June 22, 2022
Thank you’s from the group!
Hey Mom and Dad! Asante Sana for letting me go on this trip. I love you all. -Charlie
Asante sana mom and dad for letting me go on this trip. Love y’all – Connor
Hey Mom and Dad! Thank you for giving me this amazing experience in Africa. I have throughly enjoyed myself! See you soon! -Tad
Really appreciate y’all giving me the opportunity to go on this trip so far away from home, got to experience so much stuff we wouldn’t see anywhere near home so for that I thank you!- Parker J
Thank you so much for getting me go on this trip, I am so grateful! Love y’all – Lucy Larkin
Hey mom and dad! Thank y’all so much for sending me on this trip. It was a lot of fun. Love y’all! – Pat
This trip was definitely one I will remember forever, and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. Thank you Mom and Dad for being so supportive and allowing me to be adventurous and travel the world. Love, Hannah
Hey mom and dad!! Thanks so much for sending me on this trip, it has been amazing! See you soon! – Helen
Hey again fam! Thanks mom and dad for sending me on this trip I’ll definitely remember it for the rest of my life and am super grateful I’ve gotten to experience all the things I have on this trip. Can’t wait to see y’all!! Love Gloria
Hi mom and dad! Thanks so much for letting me come to Africa. I’ve had so much fun and learned a lot of new stuff. The people here are awesome and this is definitely a trip I won’t forget. Love y’all!! XOXO, VA
Hey mom and dad! Thanks so much for letting me come to Africa! -Griffin
June 22, 2022
To our students, if you’re reading this, that means you have made it home! And for parents, this means that your student is in the air! Wow, where to begin? We knew you all were an exceptional group from day one. When we saw Parker and Griffin cruising on a zip line at Wildeebeast we had a feeling that you all were a bunch of adventure-seeking goofballs. Boy did that prove to be true. From Byorb the chimpanzee to “so shweet” to an unnatural obsession with ice cream, you all kept James and I laughing every single day. We are so proud of how close knit our Kenya and Zanzibar team became. We truly were a family. A family that teased each other and connected with each other and listened to each other. A family that looked out for one another and included everyone. A family that confided in each other. We did SO much in the last 2 1/2 weeks. Being in Africa is a once in a lifetime opportunity and getting to do safari, service, and scuba all in one, this trip is pretty remarkable. But even though we did pretty epic things- like see leopards, lions, rhinos, and giraffes and scuba dive in neon blue water, what I think James and I will remember most about our experience is every single one of you. Our mealtime, Moonup and car ride chats (and there were many car ride chats) allowed us to really connect with each and every person on this trip. Seeing you all grow closer and closer to both yourselves and to each other was most certainly our favorite part.
You guys are such wonderful people and we are so proud of the young men and women you are and are becoming. Since James and I were not able to give you all superlatives during banquet, we figured now would be as good as time as any to divvy some out. So here goes…
VA= MAMA BEAR
GRIFF= SPEAR SMUGGLER
TAD= MOST LIKELY TO BE FOUND WITH A FISH AND A SMILE ON HIS FACE
CHARLIE & LUCY= “SO SHWEET” AWARD
PATRICK & CONNOR= BEST BROMANCE
HELEN= MOST LIKELY TO CURE CANCER
PARKER= UNDERCOVER SURFER BOY
HANNAH= HEART OF GOLD
GLORIA= ENERGIZER BUNNY
As you all enter the next phase of your lives (finishing high school and beginning college), please carry this trip and the Moondance spirit with you. Connect with people. Unplug. Be in nature. Be true to yourself and be confident in yourself. Know you are loved. Know you are worthy. Know that you are warriors!!! For real! You are going to do such amazing things. Please also know that James and I are here for you for every single step of the life paths that you are beginning to create for yourselves. Hearing from you all makes our days brighter so please PLEASE stay in touch. We will drop everything to answer a call or a text from any of our Moondance crew.
Parents, thank you all for sharing such a special group of young people with us. They were an incredible group to start our summer off. They are all wonderful additions to the Moondance family.
We love you guys so much. Be good and be kind and be wild!!! Cannot wait to reunite one day soon. Until that day, we send you all of our love and gratitude for an amazing session.
-Ava and James
June 21, 2022
Greetings Kenya + Zanzibar 1A friends and families,
We knew things were about to get tropical when James woke the group up singing Jimmy Buffett. Our final morning in Kenya was spent eating Nutella crepes, fruit, and fried bread (an African donut). Our group recapped our favorite memories of the trip so far. We took one final drive in the land cruisers through the savanna and all the way to the tiniest airport of all time – the Kikarok Land Strip where we waited for our equally small airplane to take us to the Nairobi Wilson airport and then to Zanzibar. While waiting for the plane, we whipped out the Hacky-Sack. Patrick and Lucy jammed out on Ava’s ukulele. Tad and Helen knocked out some of their summer reading. Virginia Ann doodled. After two flights, we arrived in Zanzibar in the early evening just in time to watch the sunset and eat a delicious dinner at the beach bungalows where we are staying. After dinner, our leaders of the day, Connor and Virginia Ann, led moonup in the pool!! That is certainly a first for this trip! We discussed important matters – celebrity crushes and biggest regrets. We hit the hay early because our first day of scuba diving training awaited us in the morning.
Waking up to the sunrise over the Indian Ocean is a truly special feeling. We had a delicious breakfast spread, filled with veggies, toast, fruit, beans, and more, and then commuted to Scubafish diving center to begin our first day of diving training and actual diving for those who have already been certified. Griffin, Gloria, Patrick, Hannah, and James embarked on a boat to the Mnemba Toll where they began their first day of diving. Hannah and Griffin are working towards their Advanced Diver’s Certification. The rest of us remained at the pool for some training and refreshing on diving rules, safety, skills, and equipment. Our trainers were excellent and really made us all feel comfortable and prepared for the big day when we all go out to sea. When we returned, we chowed down on lunch and had some rest and relaxation time at the beach and the pool. A game of star sprung up during a pool hangout session. Virginia Ann, Gloria, and Hannah helped DJ for a leader-lip-sync battle. After some warm showers, our group had an early dinner before heading out to Kenwa where we got to witness what Zanzibar has to offer in terms of nightlife. We scoured the streets for ice cream (to no avail) and ended up finding some at a local restaurant. It was getting late so we ended up doing moonup while seated at the restaurant. Leaders of the day, Griffin and Gloria, asked us what we thought the person to our right would be doing in 10 years and it was amazing to see how well our group knows one another after living together for 2 weeks now. We arrived home safe and sound and settled into bed to prepare for another day of scuba and fun in tropical paradise!
Scuba and fun were delivered! With our outfitter Scubafish, we took two separate boats out to different dive locations. Everyone crushed it. The advanced team saw lots of fish and was asked to identify them. Our new divers challenged themselves to go outside of their comfort zones and face some of the fears they had going into diving. Both boats enjoyed some fruit, tea, and snacks on the boat in between two open water dives. Returning home after scuba, we munched on some lunch and had a quick break to nap and reset. Then, Ava and James surprised the kids with the 2022 Zanzibar Beach Olympics. The games started off hot with some relays and Birdie on a Perch (the greatest partner game of all time), which Gloria and Hannah proved victorious. Charlie won a sprint-off but Tad smoked everyone in a Crab Walk relay. Virginia Ann won look up, look down. Connor and Patrick… meanwhile… were a bit distracted ordering milkshakes. Griffin, too, got distracted by an adorable dog walking the beach who came over to say hi. To conclude the Beach Olympics, we played an extremely competitive game of World Cup. After three rounds, Hannah and Lucy won!! Connor and Gloria came close and were awarded silver. After a fierce day of competition, Tad and Ava blew off some steam with a sunset beach run. Dinner was delicious- penne pasta, roasted veggies, rice, fish, and more. During dinner we announced our overall winners from our World Cup games….Gloria and Hannah!! Their award was getting to order chocolate milkshakes with dinner! These kids are obsessed with ice cream.
The following day, Monday the 20th, we got scuba certified!!! Everyone who went diving got certified at varying levels. To get certified for open water diving, you had to learn all the scuba basics, how to set up and break down your equipment, how to help your buddy if they run out of air, and how to navigate a compass on land and underwater, etc. It was a tiresome day but definitely rewarding when we got to ring the bell, signaling our certification was complete. We scurried back home for a quick shower and lunch before embarking on another adventure- a spice tour! Zanzibar is known for being a spice island and is home to many of the most famous spices around. Our guide, Sayid, led us through the spice farm and we smelled ginger, turmeric, pepper, vanilla, clove, and nutmeg. We got to take samples in a handwoven palm basket. The spice tour concluded with a bang! A man climbed a giant palm tree and sang songs from the top of it. Please ask for videos or pictures because this was a must see. We then were treated to some fresh fruit and shopped around the spice market for authentic Zanzibar spices. We jammed to some country music on the way back home and arrived home to another fantastic dinner. Moonup, led by Hannah and Charlie, was an amazing opportunity to grow closer. Our leaders of the day asked the group about the hardest thing they have gone through in their lives and we listened to and shared each other’s stories. It is incredible to see how close these kids have grown in such a short time span. We truly feel like a family and it will be difficult to say goodbye in just 2 days. Until then, we’ve got some more time in Zanzibar to enjoy!!
Our final full day in Zanzibar started earlier than usual. We got up before the sun rose in order to knock out a final day of scuba diving in the morning. This early wake-up call allowed us to have an afternoon full of activities. While scuba diving, since we are now all certified, we got to ride in the same boat!! The jams were pumping with DJ James and the vibes were fantastic. Even a rainstorm couldn’t dampen our fun. A pod of dolphins swam right next to Connor, Virginia Ann, Helen, Griffin, Hannah, and Patrick. The rest of us saw them from the boat and were jealous of our comrades. As if that weren’t cool enough, we spent our afternoon in Stone Town, one of the most lively and historic places in all of Zanzibar. We had a local guide take us around, and bought some last-minute souvenirs, Parker by far had the best outcomes due to his negotiation skills, and we tried some local cuisine. Oh!!! And we got ice cream of course!! Connor was thrilled. He and Griffin were also happy to find that Stone Town has a ton of cats lounging around. For our final full day of the trip, we got to see the most stunning sunset over the ocean. We then drove home and had a fantastic moonup led by Tad and Lucy. As the sun sets on this trip, we are excited to celebrate one more day together. More on that in the final trip update!
Ava & James
June 17, 2022
Hello Kenya + Zanzibar 1A friends and families! We have had an unreal time here in Kenya and cannot wait to tell you all about it.
Before departing from the Wildlife Conservancy, we had one last opportunity to have a culturally immersive experience with animals. This time, however, the animals were livestock! On the way back from the livestock area, our group stumbled upon a herd of elephants. The elephants made for a perfect photo as Mt. Kenya was positioned perfectly behind the herd. Our leaders of the day, Connor and Virginia Ann, divvied up the group into two land cruisers and off we went on another adventure to our next destination. Along the way, the group got quite hungry and we stopped at a local market for snacks. You’ve never seen a group of teenagers happier than those just given chocolate after several dessert-free days (Connor, thank goodness, got some cookies to stockpile in his bag). During drives along Kenyan highways, we saw some pretty crazy things: a man sitting on top of a moving car campaigning for a local election, a motorcycle with a couch in tow, and grazing animals galore. It was also adorable to see Kenyan children waving with huge smiles on their faces to our cars as we passed by. After an enjoyable ride, we made it to our next destination – a camp right on Lake Naivasha, a huge, stunning freshwater lake with hippos, canopy trees, and many exotic birds. We feasted for a late lunch in the local restaurant. Patrick got some Chicken Tikka Masala while Helen, Virginia Ann, Connor, and Charlie stuck with the classic pizza. Griffin got the filet and was quite content with how it turned out. All in all, it was a great meal. Post dinner Ava and Tad decided to go for a jog around the campsite to keep their energy up. Then, the whole group met for a rendezvous by the lake where we played a fierce game of Hacky-Sack “Three Hack Wack.” Lucy, a soccer star back home, had some impressive juggles and got most of the boys out. The night grew dark so our circle quickly transitioned from game time to Moonup. The questions tonight were “If you could be raised in any decade, which one would you pick” and “Who is someone who has changed your life?” After a later dinner, we all snuggled into bed to prepare for an early wake-up call in the AM.
The early wake-up call was well worth it. We got to go on a sunrise boat cruise around Lake Naivasha and saw a family of hippos perched on the shore, as well as a Water Buck and lots of birds. We then had a quick but delicious breakfast at our lodging before hopping in the land cruisers for the last bit of our drive to our lodge with the Masai Mara Tribe. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a warm lunch, even warmer smiles, and the most glampiest of tents to stay in. We got a chance to unwind before heading out on a bush walk with Dennis and Jackson, two Masai warriors. Our group was amazed at all the things these men showed us. From medicinal treatments that different plants offer, to animal footprint tracking to warrior rituals and songs, we really got to immerse ourselves in Masai culture. Our evening concluded with the most jaw-dropping sunset over the savanna, a family-style dinner, and Moonup around a bonfire. Parker and Hannah, leaders of the day, asked our group a silly question “If you could go to Mars in this lifetime, would you?” and an insightful one “What do you think your purpose on this Earth is?” Some really great conversations sparked from these questions. We look forward to another full day tomorrow with the Masai tribe.
Our group got a final, lengthy taste of the African safari today. We went in… you guessed it… two land cruisers and took off from our camp around 8:30 AM for another Safari adventure. The only animals our group had yet to see (that we could think of) were ALL checked off during our time venturing through the African savanna with Masai guides and drivers. Our drivers spotted a leopard creeping through the tall grass and led us to it. Since they are nocturnal and like to hide in tall trees, leopards are typically extremely rare to find during the day. We got a real treat, as the leopard came in a super close (but still safe) proximity to our cruiser. We also saw more lions, giraffes, zebras, and elephants from close distances and got some awesome pictures. OH! And did we mention that we had the coolest lunch spot of all time?? We had a picnic lunch with a view of a river FULL of hippos and even a crocodile. The hippos were hilariously huge. Griffin and Helen, our leaders of the day, oversaw van split up and helped Ava and James make the decision to head back to camp early because, after a long day of safari, our group was pretty exhausted. It was a good thing we went back when we did, too, because a big rainstorm came in while we were back at the campsite. The rain was a welcome relief after several days of hot sun. Due to the rain, Moonup was held inside one of the tents and filled with laughter.
On Wednesday the group woke up Ava in her tent with a nice birthday song because it was her 23rd birthday. The morning was spent eating some delicious Nutella crepes and fresh fruit. The food at the Masai Mara camp has been exceptional. We then had the treat of venturing to a Masai village where we were greeted by a Warrior song and dance. A part of this ritual involved jumping high. We all held hands and joined in the song and dance. After being welcomed into the village, we were given tours of the Masai homes. Griffin, Gloria, and Lucy were obsessed with the village puppy named Simba. Virginia Ann loved seeing the younger Masai children who were intrigued by their visitors. In the huts, made of clay, sticks, and coated weekly with Cow Manure, the kids had the chance to try traditional Ugali. We beaded bracelets with the Masai women and learned how to make fire from the Masai men. Tad was our best fire-starter. Afterward, we supported the Masai women by buying some of their gorgeous handmade bracelets and trinkets. Our afternoon was spent on a Warrior bush walk where we discussed the importance of Nature Conservation and the goals of aiming to eliminate the use of single-use plastics. Then, we had some friendly Warrior competition – spear throwing. Hannah threw the farthest for the girls and Charlie and Tad for the boys. We concluded the day with some cake for Ava’s birthday and Moonup where leaders of the day, Tad and Lucy, led an insightful discussion about service and gratitude.
For our final day in the Masai Mara camp, we got to visit a local school! For many of us, this was the highlight of our trip so far. From being greeted by fist bumps and singing by the most joyous and precious children, to playing games in the schoolyard, to discussing conservation, we really got to bond with the kids in the community here. The kids were extremely friendly. Hannah helped make bracelets with some of them. Lucy had a 1-year-old fall asleep in her arms. The kids passed around Tad’s glasses to try on. Charlie, Connor, and Patrick played some soccer or “football” with the kids. Virginia Ann (a lover of children) was in paradise! It was an incredible morning and one that will remain a warm spot in many of our hearts. The afternoon was also spent with the kids, playing soccer and getting to bond more. Our final evening consisted of a delicious dinner, an incredible Moonup, and warrior stories by the fire. We cannot believe it is the final full day in Kenya for this group but we are STOKED for Zanzibar and scuba diving!
Ava and James
Now, a word from your kiddos:
Hey Fab Fam! I miss y’all so much and wish you could experience all this amazingness with me. I am having the best time and am so grateful to be here. Can’t wait to share everything when I get back. (Happy Father’s Day) Love y’all! -Hannah
Hey Whit Whit and Bill Bill!! I am having so much fun on this trip and can’t wait to tell you everything when I get back! I love and miss y’all so much! – Lucy Larkin
What’s up y’all! I miss everyone so much and I am having so much fun here. Happy father’s day dad! Give Ladybird some pets for me. We saw a bunch of very cool animals. Love y’all! -Patty
Hey guys! Missing y’all and ice-cream. Food has been solid and even tried some exotic things I will tell you about. Very excited for my last couple of days in Zanzibar and then coming back home! Hope you have a good Father’s Day Pops! Tell the cats hello for me. Love y’all- Connor
Hey guys. Having a ton of fun in Kenya with a bunch of great people. I have tons of stories to tell you when I see you next. Happy Father’s Day Dad, I love you and miss you both. -Charlie
Hey fam!! Having a blast here in Africa. It’s been a neat experience for sure 🙂 I have so many stories to tell when I get home. Miss y’all- hope you’re having fun kidless for a little! Happy father’s day Dad! Love and miss y’all!!-VA
Hey everyone- I’m having a great time here in Africa. Today is our last day with the Masai tribe, I bought some really cool stuff in their market! See you on Thursday. Love you! -Griffin
Hey everyone!! I’ve been having a great time and have met some great people. I have so many stories to tell. Tell everyone I miss them very much. Happy father’s day dad! Love and miss you all!! -Helen
Hello family! And happy father’s day Dad! Africa is reallyyy cool I’ve seen lots of cool animals and am having lots of fun with all my new friends. Also tell Wesley I said hello and give Jilly some loving for me. Love y’all so much can’t wait to tell you everything when I get back! – Love Gloria 🙂
Hey everyone, being in Africa for the past week and a half has been such a great trip because of how different it is when I go on trips with the family. We’ve seen tons of cool stuff like lion cubs, rhinos and a lot more. Miss you guys and hope Cooper and Spencer are alright while y’all went to St. John, can’t wait to see you all!- Parker J
Howdy howdy! I have had a great trip in Africa so far and enjoyed every minute of it. Yesterday we ended up playing some of the local in a game of futbol. We ended up winning the first game and losing the second one but in the midst of the game I ended up racing everyone and winning. I will see you soon!-Tad
June 12, 2022
The day we have all been waiting for is finally here- the first day of our adventure in Africa! We just touched down safe and sound in Nairobi after a long but smooth day of travel. Our group bonded quickly in the Atlanta airport, playing a game of Left, Right, Center with fellow Moondancer’s that were headed to Chamonix, and exchanging stories about their own lives and what they were most looking forward to during our trip to Kenya and Zanzibar. Our connection was in Paris so, of course, Helen and Gloria tried some delicious macaroons in the Paris airport. Upon arrival in Nairobi, the group reunited with the other half of our co-leader team- James Kelley- who was waiting for us with open arms and a huge smile on his face. After a quick drive to our lodging, the group settled down for some much-deserved rest and relaxation.
The first FULL day of our trip was one for the books. We had a feeling it was going to be a good day when we walked outside and saw Griffin and Parker swinging on a mini-Zipline in the lodge where we were staying, helping foster an adventurous spirit in the group. This spirit only grew from there. From a delicious morning spread, to a long drive from Nairobi, weaving in and out of local villages and marketplaces, to arriving at our next lodging on a Wildlife Conservancy and having an authentic Kenyan lunch, to a visit to Chimpanzee sanctuary, to a Game Drive where we saw lions, elephants, antelope, buffalo, rhinoceroses, monkeys, zebras, and more, and finally to an awesome Moonup around a fire pit, our day was action-packed to say the least. In two different land cruisers, our group patrolled the many acres our Wildlife Conservancy had to offer. During the Chimpanzee sanctuary visit, Griffin asked amazing inquisitive questions and kept our guide and group engaged. During the Game Drive, Virginia Ann helped our guides lead us to a pack of lions, two females and two cubs. It was insanely cute. One of the baby cubs kept trying to wake up its mom to play. Parker spotted an elephant hiding behind some trees and Gloria, Tad, Helen, and Hannah were sure to take some great photos on their cameras. Connor was happy to inform us of the name of a gorgeous local tree, the Acacia tree. It was an amazing Game Drive filled with “Wow” Moments and breathtaking sights. Finally, we wrapped up our evening with a family style dinner, funny conversations about whether pumas are real, pondered Connor’s obsession with ice-cream and snacks, and debated where to find the nearest Ben and Jerry’s in Nairobi. The day concluded with our first official Moonup! It was an incredible day, and it is crazy to believe it was only the first of many to come!
For our second full day at the Wildlife Conservancy, we transitioned from Wildlife to community engagement. Our group started the day with an informative presentation from a park ranger about rhino conservation, ways to combat poaching, and new technologies that the conservancy implements to keep animals safe and healthy. We then drove to a local all-boys school where we met the principal, teachers, and students. We were shown all the different ways that the school teaches sustainable practices, including growing and preparing crops and meats. We had the opportunity to serve the school by moving chopped logs to the school kitchen to assist in keeping their ovens burning. Gloria and Charlie led the charge, jumping right in and keeping the energy up as the group made trips back and forth with logs. After our time at the school, we went to a local individuals home to learn the process of making clay stoves. Our new friend, Gilbert, took us and had us shoveling dirt into a wheelbarrow. Tad was by far the most efficient at maneuvering the wheelbarrow and dumping the fresh dirt into our pile. After we had dug a couple of feet, we transitioned into the next step of sifting the dirt. Parker, Helen, and Patrick showed us some creative moves as they sifted out the rocks and sticks. From this point, we took our socks and shoes off and began to stomp and smash the mud with our feet. For the final step, we watched as Gilbert shaped the clay and formed the final product. We all appreciated this opportunity to see Gilbert teach us his craft and share the experience with us. We returned to our lodge and Tad immediately showed his ping pong prowess dominating everyone he played against, he has a mean backhand! Hannah, Griffin, and Parker all came together for a game of Three Hack Whack for a delicious dinner of roasted chicken with potatoes and cabbage. Our first student-led Moonup led by Patrick and Gloria set a great precedent for the rest to come. The questions were “What would be your walk-up song?”, and “What is the hardest decision you have ever had to make?”. The group had many insightful answers.
Our final full day at the Conservancy had a strong start with a morning workout session, led by James and Gloria. We did the “Bring Sally Up” challenge with squats, planks, and push-ups. There’s nothing better than getting the blood pumping to start the day. We then had the incredible opportunity to see the last two living Northern white rhinoceroses in the whole world. Their names were Najin and Fatu (mother and daughter) and they are under 24 hour surveillance to protect them from poachers and prey. Before we got to take pictures with these prehistoric looking creatures, we had to put in a little hard work and helped clean the Conservancy. Our team turned a seemingly difficult task into a fun one. We had some incredible encounters with elephants, giraffe, hyenas, antelopes, and zebras while driving to and from the rhino enclosure. Our day only got better and better- after petting rhinos, we got milkshakes from a local restaurant (you’re welcome Connor!) and after a homemade pizza lunch back at our home base, we got to go lion tracking! Tad and Griffin asked Dennis, our guide leading us through the reserve, some thought-provoking questions. We saw a pride of over ten lions (females and their cubs). Lucy and Ava wanted to bring one home to be their new pet, but we figured that would not be the best idea. Upon returning home, we played some charades, ate a delicious dinner, and embarked on a nighttime game drive. It was a day filled with Safari, sunshine, and laughter! Cannot wait for the next section of this trip!
Until next time,
Ava and James
June 8, 2022
Hello Kenya + Zanzibar Families!
We just heard from our leaders that the group has landed safely in Nairobi. 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!