July 7, 2022
See you soon USA!
We woke up for the Fourth of July to some American music, patriotic tattoos, and buttons before convening at breakfast for a variety of breads, fruits, and juices. For our morning activity, we had the choice of walking 8 miles or biking 8 miles – so obviously the group chose biking! We walked to a local shop where we rented 15 bikes and helmets before taking off to the historic wall of tears. Thatcher and Webb led the way alongside our guide with Maya and Leena bringing up the rear. Wilson kicked it into high gear and effortlessly took on the hills! Upon making it to the wall of tears we had a water break and toured the site. We climbed to the top of the wall and then later a lookout spot of the whole coast where we got some great photos of the group. We cruised back down to the bike shop where we decided our sweatiness could only be remedied by Gatorade and ice cream. We walked back to the hotel where Ward jumped in the pool to cool off before heading to lunch. For lunch we had beef, chicken, shrimp, rice, and salad with Eli and Grant running the card game on one end of the table. James and Ali kindly volunteered to grab everyone’s laundry from the previous day before we took a short ride to our afternoon activity: kayaking! We did girl-boy pairs with our teams being Webb and Leena, Ward and Brooke, Thatcher and Maya, Eli and Lily, Henry and Ali, Grant and Wilson, and James with our guide Zambo. We paddled out to a rocky island where we saw the only tropical penguins in the world! Thatcher and Maya spotted a black tip shark while Webb/Leena and Ward/Brooke challenged each other’s kayak teams to a race to shore. Grant and Wilson saw a giant sea turtle while Henry and Ali saw penguins swimming in the water. Eli and Lily tried to get their paddling in sync while everyone was running into each other and laughing. James got the close-up view of the island by pairing up with our guide! After our kayaking adventure, we had some downtime to shower, rest up, explore the town, grab snacks, and swim before dinner. For dinner we went to a highly recommended restaurant where many tried the Chicken Shawarma with everyone else getting burgers, hot dogs, and chicken with rice. After dinner we handed out a ton of red, white, and blue glow sticks as well as star sunglasses and blew up two glowing beach balls. We all walked to a pier on the beach where we sat only illuminated in the glow of our light sticks and had our nightly meetings. Our leaders of the day Leena and Eli, picked for their efforts to include everyone, asked “what has been your favorite moment from the trip?” Usually, we head to bed shortly after moonup but instead we went out for a Fourth of July sweet treat and then headed to the soccer field for a late-night game. We are cherishing these last moments together!
Exciting second to last morning here as we got to sleep in as late as we wanted! We walked around town and the group got pancakes and bacon. We then had downtime and packed up before heading to the boat. James, Maya, and Grant braved the top. Webb and Leena slept the whole ride and everyone else jammed to music. We landed back in Santa Cruz with Eli, Ward, and Henry heading out to grab snacks for the travel day the next day. Lily, Wilson, Brooke, Leena, and Maya got really cool merch from our Outfitter while Ali grabbed some shut eye. For dinner we headed to a great spot nearby and enjoyed quesadillas, meat, and chicken. The waiter was a little confused on our order (although the restaurant got nothing wrong) and gave us free chocolate cake! We headed back for our last night together and final nightly meeting led by our leaders of the day Grant and Lily. They asked “what are your three core values that drive your life” and “what is your biggest takeaway from the trip?” While we told everyone to go to bed after, a lot of the group stayed up talking well into the night demonstrating their closeness.
For our travel day home, we again slept in a little later and then decided as a group to go to a really cool açaí bowl place. Everyone got açaí and smoothies in these wooden pineapple bowls. We boarded a bus, then a ferry, then another bus, then a plane, and then once in Quito another plane to Atlanta! While we had some slight traveling mishaps our trip overall was absolutely incredible and we can’t wait for you to hear all our stories and see all our pictures!!
With lots of love,
Georgia and Henry
Here are some thank you’s from the kids:
July 5, 2022
Hola! Que pasa familias y amigos?
For our day in Santa Cruz we woke up in our amazing hotel which is open-air, to delicious mini banana pancakes and fruit. For our morning activity we traveled by walking, water taxi, then a small hike to get to this special chasm called Las Grietas where Brooke, Ali, and Wilson were the first to swim across the crystal clear water. Ward, Webb, and James launched themselves off the platform trying to do some cool tricks. We saw some big fish in the water and took a lot of photos of the view! We had a long walk back to town through the salt marshes and grabbed another water taxi to our second activity: the Darwin Center. The Darwin center is a research lab and tortoise conservatory where also the body of Lonesome George is displayed. This center has species of tortoises from the different islands and the group impressed our guide with their knowledge of shell shapes as well as determining age and gender. We went to the Lonesome George exhibit and learned more about how tortoises have been stolen from the Islands. We then had the special treat of going to the famous Chocolapagos store! Everyone tried a sample of the Oreo turtle and many bought boxes of stuffed chocolate turtles! Henry got a chocolate bar while Maya, Leena, Webb, and Thatcher split a gourmet box. Brooke found some milk chocolate while Lily got chocolate-dipped pineapple. We then headed to our best lunch spot yet! Many on the table got fish tacos and chicken tacos with Webb bravely trying the fresh ceviche and Wilson had the pesto pasta! Afterward, we did a beach walk to Tortuga Bay where Henry and Thatcher dug a huge hole, and Eli and James body surfed with some local kids. Grant did his best attempt at body surfing leading to a lot of laughs while the girls laid out on the sand. Following our relaxing afternoon, everyone grabbed a shower and we had our last shopping adventure. James got a cool lizard shirt and Ali bought a Galapagos bracelet. For dinner, we headed to a local deli where Leena and Maya split a pizza while a lot of the boys grubbed on fish and chips. Lily led the charge with the other girls getting ice cream before we returned to our hotel. For our nightly meeting our leaders of the day Maya and Thatcher, picked for their energy and smiles asked, “Who is someone who has influenced your life and how?” I think a lot of parents would be happy to hear most answers consisted of mom or dad!
Our next morning was a very early one as we left Santa Cruz and headed to San Isabel. Our hotel staff was kind enough to wake up early with us and lay out some toast and fruit for us to snack on. The boat ride went very smoothly with most of the group below but James and Maya braving the top deck, and time passed quickly with us landing at the Isabel pier before we knew it! Our first activity was our last time getting to see giant tortoises at a breeding center on the island. We saw turtles of all ages and sizes, and some of them were getting quite ‘active’ with each other while we were there – so clearly their program is quite successful! Our guide quizzed our kids as this is their third visit to a tortoise center and Ward and Wilson both answered questions! We then went on a wetlands walk where we hoped to see flamingos but enjoyed some salt marshes instead. Our walk led us to our absolutely incredible hotel. Our hotel is on the beach, covered in flowers, and all the kids have balconies overlooking the water. Next to our hotel is a soccer field which was certainly going to get a lot of use from us. For lunch, we went to a local spot one block from our hotel where we all had potato soup (with popcorn as croutons; an Ecuadorian dish), grilled chicken or fish, and mini crepes for dessert – much to Wilson’s delight. After lunch, we went to a nearby snorkel spot where we saw a marble sting ray, 15 eagle rays, a barracuda, 3 mini black tip sharks, a marine iguana swimming, and sea lions. We swam through mango groves as a group before rejoining on the dock. Many, especially James and Eli, described this as their favorite snorkel spot yet! Afterward Brooke, Ali, Maya, Leena, Lily, and Wilson went up to the deck of our hotel to enjoy the warmth of the sun while Ward, Eli, Thatcher, James, and Henry enjoyed the pool. Webb grabbed a nap, inspiring everyone else to grab some much need shut-eye before dinner. For dinner, we again went to a local place where everything is grilled. Grant ordered the locally farmed beef while most everyone else had chicken or fish. Of course, we then had to try the nearby ice cream place where half the group indulged in soft serve with the others had churros! Lily and Leena found a great spot on the beach for our nightly meeting where our leaders of the day Brooke and James, picked for their ability to always make the group laugh, asked, “what is one of your proudest moments?”
This morning the group was excited to get an extra thirty minutes of sleep before enjoying breakfast at our hotel of eggs, croissants, and fresh fruit including delicious pineapple. Everyone loaded up into the bus in their activewear and with plenty of sunscreen and water for our volcano hike! We stopped to get snacks and Gatorades for our journey with Lily and Maya leading the shopping expedition. A long muddy road took us to the volcano half masked by clouds with the sun trying to peek through. The beginning of the hike was muddy and slippery for about an hour before we reached the caldera – for our non-geologists out there this is where the magma has hardened and flattened. Thatcher was the first to the top and led a good portion of the hike! The group had reached the volcanic crater at which point we each walked at our own pace around until reaching the lunch spot. First, we headed to a lookout after dropping our bags at the lunch spot to have an epic photo shoot. Leena led the picture crew and killed it on the hike! For lunch, we enjoyed chicken fried rice, apples, and peach juice. The views were breathtaking and everyone was excited to be at the top of a volcano! Ali was super excited to stand on the lava rocks (also by her amazing banana ice cream later in the day!). The way back down was full of smiles and laughs and even when we reached the more treacherous muddy spot there was no complaining! Also, no one fell, Lily and Maya both caught each other! In the afternoon we had free time during which Grant led the charge on renting surfboards and others walked to drop off some laundry. We continued to explore the town, nap, shower, listen to live music and talk to fill our time. Eli vlogged our whole day on Brooke, Lily, and Wilson’s go pros. Before dinner the group got engaged in a pretty heated soccer match with some locals leading to a lot of sweaty faces at the dinner table. Ward and Henry were running the field for at least a hour and immediately ordered water when we sat down. Webb did a spectacular job at goalie with only James able to get a goal past him. We had rice, fish, pasta, and more before we again got churros and ice cream. Brooke has made pesto pasta her staple of the trip! Our leaders of the day Henry and Wilson, picked for how much they’ve opened up over the trip, led our moonup by asking, “what is something you wish more people knew about you?”.
We are so excited (and sad) for our last couple of days together! We will have one more trip update coming your way so check back soon!
🙂 – Georgia and Henry
July 1, 2022
Como estas familias y amigas?
Group 2B estan muy bien!!
We woke up to our second morning on San Cristobal to a fabulous pancake breakfast alongside eggs and fresh orange juice. Everyone has been looking forward to our morning activity and it certainly lived up to the excitement: a private boat tour! Our group settled in on the boat with our snorkeling gear in tow and set out to cruise along the coastline. We had a wonderful tour on a small rocky island where we got to see blue footed boobies and frigate birds as well as their nest and chicks. Following our small informational hike, we got back on the water. We had the majority of the kids lay on the front of the boat and when it came time to snorkel Ward was the first to jump in! Ali, our passionate marine life observer, stayed in the longest soaking up her time with the sea lions and sea turtles. Next the boat took us to a small beach where hordes of sea lions can be spotted swimming in the crystal-clear water. For lunch we returned to town and went to an outdoor restaurant where everyone either got fish & chips or chicken pasta. We then took some time to relax and shower before walking to our cooking class. We split up into teams to maximize our efficiency in the market and then met with the mother of one of our guides who is a chef. She set up stations for us and we got started on our meal prep! Lily and Wilson started juicing oranges and watermelons while Webb took on the task of cutting a large amount of chicken up. Henry manned the chicken in the frying pan while Brooke led the empanada making table with Eli and Grant. Maya and Ali cut vegetables and helped ward roll up tortillas before everyone went outside to watch the empanadas and plantains be fried. For dinner we had tomato salad, chicken corn cheese wraps, cheese empanadas, plantains, and fresh juice. Everyone dug in and was extremely full and rewarded from all their hard work in the kitchen! Thatcher, our ice cream connoisseur, suggested we still grab a scoop and some of the group followed his lead while others played a quick game of pickup basketball. For our nightly meeting our leaders of the day Wilson and Henry, picked for their good intentions, asked “what is advice you wish you could give your younger self?”.
To continue our empanada trend, we woke up to delicious homemade chicken empanadas for breakfast along with fruit, juice, and coffee. Our group was in positive spirits ready to conquer our project day up in the highlands. In the car Lily kept us occupied singing along to the music and teaching others how to make friendship bracelets. Dressed in pants and long sleeves as well as high socks, to protect ourselves from bugs, we stepped onto the misty farmland ready to work. Our gracious host Carlos invited us into his home introducing us to his wife, daughter, and right-hand man. We started our tour and demonstration of life on the farm at the free-range chicken farm. Ali was our first volunteer to step up and spread the corn feed mix. Grant, Webb, and Lily followed her lead while everyone watched on. After the feeding we picked a variety of peppers with James finding his newest challenge in trying each spice level. He ate the hottest pepper in one bite! Next, we went to the ducks and goats’ enclosure where Eli and Ali both grabbed ducks to smile for the camera while everyone else fed corn to the goats. Next to the enclosure we all took turns scooping some manure with Wilson taking charge, and James and Eli carrying the manure bucket to the greenhouse. We then got the special treat of seeing and holding the Guinea pigs on the farm. To our surprise (and Carlos’s) one of the Guinea pigs had a baby this morning! Leena and Maya were keen to hold the baby and as a group we of course had to name him. Brooke stepped up and scooped some Guinea pig manure while Eli used his height to get the group tangerines from a nearby tree. We then started on our harder work of the day planting tomatoes during which Ward and Webb both displayed excellent leadership skills. Both took a team and tackled rows of digging and planting with zero complaints. Everyone did a great job digging with their hands and fertilizing the holes, with Henry on pooper scooper duty. Our group then got to pick and eat pineapples which were described by many as the best they’d ever had! We enjoyed a delicious, fresh, organic chicken, rice, salad, and plantain lunch before checking out another greenhouse on the farm. Here we picked tomatoes, beans, and peppers with some playing around thrown in courtesy of Thatcher and his amazing humor. Got their final activity the group herded and fed cows! What an awesome day – we are so proud of the group they took every challenge in stride with no negativity! The rest of our afternoon was free and spent in what has become our routine way. Webb, Leena, Maya, and Thatcher went to get ice cream while Wilson, Brooke, Lily, and Ali shopped. During this time Eli, James, Henry, Grant, and Ward challenged each other on the basketball court. For dinner we had delicious personal pizzas and a local cat jumped on Henry to snuggle into his lap! Our leaders of the day Eli and Brooke, picked for their genuine personalities and caring natures, asked “what is your greatest strength (and give an example)?”. We are about halfway through our trip and very pleased to see the group bragging on themselves and opening up more!
Sadly, we packed up our duffles this morning for our last day on San Cristobal Island. For breakfast we had toast, hard boiled eggs, ham and cheese, juice and coffee. We have all grown very close with our guide Pepo and our activity today was visiting his family’s property that is also an incredible eco-friendly tourist attraction. The land they own is covered in repurposed trash creating an eclectic environment with lots of spaces to hangout. They even have a boat up in a tree repurposed into an airbnb type situation! We first learned how to smoke meat with a fresh caught 7-foot swordfish. Ali, Grant, and Webb were the first to get on gloves and get to work followed by Lily and Maya. Once the fish was in the smoker, we enjoyed some fresh banana bread for a snack. James and Eli went after it in a game of fuse ball. Henry grabbed a nap in a hammock while Thatcher and Webb tried their hand at ring toss. Wilson led extreme jenga and Brooke continued her million friendship bracelets. For our next activity we learned how to repurpose glass bottles into drinking cups. The group scratched off the wrappers, etched the cutting line, use heat to break the bottle, and then sanded down the sharp edges. Grant made the largest cup of all. Our lunch was our swordfish along with lentils, rice, salad, and plantains. Everyone tried some of our fish even our non-seafood lovers! Following lunch, we ventured down to the pier for our afternoon boat ride to Santa Cruz. Lily braved the splashing of the waves in the back for a while before Webb asked to switch to get in on the action. Eli, James, Grant, Ali, Brooke, and Wilson were able to grab naps while Thatcher, Webb, Henry, and Ward enjoyed the sea breeze. Maya and Leena sat together chatting the ride away before we finally reached our new island! We had brief downtime before scouring the streets for the best dinner option and happened upon a vendor section where the group had slices of pizza, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and crepes. We were stuffed after! We returned to our beautiful open-air hostel and gathered for our nightly meeting. Our leaders of the day Ward and Lily, picked for their ability get along with all personalities, asked, “what is a challenge you’ve overcome that’s shaped who you are today?”.
More updates to come on our spectacular trip but here are some words from our kids:
June 28, 2022
Buenas Dias (or buenas tardes for some of our readers) from the incredible Galápagos Islands! On our first night group landed in Quito all together and thankfully with all their baggage! Already we had some getting to know each other and chatting loudly as we rode back to our hostel and enjoyed a lot of pizza before heading to bed. Everyone was tired from the travel, but we could still feel the anticipation in the air!
We woke up early to the sunrise in Quito and met outside ready for our transport to the Galapagos! We had plates of pancakes and bacon at the airport and said bye to the other group as Ward noticed it was our boarding groups turn! We loaded up on the plane with Henry and Lily playing card games and hangman in the back, as well as Eli and Wilson starting their own card game soon after. Some read, some slept, some talked, and before we knew it, we were on Baltra Island. Our group emerged from the plane to the warm and salty air ready for our two weeks of adventure! We went through customs seamlessly and Thatcher grabbed a trolley cart for the luggage. We met our guides, jumped on a ferry, and headed to our first destination: tortoise conservatory. At the conservatory we had a variety of options for lunch with mainly everyone getting teriyaki chicken or some type of pasta. We took a tour around the grounds seeing tortoises up to 400 pounds and 200 years old. We also walked through an incredible system of lava tunnels and were lucky enough to spot a native barn owl! Afterwards Ali and Brooke climbed into giant tortoise shells followed by Grant and Webb. Everyone was ready for some downtime, so we headed to our new hostel right near the pier and got situated for the night. Half the group stayed back to journal and nap while the other half walked around the main town of the island of Santa Cruz. For dinner our guide recommended a local spot where half the group had burgers while the other half had tacos – and James got the best-looking dish of all: a seafood platter! As a treat for the long day, we all had an ice cream cone on our walk back before our nightly meeting. Our first student leaders of the day were Ali and Grant, picked for their friendliness on opening day, asked the group “what is the scariest thing you have ever done?”. Off to bed!
We woke up after a restful night for one of our earliest mornings of the trip to a grab and go breakfast of cheese toast, fruit, and juice. Everyone packed up and we gathered on the pier to await our water taxi. Everyone was a little nervous for the boat ride as it is notoriously choppy, but our group powered through the motion sickness and some rain with positive energy and compassion that ultimately brought us all closer. Thatcher sat outside in some drizzle while Grant gave up his seat halfway through to those not feeling so well. Upon arrival on San Cristobal Island, we were greeted with unbelievable amounts of sea lions. The best sight to see after a rough time on the sea! Ali was super pumped to see the sea lions and told us about her marine interactions at home. Brooke, our dedicated photographer, took lots of pictures of our explorations with her ever present smile behind the lens. Our group settled in quickly getting fitted for snorkeling gear before we grabbed a delicious lunch of meat, pasta, and fish. Henry and James are our seafood eaters while most of the girls stuck to pasta and the boys to chicken or beef. After lunch we threw on bathing suits and walked to a nearby lagoon. On the way Maya and Leena kept the conversation going and started to form a tight bond. We suited up in our wetsuits grabbed our snorkels and fins and all headed into the lagoon together with lots of excitement. Immediately young sea lions greeted us by swimming circles around us and jumping out of the water. Wilson had her go pro at the ready and was swimming alongside a particularly playful sea lion. Lily even got to see a “chocolate chip starfish” and Eli commented on the multitude of fish so close to us. After emerging from the water, we walked back to the hotel with Eli and James bringing some comedic energy, and all took hot showers before coming up with an evening plan. Everyone wanted to explore so we took time to see the town and do some shopping! Thatcher bought some knick knacks, Wilson got shirts, Leena bought some bracelets, and Henry treated himself to a chocolate ice cream cone. Grant and Lily walked up the street to find an awesome empanada place while Ward led the group downside streets until reaching a basketball court. The boys engaged some local kids in a soccer match on the court while the girls enjoyed the swings. Leena also taught Ali a card game so all the girls could play together. For dinner we had burgers and fries for comfort food and the option to get elaborate milkshakes. Maya ordered a delicious looking slushy pineapple juice! We were very happy to hear from Brooke that she is a self-proclaimed picky eater and has enjoyed every meal so far! Everyone was pretty tired after a long day, so we decided to call it a night and our leaders of the day Webb and Leena, picked for their positive attitudes and friendliness, led our moonup. Their question for us was, “what is your favorite childhood memory”? Everyone soon after went to bed to prepare for our early morning!
We woke up refreshed for our exciting day to a delicious breakfast of egg frittatas, fruit, coffee, hot chocolate, and fresh juice. Eli and Grant kept our morning conversation lively, and Thatcher held down a spot on the playground before we loaded up for our drive to the giant tortoise breeding conservatory. Our group toured the facility before seeing turtles as small as our hands and then some as big as 400 pounds! We were lucky enough to see how the turtles were fed and to cross paths close up with some of these gentle giants. Following our tour, we grabbed some empanadas from a local food stand and headed to the beach. Henry and Webb carried our two surf boards all the way to the beach before both riding some waves in. Maya and Wilson climbed to the top of a cliff overlooking the water before being joined by Ward while Thatcher spotted a sea turtle. Leena, Brooke, and Lily got some great pictures in the water with the stunning view and sea lions lounging next to us on the sand! Eli almost caught the go pro in the air while surfing! For lunch we went to a secret gem of a restaurant belonging to the family of one of our guides. Most of the group had grilled chicken and what we thought were French fries before Ali identified them as plantains. Following lunch, we went to another beach for some relaxation time during which some of the boys went for a walk and some of the girls talked while lying on the sand. After a lot of sun for the day we returned to the hostel where everyone grabbed a shower before we again explored the town. Grant bought a basketball and initiated a game with the boys and some local guys. The rest of the group picked up some knick knacks and souvenirs, with Brooke, Lily, Ali, and Wilson having some spectacular shopping finds! Of course, everyone also got an ice cream cone! For dinner we went to an amazing empanada restaurant where everyone tried cheese, chicken, and seafood empanadas along with other main dishes. James enjoyed another seafood platter as the dealt out some playing cards at the dinner table. We strolled back enjoying the town just after a beautiful sunset and then our leaders of the day James and Maya, picked for their thoughtfulness and good conversations, ended our nightly meeting with the question, “what makes you truly happy and why?”.
We are having a blast together and are loving this group! More updates to come!
<3 Georgia & Henry
June 25, 2022
Hello Ecuador + Galapagos Families!
We heard from our leaders late last night that the group has landed safely in Quito. 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!