Meet Marlina Moreno - Mar Gone WildMeet Mar - Mar Gone WildMarlina - Mar Gone Wild

Hey there! I’m Marlina, aka “Mar”, and if you haven’t already guessed it, I’m the gal behind Mar Gone Wild.


I’m a former NFL cheerleader & professional dancer turned conservation biologist, filmmaker and, of course, wildlife-lovin’ travel blogger (random I know, but I’ll explain in a bit).


When I first got the idea to start Mar Gone Wild I simply saw it as a fun way to keep my family and friends up-to-date on my wild adventures and work in the conservation arena. Today, the mission is a lil’ bit bigger than that, which you can read more about HERE.


How I become the Mar in Mar Gone Wild is a slightly longer story. . .


For anyone interested, you can read all about my personal and professional journey below (embarrassing childhood pics included).

Meet Mar Gone Wild Marlina Moreno
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I attribute my love for nature and the outdoors to growing up on a small farm in Vista, California. Thanks to my parents (my pops — a professional falconer, and my momma — a badass equestrian) most of my childhood was spent getting dirty outside and hanging around plenty of animals, domestic and wild.


When I wasn’t living the barn life I was usually at dance class, which ultimately led me to develop a real love of performing. And this dichotomy of nature-lovin’ farm girl meets dancer/performer would ultimately carry over into my adult years.


Now it’s probably worth mentioning (and mainly because I wanted to share the particular photo of her below), that my momma also used to be a professional dancer, #IGotItFromMyMomma!

Me as a the little farm girl.
My little sister and me in our awesome dance recital costumes.
Fishing + camping during my tomboy phase.
At a local horse show with my baby boy, Mystic.
My pops, Abel, in his early years as a falconer.
My momma back in her belly dancing days.

Throughout undergrad, I worked as an NFL cheerleader and a professional dancer. I also dabbled in a bit of on-camera hosting and commercial acting to help pay the bills.


After completing my bachelor’s degree in advertising I decided to take a job in advertising sales. About one year in, the owner of one of my sales accounts asked me if I’d be interested in overseeing the marketing of a new cleaning company he was starting. By that time I was pretty miserable with my advertising sales gig so I decided to accept the offer and give the whole cleaning industry a go.


During the research and development stage of things, I noticed there was a lack of environmentally conscious cleaning services — especially in the commercial space, so I presented the idea of using all natural cleaning supplies and other eco-friendly practices to my new boss. Unfortunately, he wasn’t interested. But truly believing that I might be onto something, I decided to take a chance and start my own green cleaning company.


During my 5-ish years as an eco-entrepreneur, I decided to return to school to get my MBA and made the move from San Diego to Los Angeles to expand the company. It also didn’t hurt that I was curious to see where the on-camera stuff I had been dabbling in might go (seeing as how good ol’ LA is the mecca for that kinda stuff).


And like any other nieve 20-something-year-old, I sincerely thought I had my whole life figured out at that point. But as you may have already guessed, I most certainly did not.


It was about two years after moving to LA that I remember waking up one day and having this overwhelming feeling that everything felt wrong — the business, the whole ‘entertainment industry’ thing… even the relationship I was in at the time. Now I’m well aware of how dramatic that probably sounds to any mature adult reading this, but at the time, it truly felt like a quarter-life crisis.


That said, after some introspection and evaluation of everything that, at the time, defined who I was, I just knew that it was time for me to wipe the slate clean and start a fresh new chapter… heck, a whole new book.


I remember making myself write down what I loved doing and what I was interested in doing more of and/or learning more about, and a few things kept creeping their way to the top of the list — nature, travel, and creating. Knowing that none of what I was doing at the time relfected what was written on that piece of paper,  I decided it was time to sell off my cleaning business and set off on a new R&D phase of my life.


That’s when I set off on my first solo trip to volunteer in South Africa, a place I had dreamt about visiting ever since I was a little girl thanks to countless hours spent at the Heart of Africa exhibit at the San Diego Wild Animal Park (now the San Diego Safari Park). It was during that trip that I got my first taste of working in wildlife conservation and my first real taste of being behind the camera. From that came my first conservation-inspired short-film, which you’re welcome to watch HERE if you’re interested, and after that, I was hooked.


The next few years following that life-changing trip would ultimately become a blur of working multiple freelance gigs and dancing as a nightclub gogo dancer to help fund my journey down this new wild-inspired path of travel, media, and conservation.

Marlina Moreno NFL Cheerleader
Team photo from NFL cheerleading days.
Marlina Moreno On Camera Host Presenter
Behind-the-scenes as an on-camera host + presenter.
Marlina Moreno Nightclub Dancer
Performing as a nightclub go-go dancer.
Marlina Moreno_Vervet Monkey Foundation South Africa
Working as a volunteer during my first solo trip to South Africa.
Marlina Moreno_Filming at Vervet Monkey Foundation South Africa
Filming my first conservation short film in South Africa.
Marlina Moreno_Filming in Kenya
Filming a community-based conservation story in Kenya.

Fast forward some years, and things slowly started to come together.


In 2016, I was named a finalist for National Geographic Wild’s Wild To Inspire film contest for my short film Wild Heroes of Uganda. And later that year I decided it was finally time to make my love of conservation storytelling official, so I founded Project:Conservation — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to harness the power of visual media to support people and projects on the frontlines of global conservation.


The following year I met my now-husband, Zander, and went on to complete my second master’s degree, this time in conservation-focused biology. Not too long after that, I knew I needed to find a way to start connecting the dots, even if doing so turned out to be something just for me. That’s when and how this seed-of-an-idea for Mar Gone Wild got planted.


Then in early 2018, my husband and I decided we wanted to work towards making South Africa our second home base so we relocated there for the year to begin laying the foundation (not only does the country hold a very special meaning to me but it also happens to be where he was born and raised — so as far as I was concerned, it was pretty much written in the stars). And as the story goes, that first year turned out to be nothing like we had planned.


Instead of doing the safe/responsible thing (i.e. shack up with his family until we got our footing in South Africa), less than a month into our new journey we used our savings to buy an old Land Rover Defender TD5, named her Hettie (after his late grandmother, and set off on a 7-month, 7-country road trip across Africa in search of inspiring conservation stories.


While we still have plenty of details to sort out before we can truly call the motherland our other home, I have no doubt this is just the beginning of the wild life that, deep down, I was always supposed to live.


Thanks for allowing me to share my story and I look forward to sharing more of my wild journey with you as it unfolds. <3

Marlina Moreno_Mar Gone Wild Blog

For anyone interested in following our journey and seeing more of our passion projects, feel free to connect with Zander and me…


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Marlina Moreno and Zander Beetge -- Mar Gone Wild