Fish yesterday. I learned how to surf and I also got to swim with a whale shark which was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Tell Fielding and Connor that I say hi. I love and miss you both so much and can’t wait to get home!!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
Caroline: Hello everyone!!!! There’s so much to say about my trip so far but I’ll keep this short and sweet. We started off at a place called Little Mongena where we went on game drives and saw lions, rhinos, buffalos, giraffes, wildebeests, impalas, etc. We then had a long travel day to Tofo Beach in Mozambique. It’s so much fun here!!! I love and miss you all! Also tell Luna and Oscar I said hey! 💕💕
Finley: Hi mom and dad. I hope everything is going good at home. I got to swim with a huge group of dolphins yesterday and a whale shark the day before! I also have seen giraffes, lions, zebras, rhinos, and more on our safaris! I have met such amazing people and I’m having so much fun. Love and miss you guys so much! Please tell Lauren I miss her and give Daisy, Toby, and Chewy lots of hugs for me. See you soon💘
Opal: Hi Mom and Dad! I’ve had the best time so far! We have seen so many animals including swimming with dolphins and whale sharks! 🦈 Lloyd’s camera is incredible and I have gotten so many amazing pictures, especially of one particular lion. I’ve spent my free time talking with people, reading, and journaling. I can’t wait for you to read about all of the amazing days I’ve had. Although I miss you all, I thankfully haven’t been homesick like at space camp and camp queen-e. Can’t wait to see you soon! Xo, Opal 💞
Meg: Hi family! Africa is so beautiful! I miss you guys so much! I’ve had a great time and have made many friends. I have so much to tell you guys, y’all are going to be so jealous. I have seen lions, giraffes, buffalo, rhinos, elephants, dolphins, humpback whales, and whale sharks. I’ve been journaling every single night, reading my book, and taking lots of pictures. I can’t wait to home back and go back to Waffle House with dad! I love you guys so much and will call you all at the airport Saturday.
Colby: hi family!!!! Africa is so unbelievably amazing and I never want to leave. If I could stay here for the rest of my life I would 1000000% would. Right now, I’m in Mozambique and it is so warm here considering it is December for them haha. We slept in nice tents at the last place and now we’re sleeping in bunk beds with bug nets over us. The food here is better than you’ll ever believe and now I am a total fish person it’s so good. I’ve changed so much and I can’t wait to see you guys soon. We swam with huge whale sharks and I had a stroke when I saw it. I can’t wait to move here when I’m older it’s better than I could imagine. I got a present for Ava Jane and Dawson. I have journaled a bunch don’t worry. Hope everyone is well!!!! Oh and everyone is so nice and funny I have made best friends I’ll keep forever. Love ya!!!!!!
Giselle: hey fam!! Africa is so pretty and I don’t want to leave. I saw a lion and its cubs from like 2 ft away it was insane. I also saw a rhino, giraffe, zebra, elephant and we still have so many game drives left. We also went surfing twice and I got up so many times on my own. We also went on an ocean Safari and swam with dolphins and whale sharks. I got very seasick but thank god I didn’t throw up. The food is really good here and the beach is amazing. I also already bought like 20 bracelets from these aggressive salesmen in the beach. Miss you guys so much and can’t wait to see you! Lobe y’all❤️❤️💕💕
Charlotte: HEYYY FAMILY! I am having so much fun it’s insane here. We saw rhinos elephants giraffes and lions which were like 2 feet away it was so cool!! We painted nurseries and played and danced with all the little kids they were the cutest ever and it was so fun. Right now we’re in Mozambique on the beach and I never want to leave it’s so nice. We went surfing twice and I basically wiped out every time but it’s okay instill love it. We went on 2 ocean safaris where we snorkel with whale sharks and dolphins it was crazy! I was literally swimming next to this gigantic whale shark INSANE! Happy 20th birthday will live it up🎉🥳I love and miss you guys but am having so much fun💗💗💞😍😊😘👌
Lizzie: Hellooooo! I am having an amazing time and everyone here is SO nice! It feels like being on a trip with 14 best friends! When we were in little Mongena we got to go to sleep to the sounds of hippos 🦛 (I know you’re jelly mom haha). We also went on safaris in a Jeep where we saw lions, buffalo, wildebeest, jackals, zebra, giraffe, and so many more animals! When we were walking through the bush we saw a huge buffalo skull that everyone took a picture with. Also, thank you dad because the “ugly” pants have definitely come in handy! 😂 We also went to the local villages there and painted nurseries and played games and danced with all of the little kids! Right now we are in Mozambique where we went on ocean safaris, surfed, and cleaned the beaches. I swam RIGHT NEXT TO a HUGE whale shark! We have been surfing a lot and I am so surprised by how well I have been doing! I think Mk’s necklace is good luck! I miss y’all so much and I can’t wait to tell you everything! Please give Bella and Daisy a hug for me!
Avery: hey guys! I’m having so much fun here and I want to tell you all about it when I get home but to update y’all on what we have been doing we first went to this place called little Mongena where we met some amazing kids we painted their houses and their playgrounds. After that we went on these INSANE game drives where I saw to baby lions and a mama lion they walked to us at the car it was crazy (got some great pictures of them) I then saw elephants giraffes and rhinos. Right now we are at the beach where I swam with a whale shark. It was so big the instructor said it was the biggest one they’ve seen and also I swam with dolphins. Anyway I just want to tell y’all I’ve met so many long lasting friendships and can’t wait for y’all to meet them and I miss you guys!! love y’all 💕💕💕💕
June 28, 2023
Today is the day that we’ve all been waiting for, the girl’s arrival in South Africa! Jake and I couldn’t be more excited to finally meet everyone. As we eagerly wait for the girls at the gate, we made sure to have Pizza ready. Before we knew it, the all the kids smiling faces come funneling out into the greeting area. We made our way to the hotel and did a quick introduction before letting the girls dive into pizza. We got the whole group situated in their perspective rooms and let everyone get settled in. I had the pleasure of getting Opal from the terminal a little later and her sweetness shined through right from the start. It was time for our first Moonup to conclude the day and welcome the girls to the best two weeks ever. Jake and I went over all sorts of important stuff with the girls and ensured they all felt good. The girls were tired of course from their long journey so we sent them off to get a good night’s rest. So much more fun to come and we cannot wait for the next 2 weeks.
Woohoo first activity day! After a long travel day yesterday, the girls got some much-needed rest to prepare for our first destination, Little Mongena! We woke them up for a breakfast buffet at the hotel and everyone had a big ole breakfast to begin the day.
Afterwards, we sent them off to pack their stuff and hit the road. We arrived at Little Mongena just in time for lunch. Colby spotted some Zebra on the way in and could not believe her eyes! We were greeted by Mahembe, Harry, and Rita with warm towels and Mongena Sunrises. Once we gulped down our juice the girls were eager to check out their tents. We sent them off to catch a glimpse before we regrouped on the patio deck for lunch. We had sandwiches, salads, and wraps. A supppper tasty meal. After lunch we played a group game that all the girls loved. Opal and Finley each won a veggie off to claim their victory! Once we wrapped up games, we all sat around to make friendship bracelets and get to know the new people around us. The guides surprised us with a sunset cruise with snacks and soft drinks. The sunset was beautiful! Tess and Ellie kept the conversations flowing up at the front of the boat while Gracie and I chatted at the back of the boat. Many girls made the comment they still could not believe they were in Africa! We came back to shore and all huddled around the campfire as the cold was beginning to set in with the sinking sun. Before dinner we heard dancing and singing off in the distance then all of a sudden, we were met with traditional African dancers! The girls were so surprised! They rounded us all up and we joined in on the dancing and singing. The girls jumped right in without missing a beat, especially Giselle and Colby! We laughed and danced and ran around the campfire then said goodbye to the amazing dancers. For dinner we had an African braai! We had many traditional dishes such as pap and sous, three bean salad, sweet corn pudding, and boerwors along with other tasty foods. We all showed Opal how to eat corn on the cob since it had been a while since she had it! Dinner concluded with crème brûlée and malva pudding. It was divine! After dessert, we circled up around the fire for Moonup. Gracie tricked the girls into thinking there were lions in camp but never fear, it was just the nug jug! We had a great first Moonup out in the bush under the stars. Opal and Caroline were named LODs for tomorrow and we cannot wait to meet up with the community team to kick off our project!
Today was our first day of our community engagement portion of the trip and the girls all shared how excited they were to kick off our project and have the opportunity to meet some locals from the community. Opal and Gracie started off the day waking up the girls to some Taylor Swift jams and cheering them out of bed. We all enjoyed a spectacular breakfast buffet, followed by our LODs, Caroline and Opal leading a great morning huddle. Next, we loaded up the ‘Ganda Ganda’ (an open air school bus) and we were off to the village of Kekana. Once we arrived, we enjoyed a ride around town while all the locals smiled and waved as we drove by I could feel the girls excitement growing. Once arriving at our location for the day we disembarked the truck to see what we’d be doing. Today we were helping give a local Day Care a little beautification with some bright paint. Before getting started the girls all joined in on a game of pickle ball with the local kids. Jake and I split the girls up into paint teams and delegated tasks. Tess and Finley got right to work but requested some painting jams of course, so we pumped up the music. Charlotte and Meg worked diligently on the big walls ensuring all the paint job prior to use was sufficiently covered up.
Caroline had the pleasure of working closely with one of our community member supervisors named George, on the wooden playground. After a long morning of work, we took a short break for packed lunches. After lunch the whole group worked together to finish up the loose ends. Caroline was such a great leader making sure the group worked together to paint the playground all the correct colors. Finley, Giselle, Charlotte, and Tess all painted some detailed work inside the school as well.
Once we wrapped up all our paint work, we enjoyed some fun with the local neighborhood kids. Colby sparked up a game of kick ball and has so many kids running around. While Gracie led a giant group dance party that had everyone dancing seriously for over an hour! The girls and kids all shared so many laughs and smiles together as we joined together in crazy spontaneous dance moves. This was such a special moment for all. After a wonderful afternoon we headed back to Little Mongena for our very first evening Safari game drive. On our game drive we had the thrill and pleasure of spotting three out of the five ‘Big 5’ animals to see. We first saw a gigantic white rhino! Next, we drove around following and smelling a large herd of elephants and lastly stumbled upon a pack of water Buffalo. Along the way we saw many other animals and learned all about these species as well. This first game ride was certainly a special one and set the bar high for the rest of the trip. Once returning to camp we were greeted by a campfire and hot cocoa. We all enjoyed our perspective dinners including Steaks, Chicken Curry, and Veggie Pasta. After dinner we all snuggled around the fire to gobble down our dessert. To close out our evening Opal shared her yummy Denmark candies and opened our nightly Moonup. As another great Moonup concluded, tomorrows LODs were selected being Finley and Tess! We are so excited for another wonderful day of Community Engagement and a BIG surprise tomorrow night.
Community engagement day twooooo!!!!! Tess and Finley woke all the girls up with some more Taylor Swift. At breakfast they said they were extra loud when they woke up Tent 5 since Charlotte and Colby were a little loud last night before bed when they ran into some eight-legged friends in their tent. The girls dove right into breakfast. The croissants and muffins continued to be a huge hit with the group.
Tess and Finley had a great quote for morning huddle that got us all in the right mindset going into our second day of community engagement. Since the girls worked hard all day yesterday and finished the project, we had the opportunity to begin a new one just down the road at another daycare. We had two big outside walls to paint along with two rooms. The girls picked up right where we left off yesterday and started tackling the project with ease. Avery set the tone with her dedicated focus and kept everyone on task and engaged. Mills and Opal scraped off some putty from the walls before starting to get that fresh coat of paint on there. Meg and Gracie began inside with some gray paint with the plan for an artist to follow us and add some fun characters and pictures to the walls. Lizzie was the hole covering queen, she did not let a single hole in the rough surface of the walls go unpainted. We divided and conquered and by lunch time we were almost done. The girls took several breaks to play with the kids, Ellie and Colby loved getting to know all the girls and boys that had come from all over the town to greet us! After being hard at work all morning, it was time to depart a little earlier for lunch back at LM and then find out the surprise! Instead of a game drive tonight, we were going on a bush walk, although we told the girls at morning huddle. The real surprise was we were sleeping out in the bush tonight! We had lunch on the patio deck, and everyone got sandwiches, wraps, salads, and burgers. EVERYONE was so jealous of the girls who got burgers, they looked phenomenal. After lunch, without giving away the surprise, Gracie and I prepared the girls for the bush walk and sleep out so we required everyone to pack extra extra extra layers because “we were going to have dinner out in the bush after the walk and they cannot have a campfire in the bush due to environmental safety” so it was VERY important to pack warm. The girls ran off to rest up and pack up before embarking on our biggest adventure yet! We split up into the Safari vehicles into groups of 7 and headed out into the bush. Our guides Kyle and Sheldon plus Lauren and Dean were fantastic! Kyle kept dropping some hilarious jokes for the group throughout the walk. Both groups had the chance to see a biggg giraffe with his head wayyyy above the trees. It was wild! We saw a lot of Wildebeest and even came across a wildebeest skull. The girls all took turns snapping pictures with it. Eventually we came across the most dangerous animals yet, humans. Our groups just so happened to run into each other on the walk. We kept on, and soon spotted some lion and leopard tracks. Pretty soon we found ourselves walking along the river and rounding the corner to dinner, a campfire, and a huge tarp with sleeping bags all around. The girls were shocked. Surprise! Bush sleep out! We all grabbed some dinner from the buffet, it was delicious. We then had marshmallows, brownies, and fruit kabobs for dessert! We circled up around the fire to hear crazy stories from our guides Kyle and Lauren, and eventually Andrew who joined us later. We played a game with a list of get to know you questions Jake had handy and put everyone on the “hot seat” so we could all get to know each other better. We had a blast! Tess and Finley led a great Moonup that closed with a group hug! A great ending to a night where we all learned so much about each other. Lizzie and Meg were named LODs for our last day at Little Mongena. It will be sad to have our last night here but we cannot wait for our next part of the trip! Talk again when we are at the beach!!
Gracie and Jake
June 25, 2023
Hello South Africa 2C 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 their service section.
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!