July 26, 2023
Monday, July 24:
Monday was our last day going to the community to finish our project, and the last full day of our trip. We woke up with the sunrise by the guides and packed up our sleeping bags and loaded up the game vehicles to head back to the lodges. We had some time to clean up and shower before enjoying a big warm breakfast then heading back into the town for the final time. Today we were painting a second coat of the color onto all the walls then cleaning up the windows and floors before saying goodbye. The group was so efficient and took their work seriously, so we were able to complete the second coat quickly and clean up shortly after. We ate a quick packed lunch, then went back to the lodge for some well-deserved down time. Everyone eagerly showered and took naps before our final activity of the trip. We went on a large pontoon boat in the lake before dinner and enjoyed the beautiful sunset together one last time. It was such a bittersweet and symbolic moment for the group as well as the leaders because we would all be ending our time in South Africa with Moondance together in the morning. We enjoyed snacks and soft drinks on the boat and took photos to remember our time together the past few weeks. The sunset was absolutely stunning, and we took in our last moments together in this beautiful country. We ate an amazing family-style dinner banquet outside then gathered around by the fire for our final official Moonup. Led by Penelope and Quinn, our last Moonup together was extremely special and intentional. We took our time reminiscing on each section of the trip, gave individual “nugs” to each person in the group, and even wrapped it up with a fun new game to lighten the mood.
Tuesday, July 25:
Our time together went by incredibly quick, and we were all in disbelief this morning when the day finally came to depart. We gathered around for one last breakfast upstairs and packed our bags and hopped in the game vehicles to go back to the main lodge. Our van picked us up and we set off for Johannesburg airport. We ate a delicious lunch at Byte Cafe and souvenir shopped for gifts to take back home. Things started to feel real when we said our first goodbyes to Gigi and Charlie as they left earlier. Due to the flight delay, we checked back into the airport hotel and settled in for another surprise night in South Africa. We ate dinner in the restaurant at the hotel and went to the grocery store to pick up snacks before everyone headed to bed before travel day tomorrow.
Student thank you’s:
Hi mom and dad!! Thank you so much for sending me on this amazing trip. I miss you all and can’t wait to see you guys! -Kate
Thank y’all so much for this amazing trip. I had an absolute blast, love y’all- Alex
Hey mom and dad! Thank you so much for this amazing experience that I will never forget. See you guys soon! -Akshay
Hey mom and dad, Thank you for helping me go on this trip. I love you and thank you for helping me get home – Jack
Hi mom and dad!! Thank y’all for this trip. It was awesome!! – gigi
Thank you for this incredible opportunity to have an amazing time with amazing people. Love you bunches. – Penelope
Hey mom and dad, miss you guys lots and can’t wait to see you soon! Loved this trip so much! -Elizabeth
Hey mom and dad, can’t wait to see y’all when i get back home. We had an amazing trip! -Charlie
Hey Mom and Dad! Thank you so much for sending me here it was so much fun! Love you guys so much and can’t wait to see you!! -Quinn
July 24, 2023
Friday, July 21
On Friday, we got to wake up later and enjoy a big breakfast of eggs, toast, fruit, yogurt, hashbrowns and more. Sadly after breakfast, it was time to leave Mabula Reserve and say goodbye to the friends we had made on their staff. We had a pretty short drive to our next stop, Mongena Game Lodge, and we got there in time for a delicious lunch. Lunch included hamburgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, fish and chips, salads, and more. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t looking the best so we had to alter a few activity plans. Our guides still offered to take us on a rainy game drive and half the group was brave enough to go along. Jack, Akshay, Elizabeth, Charlie, and Quinn joined John Morgan on the drive and the rest stayed back with Anna for some indoor rainy activities like reading, friendship bracelets, and board games. Penelope was especially great at making the friendship bracelets and kindly made many members of the group a bracelet during this time. Dinner time rolled around, and we were surprised with a performance from local traditional dancers! They were absolutely incredible and everyone was very impressed with the dances. We even got to join in and dance hand in hand as one big group which was super fun. After the dance, we sat down for a full buffet dinner together offering every food you could imagine and multiple dessert options to top it off before Moonup. Our nightly Moonup discussion was led by Kate and Charlie before settling into our tents before the rain hit.
Saturday, July 22
Today was our first day of service so we started the day off early with a big, delicious breakfast. There were croissants, an omelet bar, potatoes, fruit, yogurt, breakfast meats, muffins, toast, vegetables, and more. This trip never lacks in delicious meal options and we were extra grateful for it today when we headed off to our community engagement project. Our project was to prime and paint the exterior walls of the house that South Africa group A just built during their time here, and would span over the next few days. We drove about half an hour into town to get to the house and we were greeted by the homeowners and nearby residents and children. Our group was very efficient and we actually primed all of the walls with two coats before lunch! Due to our determination, we had time to play games with the children after lunch while the primer dried. I know this was a highlight of the day, and maybe the trip, for most of the students and they were really looking forward to this all session. It was so heartwarming to watch everyone play and we were sad to say see you later when it was time to head back to the lodge. Afterwards, we had one last game drive of the entire trip which was so sentimental and hard to believe. On our drive, led by Rebecca and Lauren, we saw hippos, impala, warthogs, and most notably a huge herd of about 20 elephants. This was an incredible sight to see so close and so plentiful. The sunset was also extra special tonight and we all reflected on how our time together was also slowly setting as well. We ate like kings and queens again tonight, and topped off another great day in South Africa with a Moonup led by Gigi and Alex.
Sunday, July 23
Today we returned back to the community to continue our painting project. Our primer from yesterday had the chance to dry so we were ready to begin applying the color paint to the walls. We divided and conquered all of the walls in pairs or groups of three and did a full coat by lunch. In the shade, the paint was taking a bit of time to dry so we decided to spend the rest of our time that day playing with the kids. Everyone had a blast playing soccer together and we even got to drive down the road to watch a minor league game that had just begun. It was great to see other aspects of the community and have more time to get to know everyone on a personal level. After returning to the lodge, we all enjoyed a delicious late lunch and broke the news to the students what our activity would be tonight… a bush walk followed by a sleep out under the stars. We were joined by three skilled guides as we walked through the bush and followed tracks to spot two white rhinos, one black rhino, and hippos. At the end of the walk, we reached our destination of a large table full of dinner foods, a dinner table to eat at, and a large tarp area surrounded by lanterns near the fire to lay our sleeping bags. The area was beautifully set up by the staff and they made the conditions as comfortable as possible before our arrival which was incredibly nice of them. After a big, warm dinner, we sat around the fire to play games like Mafia, the Dream Game, and share stories with the guides we were with. When it was finally time to get into our sleeping bags, we shared a meaningful Moonup led by our leaders of the day Jack and Elizabeth.
– SAF B
July 21, 2023
Sunday, July 16
Today was our last tougher travel day until we fly home, and everyone did great. We woke up with the sun and loaded up the van to head back to the Villanculos airport. Brodie was so sweet to pack our group a packed lunch and we all took naps and played games during the drive. Jack, Alex, Akshay, Charlie, and Quinn played a NFL team game and the girls all napped in the back. The ride was another great opportunity to see more of the country as we drove a fair amount down the eastern coast of Mozambique to get back to the airport. We arrived with time to easily check in and pass through security towards the gate. We even got to see SAFC get off the plane that we were about to board! The plane ride was super quick and we got everyone plenty of snacks to hold over the group until dinner time. We checked into the hotel and everyone had a bit of free time to relax after the long day. For dinner, we took the group to Nando’s a chicken restaurant we had heard great things about. Akshay, Quinn, Jack, and JMO decided to challenge themselves by eating the extra spicy wings and it was so entertaining to watch. Everyone had the chance to grab some things they needed from the pharmacy and grocery before heading back for Moonup, led by Elizabeth and Charlie.
Monday, July 17
Everyone was so excited when we woke them up for breakfast today because we were going to the game reserve! We ate a delicious hotel breakfast buffet with every food you could imagine then took a quick van ride to the Mabula Game Reserve a couple hours north of Johannesburg. Upon arrival, the staff greeted us and served us lunch and we talked about what was in store for us here for the next few days. We ate grilled chicken or beef burgers and everyone had the opportunity to wildlife management team plenty of questions about the animals we hoped to see here. We got a transport by game vehicle, open air Land Cruisers, to our lodging area and had an hour to settle in to our “tents”. We were so lucky to be staying at a private lodge area with a beautiful main area in between 5 large raised tents fit with a bathtub, heated beds, and even a bathroom chandelier! We had our first game drive of the trip with our guides Monet and Matihmba and saw crocodiles, hippos, zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, and more. It was a great first day at the reserve and we topped off the game drive with a little snack picnic at sunset. We drive back to our lodge and sat around the fire before gathering around the table for a delicious warm dinner of chicken, rice, salad, tomato soup, vegetables, and bread rolls. At the end of the day, Jack and Kate led our Moonup discussion and we headed back to our tents for a cozy nights sleep in the heated beds.
Tuesday, July 18
Today was our first full day at the Mabula Game Reserve and it certainly did not disappoint! We woke up to a great, warm breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, yogurt, and fruit. After eating, we got in the cruisers and went for a game drive. We met up with the wildlife specialist team and they took us on our first activity… a cheetah walk. We carefully and quietly walked in a single file line to a pair of cheetahs. There were two cheetah brothers lounging in the grass about 10 minutes off the road and we had the amazing opportunity to be within 20 feet of them on foot. It is not often you get to be so close to such incredible predators and it truly doesn’t feel real. After the drive and walk, we had a little picnic near the lake. Another exciting experience because we were eating at a picnic table next to a lake where we spotted hippos and crocodiles lying on the bank across the water. We had a couple of hours of free time after lunch and the weather was beautiful so the group took advantage of it and read by the pool, played soccer, and nap. We had an evening drive planned and the students were surprised to learn we would be going with the lion specialist, Dion, to the lion territory on the reserve. We stayed in the game vehicles this time, but watched a pride of four females and one male from about 15 feet away. We even got to see the females eat on a zebra they had hunted earlier that day. Today was a great day full of close encounters with predators and educational moments with the specialists. The group does a phenomenal job asking the guides and specialists great questions and we love to watch them learn so much about the animals. The sunset was vibrant among the mountains on our drive back to the lodging and we sat around the fire until dinner. Dinner was spectacular again and we headed back to the fire to conduct Moonup. Tonight’s was very enthusiastic and entertaining, led by Penelope and Alex.
Wednesday, July 19
On our second day at Mabula Reserve, we started our day with a quick breakfast and met a member of the Ground Hornbill Conservation group at their research family in the reserve. We got to learn a lot about the ground hornbill bird species and became aware of their critically endangered status in Africa. It is crazy that there are only about 300 of these birds left in all of South Africa, and the reserve we are at houses 6. We saw their nesting area and got to look inside where they put new ground hornbills to adapt to the environment when they are first brought into the reserve. After this educational activity, we drove to a scenic spot for a brunch picnic and saw zebras, impala, buffalo, rhino, and more. We took a midday break back at the lodge and it was another beautiful, sunny day so more reading in the sun, soccer, and frisbee. After lunch, we headed back on the cruisers and met up with Tristan and his team of herbivore specialists for a unique activity. We were able to join in on their daily feeding of the buffaloes and help them toss nutrient rich hay to the herd from the truck. After the feeding, we headed towards the mountainous side of the reserve and found seven elephants crossing the road. This elephant sighting was spectacular and we got to see the entire group very close up. Everyone was in awe as this was one of the last of the Big Five we hadn’t been able to see yet, aside from the leopard. After the most beautiful sunset we had experienced yet along the mountain, we headed back to camp for dinner and another thrilling fireside Moonup led by Quinn and Elizabeth.
Thursday, July 20
Today, on our last day at Mabula, we had some exciting activities planned to leave our second stop on a high note. We went out for a morning game drive after breakfast and saw some unique and rare animals like the ground hornbill, aardwolf, and more. We met up with two of the wildlife specialists in the late morning and discussed the plans for our exciting afternoon ahead. We were going to be helping the team with a rhino pair darting. There was a mother and baby rhino that needed to get their vitals taken and a tracking collar for the adult. With the rhino poaching crisis, it is important for the reserve managers to keep track of all the rhinos in the area and check up on them. It was so nice of the team to allow us to be so hands on with their operation: Kate and Quinn notched the rhinos ears, Alex and Gigi did injections, Jack did horn measurements, Elizabeth and Charlie put the collar on, Penelope sprayed for ticks, and Akshay drilled the horn for keratin samples. After the darting, we returned to the lodging for tea time and snacks and a bit of free time. Per usual, we went on an evening game drive and had an incredible rhino encounter. We were headed down the mountain at sunset, and had a rhino family standing in the road. They were facing the vehicles head on and we sat face to face for over 10 minutes before they headed back into the bush. Since it was our last night at Mabula, we had a celebratory Boma dinner with a delicious array grilled meats and local sides and chocolate cake! Moonup was led by Gigi and Akshay and we gathered around the fire before heading to bed.
Until next time!
John Morgan and Anna
Student shout outs
Jack Hi mom and dad. I miss you a lot and the trip is great. See you guys soon.
Alex- Wassup guys, this trip is exactly how Smitty described it. I’m having an absolute blast 💥.I’ve worked out and gone a run and I’m having a good time and I miss y’all, especially Kacy, thank y’all so much.
Gigi – Hey parents! Y’all are so sick but Africa is so much sicker. Good luck on your flight over, you’ll need it!
Charlie- Hey Mom and Dad! Mozambique was so much fun and I know the rest of the trip will be just as good. Alex and I have been staying in shape!
Quinn- Hey mom and dad! Thank y’all so much for sending me here, Mozambique was so fun, tell everyone I say hi.
Akshay- Hey mom and dad, Mozambique was so much fun. The weather was perfect and the activities were fun. I’ve been having so much fun traveling and seeing things. See you guys soon.
Elizabeth -Hey mom and dad! Africa has been so much fun over the past couple days and I don’t miss u guys at all. See you guys in a week and half! Oh and tell Jane HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
Kate- hi mom, dad, and Jacob! I miss you all so much. This trip is so fun and I can’t wait to see you guys.
Penelope- Hi mommy and Benty, I miss u both bunches, but I’m having a blast in safrica with my mozamsnitches and the rest of my group. I hope you guys are having fun in aspen, love you both.
July 16, 2023
Tuesday, July 11
Our trip began on Tuesday evening when we welcomed the group in the Johannesburg airport. We were so excited to meet each of the students and start our adventure in South Africa and Mozambique. We went back to the hotel and sat down for some pizza and travel day stories. Everyone was tired after the long flight, so we did a brief Moonup, a nightly discussion that every Moondance group does on every trip every night to reflect on the day. Moonup is typically the final activity of the night, and the students went up to their rooms to try to get a good nights sleep before the travel day to Mozambique in the morning.
Wednesday, July 12
Today was the first official full day with the group! The hotel had a delicious breakfast assortment awaiting us with plenty of fresh fruit, English breakfast, omelet bar, pastries and more. We loaded up on a big breakfast then headed into the airport to check in for our flight to Mozambique. We had a quick snack stop then boarded our plane for a brief one hour flight. Upon landing, we smoothly checked into the country with customs and ate at a local restaurant nearby. We shared a flavorful family style meal with platters of potatoes, roasted chicken, and salad to get us to our final destination: Tofo Beach. We loaded into the van for the ride north towards the lodge we were staying at. The students did a phenomenal job passing the time by playing games, sharing stories, and having great bonding time. We arrived at the gorgeous lodge on the beach, greeted by Brodie, our gracious host. Dinner was ready for us and we gobbled down the stew, rice, and salad Brodie and her crew prepared for us. It was already getting late and everyone was pretty wiped from the second travel day so we hung out for a bit then concluded the night with Moonup led by our leaders of the day, Elizabeth and Alex.
Thursday, July 13
On Thursday, we woke up for our first day in beautiful Mozambique! We enjoyed breakfast together on the deck over the beach with fruit and crepes before heading to our first activity. We walked down the beach to the Surf Shack and got our rash guards and boards for some surf lessons. The group was super excited because the waves were looking great and a lot of the students already had previous experience surfing. Our instructors were awesome and helped everyone catch some waves, but it wasn’t long before nobody needed help and were taking them on by themselves. Everyone was surfing well and our Florida and California natives, Kate and Jack, were especially impressive! After a few hours of surfing, it was time for lunch and ate burgers and fries on a picnic table by the beach. In the afternoon, we were led by Tony into the village for a cultural tour and cooking lessons. Him and his family fed us fresh coconut from the trees and taught us how to make local delicacies. We made a matapa coconut sauce to top our rice and coconut cookies that were absolutely delicious. It was such a joy to hang out with Tony and his family and learn more about the culture in Mozambique and see first hand what life is like here. We walked back to the lodge and enjoyed a bit of free time playing in the waves, reading, and showering before dinner time. At dinner we enjoyed a baked potatoes with beef and chili and cheesecake for dessert. Today was so much fun and everyone was pretty tired so after Moonup, we talked for a bit then headed to bed.
Friday, July 14
On Friday, we woke up to an extra breezy day which made for an exciting surf day and first time out on the boats for the ocean safari. After breakfast of eggs, toast, and fruit, we took a short stroll on the beach to the Surf Shack for our last day on the boards. The group took turns surfing and playing in the water or on the beach.Penelope, Kate, and Elizabeth made a beautiful sand castle village and Quinn and a Jack impressed us with the skills they picked up lessons. After our time surfing, we walked back to Brodie’s scuba shop, where we ate some lunch and also where we would later launch the boats. We were spoiled for lunch today with a delicious plate of fresh fish and chips! This fuel would be needed in a couple hours when it was time to go in the boats and swim with fast whale sharks. Despite a bit of choppy weather, we were grateful to be out on the water and eager to see what animals were in store for us. Much to our surprise we quickly found a whale shark right by the boat and very close to the water’s surface. Everybody jumped in with their fins and masks to check it out. We swam alongside the majestic creature while we could and everyone was in awe of being so close to such a huge and beautiful animal. We ended up seeing one more whale shark and jumped in to get a better look, but it quickly dove too deep to follow. As we started to head back to shore, Elizabeth spotted humpback whales! Our captain didn’t waste a minute and we zoomed over to where they were breaching and waving hello to us with their giant fins. What a once in a lifetime opportunity! They slowly moved away from the boat and it was time to head back and take some warm showers before a bit of free time and dinner. Everyone got cozy and warm and played some games, took sunset photos, and journaled before a delicious spaghetti dinner. As always, we ended a great day with meaningful Moonup conversation led by our leaders of the day Gigi and Akshay.
Saturday, July 15
Saturday was our last full day in Tofo Beach, and it was bittersweet because we were sad to leave this amazing tropical place and all the people we had met, but also excited to head to the next section of our adventure. Today, we started with an ocean safari after breakfast because we woke up to a beautiful and sunny day with calmer waters. The ride was smooth and enjoyable today and it felt great to soak up some rays we had missed yesterday. Although we weren’t lucky enough to spot any more ocean animals, we still got to snorkel on a small reef and enjoy the boat ride and views. We returned to the scuba shop after a few hours on the water for a chicken sandwich lunch. This lunch was definitely a crowd favorite and re-energized the group to play a leadership game and some beach volleyball. Girls won the volleyball match, and everyone was surprised with milkshakes to celebrate. Later, Brodie took us in her truck to the local market where everyone shopped for souvenirs and gifts to bring back for family and friends at home. We also made a stop by the fruit market next door and picked up lots of fresh pineapple, coconut, and passion fruit. The visit to the market was exciting and educational, but we still had one more surprise to end our visit in Mozambique: a sunset Dhow boat ride! A Dhow boat is a traditional Mozambican sailboat with one sail and a wooden hull. The waters were glass smooth and the sunset was gorgeous as we sailed among the marshes, seeing different birds and fish. It was such a peaceful way to hang out and listen to music while seeing a different area of Mozambique. We headed back to the lodge for a lovely last dinner in Tofo Beach and hot brownie sundaes. Moonup tonight was enjoyable and entertaining thanks to our leaders of the day, Penelope and Charlie.
Until next time!
John Morgan and Anna
July 11, 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!