June 22, 2022
Thanks for tuning in for our last trip update in the beautiful country of Kenya. We began our travel day into the Maasai Mara by taking in our last glimpses of Lake Naivasha after a wonderful one-night stay. Blake, Sarah, Anna, Meredith, and Owen woke up when it was still dark to watch the sunrise over the sparkling waters. We had plans to watch it from our campsite’s lakeside pier, but we woke to find it blocked off by electric lines to fend off wandering hippos. Sarah attempted to pass through them in utter determination to watch the sunrise from the dock. In fact, she put her hand on the fence to prove that it was not on. We lunged to stop her, as she touched the fence and proved her theory right. We then ate probably our best breakfast of the trip—complete with fried banana pancakes, fruit bowls, yogurt, and breakfast wraps— and then we hit the road!! We watched the African plains roll on out of our cruiser windows as we drove through villages and along the bush. The girls had a hilarious bathroom experience mid-trip when they came across a restroom unlike any other they’ve ever had the pleasure of using. We had a stop at another African curio shop, where many of the kids hit their last chance to purchase souvenirs. Finn proved himself the bartering champion of the day, buying $150 worth of items for $30.
We arrived at the Oseki camp in the Maasai Mara reserved, and ate a light lunch that the Maasai people prepared for us. After a small period of digestion three Maasai warriors took us out into the field to teach us the way of the warriors and help us become warriors in our own way. At first they helped us identify certain plants like the morning glory and their medicinal properties (it is used to keep fleas off of livestock). Then we began the training that the kids were really excited about: spear throwing, jumping, and archery. The warriors told us that warriors compete in these skills to get wives; so Finn was very happy when he jumped the highest. The girls all cheered when Wynn shot the arrow the furthest. And after struggling with the bow and arrow, George threw the spear the furthest and was the only one to stick it in the ground.
Then the warriors told us how we could be warriors in our own homes: nature warriors and social warriors. He told them three specific ways: no plastics, no female genital mutilation, and no violation of women. The Maasai people have faced many issues for their traditions that suppress the rights of women and many are trying to make an important change to their culture. Blake led the girls in a chant yelling, “no plastics and no FGM!”
When it started raining we bounded back to camp to hangout on the couches in the comfortable dining area. Owen played a game called ‘Mao’ with Everett, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Anna. In ‘Mao’ the players don’t know the rules and must they figured out all the rules by playing the game. This caused a lot of entertaining frustration from the kids, but Everett, Elizabeth, and Anna caught on impressively quick. Sarah got distracted and then laughed when she tuned back in and was completely lost. She figured it out quickly after that.
Afterwards, Everett practiced his journalism skills and interviewed the Maasai warriors. Then he looked at the map of Kenya with George.
Then we ate dinner while Elizabeth George and Sarah shared gross medical stories.
The resident pig of our campsite, named Piggy, staggered in during out after-dinner hot chocolates and the kids petted Piggy and laughed. Soon after, Piggy let out a putrid fart, that forced a quick evacuation of the dining room. Piggy efficiently wrapped our first night up. LOD’s Anna and George led a powerful Moonup in the girl’s tent, following up an amazing day with amazing group chats.
On this fine morning we somehow managed to wake the kids up on time for a 5:45 start on our safari. We immediately ran into three cheetahs who were wary of the two male lions nearby. We whipped over to the male lions and were stunned by their majestic confidence bordering on arrogance. After seeing the cheetah and lions we stopped for a picnic breakfast in the middle of the African bush. The kids ate crepes, bananas, hard boiled eggs, and bread with jelly under a desert tree. This was quite the highlight.
For the rest of the morning, we were tracking a leopard that was spotted in the park. One of the safari trucks saw the leopard and the other didn’t, so there was quite the battle of the land cruisers. The crew that did not see the leopard made up stories to combat the leopard sighting. They said that they saw the long-necked spotted leopard (a giraffe) and saw multiple lion fights.
At lunch the kids began a card-playing marathon of presidents. And the kids practiced their new song, “Jambo Bwana” (ask them to sing it for you).
We set back out on our afternoon safari and headed out to a river to see 10s of hippos bobbing in the water. On the ride back from the hippo site a lot occurred. George gave Everett a camera lesson. Finn was telling funny stories. Sarah and Anna were nonstop giggling in the back, taking pictures, and a picturesque sunset lined the sky behind us.
Once we got back to the Oseki camp we had a wonderful dinner where Finn and Ellie bonded over shoes. Afterwards, we sat around a large bonfire. The kids played presidents until late that night ( late was 10:00 at this point).
On Tuesday morning, the group had a restful morning before heading out on our final day of service and cultural engagement (and our last full day together 🙁 ). We gathered in the main house and all packed up for our day visiting a local Maasai village. Meredith and Owen even emerged in traditional Maasai garb given by the Oseki staff. We walked to the the village from camp, where we collected littered plastic along the way. George and Mary both ended the day with the most plastic collected. Once we arrived at the village, we were welcomed by senior male warriors with a traditional song and dance, and all of the kids had the chance to follow along in the moves. The boys joined the warriors in showing off their jumping skills. Finn’s height gave him a full advantage and he proved to have the highest vertical. Once inside the walls of the village, we got to see inside of a local hut, help cook some ugali, and see how the women re-plaster their houses. Blake was the first and only camper to volunteer to spread the mixture on the hut exterior. Ellie made fast friends with a group of local children who ended up following her around for the morning. George stopped his photo taking session to help local women with bead making.
Once everyone had the chance to interact with the tribe people and partake in bead making, fire-starting, or cooking, we headed back to camp for a filling lunch. After everyone felt rejuvenated and rehydrated after spending the morning in the hot sun, we headed back out to the village to visit the Semandep school outside of the Maasai Mara. The school, which now has around 200 students in attendance, clothes, feeds, and boards many of their students and provides education to Maasai children from grades 1 to 8. We visited two of their classrooms, where the children sang us melodious cultural songs and performed accompanying dances. The girls, as always, were quick to join in on the fun. When they asked us to reciprocate their song, the only song that we could all agree on was Everett’s suggestion of ‘Wagon Wheel.’ We gave them a shaky rendition of the chorus and agreed that we could all benefit from an acapella lesson. We then joined the students for a heated game of soccer up in their hillside field. Julian’s athletic ability gave a good fight to the school’s amazing players. Wynn guarded the goal for a long while. Blake befriended some school children to help her on defense. Anna let of a half-screech half-cheer on her first time touching the ball. Everyone had a great time and got the chance to make enlightening conversations with the players on the opposing team. Worn out and sweaty by the end, we all got a group picture together to remember our amazing game. We then headed home for a well deserved meaty meal and a bit of rest. A group of card players continued their game of ‘president,’ where Ellie proved herself a master dealer and Wynn dominated as three-time president of the game. Everett and Wynn led our final Moonup around the camp’s bonfire, where everyone got to share their favorite moments of the trip. Blake, being the animal whisperer that she is brought two animal friends into our circle during the night. We ended with a special nug jug, where everyone got to give individual mugs to each person in our circle. It was a perfect reflection and culmination of all of the memories that we have made together as a team <3
Today is our last travel day, and we are already getting sentimental about our time together. We had a lazy breakfast, taking in the lasting aura during the final meal at our favorite campsite. We had Nutella and crepes, which made the kids over the moon.
When we arrived at Keekorok Airstrip, which was just a dirt runway, Ellie, Mary, and Blake thought the leaders were messing with them. They couldn’t even tell it was an airport.
Once we arrived in Nairobi, we headed to a cute outdoor cafe to eat food, drink, milkshakes, and do final paperwork. The kids wrote letters to their future selves and played cards.
We left the cafe for our final dinner at Carnivore’s restaurant. As far as I know everyone tried both the ostrich meatballs and the Rocky Mountain oysters. We can confirm that Wynn did try the Rocky Mountain oysters. But, none of us could understand why that would ever be consumed— they were not good. Finn sent a 31st birthday cake to Owen at the end of the table; however, Owen is neither 31 nor was it his birthday. Finn scored some free chocolate cake. We finally put up our flag of surrender to the all-you-can-eat buffet and headed to the airport.
The goodbye was full of tears and felt unbelievably surreal. We finally had to force the kids to go and get in the security line. With a few hiccups, everyone got off the ground safely. Some of them will try to proposition you all to let them stay a few hours in Paris! We cannot thank you all for giving us the chance to meet and spend time with each of the students. It was truly the trip of a lifetime. Good luck and Asante sana!
Owen and Meredith
June 19, 2022
The day to travel to Kenya is finally here!!! It only felt right to end the first section of our trip on our beach paradise, enjoying the final moments. The group was allowed a sleep-in until 8:00am; however, most people woke up for sunrise at 6:00 to watch the sunrise on the beach. Then they retired back to their fly-net covered cocoons for a few more hours of Z’s. George and Everett stayed awake and went for a four mile walk down the beach in search of the early morning fish market. They did not find what they were looking for, but instead found a herd of beach cows, with whom they petted and frolicked. They were tuckered out and content when the rest of the group met them for breakfast.
For the rest of the morning, the kids were free to enjoy the Zanzibar beach. Amidst packing, the girls lay tanning by the pool, reading, journaling and making friendship bracelets. George went out into the surf to fish, but sadly they all evaded him. He instead caught a new local friend and they shared Instagram handles. Sarah and George found a starfish in the shallow waters as well. Little did we know, Ellie and Elizabeth went back to sleep, setting the record for amount of sleep had on a Moondance trip (somewhere near 11 hours). After lunch, Blake said goodbye to her cat friends, and we took a big bus to the airport for our flight. We bumped our newly downloaded music, which consisted of a lot of Moana songs requested by Sarah. Everett learned how to make his first friendship bracelet.
The travel was long, and we had to go through what felt like 10 checkpoints to get onto the plane. But the group was excited for Kenya and remained in high spirits. After getting some snacks for the long flight, we flew through Mombasa. The kids read their books on the plane and Finn made a dent in his Jack Reacher book which he loved (shoutout to Mrs. Dyer for packing that for him).
After arriving in the airport and returning to our lodge outside of Nairobi, we ate one of our best feasts yet, that ended with bowls of ice cream, and a Moonup around a large bonfire, where we gave each other spirit animals. Meredith was a penguin; Owen was the turtle from Finding Nemo; Everett was Diego from Ice Age; Julian was a river otter; Finn was a sloth; Elizabeth was a graceful heron; Sarah was a chipmunk; Blake was Raja from Aladdin; Ellie was a toucan; Mary was a white bunny; Anna was a hedgehog.
On Day 9, we woke up to a breakfast on the deck of our camp’s porch, and George admired the koi fish in the pond below. We had to talk him down from trying to go catch them. For those parents that don’t know George, I’m sure you can tell by now how passionate he is about fishing. The other kids hit the zip lines again, and Julian, George, and Finn played ping pong. We headed off after breakfast, in two Land Cruisers, separated into the boy’s car and the girl’s car. The boy’s car listened to reggae music, and head nodded with our driver and guide, Nick. Because he has been a guide since the 1990s, the kids picked his brain with questions about the surrounding terrain and wildlife. Nick also bought both cars fresh bananas from the side of the road, and gave them to us, his “buddies.” Wynn did not try any of the bananas (but more on that later). Wynn and Finn voraciously read in the back, and Julian paid close attention to the shops and homes that we passed by. Wynn finished a whole 200 pages in the car ride.
In the girl’s car, the music choices were a bit different. They started out with sad music and progressed to happier sing along songs. Ellie and Blake showcased their knowledge of rap lyrics and Mary brought back out her friendship bracelet string. Sarah’s small bladder almost couldn’t handle the amount of water she chugged before the car ride, but luckily Meredith found her a real bathroom before the unmentionable had to occur. We stopped midway at a local shop, where the surrounding communities sell their art and sculptures. The kids are getting REALLY good at haggling. Everett got a tapestry that was originally $170 down to just $50.
Once we got to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, we settled into the huts that were old horse stables converted into lodging. We had lunch and played ping pong. Blake found the true meaning of “monkey business” and realized that she couldn’t cuddle the monkeys like she could the cats in Zanzibar. Finally, we set out on our first game drive, all of the students armed with their cameras. We heard from another patroller where there had been a lion spotting earlier that day and sped off in that direction. A few minutes off of the road, Mary spotted something in the bush. We found an entire family of lions: two mothers, and six cubs. They were right next to our Land Cruiser for a bit over an hour, playing with each other, and feeding on the carcass of a recently killed zebra. Circle of life, right?!?!
Elizabeth took the official Moondance camera to capture some gold. On our way back Elizabeth turned and said “wow, it looks just like the Lion King.” We laughed and said, “Don’t you mean the Lion King looks just like this?” We took selfies in the safari truck with dust blowing in our eyes and guessed which car each other drove at home. Anna guessed that Owen drove a Kia Soul and he was very offended but laughed it off. Ellie and Wynn sang Nicki Minaj songs from heart.
After dinner at Moonup, we saw a bright orange moon as Wynn and Elizabeth (the LOD’s) led the group in telling the rose, thorn, and silliest part of their days. There was some great unity under the stars as the leaders left the students laughing and playing “never have I ever.”
The next morning, Owen and George saw zebras and bush buck, and were startled by the sound of a nearby warthog. George took pictures and then Owen led a meditation for them both. George enjoyed the practice of being present and still. After a long breakfast full of laughs, we headed out for our service day. We went to a local farm to pull weeds from an onion patch. Mary and Elizabeth were titled the “weed destroyers,” and George aimed to find the largest weed — which he did. George’s weed was the largest one that anyone had ever seen.
After the farm, we headed to ceramist Gilbert’s house. Gilbert builds efficient and affordable ovens out of clay, sharing his trade with other locals and eager students like ourselves. The first task was to dig and transport the clay. Gilbert took us to his digging hole with a pickaxe and a shovel. Ellie was the first one to jump in the hole and mocked all of the boys. She beat the ground with the pickaxe and got some energy out. We built an assembly line, using a rusty wheelbarrow, to transport the clay. Meanwhile, Finn made elaborate handshakes with the people waiting for their turn to get involved. We then sifted the clay, where Blake took charge. Blake was the MVP of our volunteer section, where she was always eager to volunteer and help with each project. She also befriended a sheep named Pope and found the biggest double banana that any of us had ever seen.
That afternoon, we took our shoes off and danced on the clay, while Gilbert mixed it with water, and his niece played hip hop music. The kids feet were filthy, but they got their wiggles out. Gilbert showed us how he made the ovens, and his sister-in-law, Rhonda taught all of the kids to count in Swahili. Elizabeth was the best counter. When we got back to our lodging. The kids hung around and explored. The night ended with the a joyful Moonup where the leaders left the kids admiring the constellations, using an app as a guide.
On the morning of Friday, June 17th we woke up on Elizabeth’s birthday. At breakfast, Meredith burst out of her room playing Motown jams. She put a half broken (from travel) tiara on Elizabeth’s head, a pink ‘birthday girl’ sash over her shoulders, and a wand in her hand. We danced and handed over the aux to Elizabeth.
We hopped in the land cruisers to head to the Ol Pejeta rhino sanctuary. We were greeted by Zachary, our guide, who showed us to the rhino pens. Blake got to play with the resident anti-poaching bloodhound, Joe. Blake quickly volunteered to scrub the rhinos’ water troughs, while a few others headed to the water faucet to fill buckets. Everett devised the genius system of handing the full buckets over the fence instead of bringing it around. There were a few minor spills as he stretched to hand the buckets to Owen on the other side. The rest of the kids, who were waiting eagerly to help, were playing a simple yet competitive game of “don’t touch my rock.”
After cleaning the rhino pens, the group had the MARVELOUS chance to scoop up some rhino doo doo. Happy birthday Elizabeth!!! It must be put on record that the girls were much better poop shovelers than the boys. George did manage to find the larvae of a dung beetle and gross out the rest of the group. Anna bravely faced her fear of bugs when we hopped in the back of our freshly loaded truck to take the mound away from the sanctuary and into the bush.
Then we got in the tractor to see the last two northern white rhinos in existence. All of the kids got the rare experience of petting the white rhinos and getting a photo shoot with them. A grumpy southern white rhino that was nearby got a little close, but Zack scared him off. Then we headed to see Baraka, the blind but friendly Southern black rhino. The children fed branches to the rhino that was being kept safe in a small enclosure. We rushed back home to get the hungry group fed. At lunch, George hammered 4 plates of nyama choma (roasted meat) and a Kenyan staple, ugali.
After lunch, a member of the predator tracking unit came by to teach us about the lions in Ol Pejeta. He showed us their radar technology and we took off in search of lions. On the way there, we found a fundraising cricket match, where we stopped to watch a few minutes. Once we were off again, we were allowed to go far off road since we were with the predator unit and ended up settling in front of a scene with elephants in the foreground and lions stalking the ridge above them. On our way back to camp, George attempted to shoot the Moondance catalog cover photo of an elephant next to a sunset. And we maneuvered the car so that Elizabeth could get close and take a picture for her birthday.
We got back to camp, ate dinner, and then surprised Elizabeth with a homemade birthday cake. Chef Samuel and the rest of the camp staff carried it out while drumming on pots and pans and singing happy birthday. We got back in the cruisers for a final night game drive. We drove around with huge floodlights on the front of the car. We found a male lion resting, aardvarks eating termites, and a den of hyenas laughing. We fell deeply asleep in our beds after a long day.
But we will never forget breakfast the next morning. Meredith and Julian both woke up at sunrise, where they were able to follow a herd of impala roaming through camp. Once the rest of the crew joined for breakfast, there was a family of monkeys that swarmed to steal our toast. All of the kids arose together and shrieked at the monkeys. Blakely let out a monkey scream that even shocked herself. We named her queen of the monkeys and knew she would protect us from their wrath for the rest of the trip. After wrapping up our last meal in Ol Pejeta, we hopped in the cruisers to make it to our next stop: Lake Naivasha. The drive was long, but boy was it worth it!!
We spent drive in total anticipation, with the girls rapping to Nicki and the boys bumping to Finn’s selection of tunes. Once we pulled into our final destination, everyone was blown away by the beauty of the campground (and even more by the amazing lunch upon arrival)! With full bellies and high spirits, we all got the chance to board boats to explore our edge of the lake. We spotted families of hippopotamuses, herons, king fisher birds, and many, many more! George captured photos galore of all of the marshland wildlife.
We spent the rest of the afternoon playing games and climbing trees a large grassy swath between all of our rooms. Julian proved to be the highest climber of all. Elizabeth and Anna attempted to master the hackeysack. Blake, Mary, and Ellie had deep chats in their room (before figuring out that they accidentally entered a stranger’s bungalow). Finn added some prime footage for his vlog. Anna and Sarah prepped for the social media takeover after the trip and taught Owen a TikTok dance. All of these events preceded an infamous battle with the local monkey tribe. When the monkeys attempted to riffle through our trash, a standoff ensued. Teeth were bared. Leaves were thrown. And Sarah captured a monkey charge on video (ask her to see it later – it’s a doozy).
Once everyone worked up a real appetite, we retreated to the main area for a dining experience like no other! We claimed a giant booth big enough for our entire group, and comfy enough that we wanted to stay there for hours. We ate unbelievable food, as the students got to choose what they ordered finally. Afterward the leaders surprised the group with a special dessert.
Moonup was led by our fearless LOD’s Everett and Elizabeth, all while the boys tenaciously attempted to light a bonfire (unfortunately to no avail). Owen read the group a powerful poem that inspired everyone to cherish the experiences for our final leg of our journey together.
Today, we board the cruisers again to head into the Maasai Mara. We will check back in a few days, but asante sana for reading!
Meredith and Owen
PS: Here are some shoutouts from the kids!!
Elizabeth: Hi Mom and Dad! I miss y’all so much, but am having the best time in Africa. We just got back from Zanzibar and scuba diving was so much fun! Hope everyone is doing well, I love you guys! Also hope y’all celebrated Willy’s birthday without me 🙂 Love, Eliz
Sarah: Hiiiiiii!!! I miss y’all so much! I hope y’all are having fun at home and with all of Goodwyn’s graduation stuff. I’m sad I didn’t get to dive much but it’s okay I’m having lotssss of fun! I’m sad so I don’t get to see y’all when I get home 🙁 but I’m exited to see y’all after! I love y’all so much. -Sarah(tell dogs and gerb I say hi)
Blake: Hey fam I miss y’all and all that cheesy stuff, but I am LIVING IT UP here. I’m taking advantage of the fact that y’all aren’t here to stop me from petting all of the stray cats <3 Rabies here I come!! I’ll make sure to sleep in Emma’s bed asap. Love, B-dub
Finn: Hey guys it’s Finn. I saw the warriors are up 3-2, really hoping they pull thru! luv u guys
Wynn: Hi Mom and Dad! I miss you so much. I am having the time of my life here. Thank you so much for sending me here! -Wynn
Everett: Hey family hope all is well at home with dogs and etc! Hope Vickers is doing well at camp! Africa has been fun I am now scuba certified and we start our Kenya portion tomorrow just arrived in Kenya tonight again from Zanzibar. Tonight Is the 14th. Love y’all and see y’all soon! -Everett
George: Hello family! I’m having a great time here and I hope everyone is doing great. Trip of a lifetime and I love my group!! I’ve got some good pictures to show y’all! -George
Julian: Hi mom I am having fun. I have not been kidnapped by Somalian pirates but there is still time to get eaten by lions and stuff. – Julian
Anna: Hi Mom and Dad!!!! I miss y’all so so much. I’m having a great time!! Safe travels to y’all and Will. Tell Ruby, Will, and Jack I say hello :))) Love y’all so much!! <3 Happy late bday Dad -Anna B
Mary: Hey guys, I love and miss you so much and am having so much fun. Can’t wait to tell you all about it! Hope you’re having fun! <3 – Mary
Ellie: Hey fam I love it here but miss you guys and hero. I hope Rudy is doing well, can’t wait to tell y’all everything 🙂 -Ellie
June 14, 2022
WOOHOO!!! Our sweet group has finally arrived in Nairobi safe and sound. After over 18 hours of traveling, we made it to our first lodging of the trip which is about 30 minutes from the city center. Thankfully we had some awesome people to make our first leg of flights worthwhile and go by in a flash. Our first campers to meet in Atlanta were Sarah, Ellie, Mary, and Anna, all of whom came to the gate with giant smiles on their faces from already making some fast friends. After all the other students filed in over the next couple of hours (George coming in a swift sprint from his short layover – phew!), everyone loaded up on travel snacks and boarded the plane to Paris. We chased the sun all the way over the Atlantic, where some slept, some watched a bunch of movies, and Finn had himself a big ole steak dinner. Once in Paris, Mary and Ellie got some macaroons as a tasty souvenir of our few hours in France and the rest of the girls played Sarah’s version of the card game ‘spoons.’ Our second flight from Paris to Nairobi felt like a whirlwind, and sweet Elizabeth somehow managed to make it through a plane ride next to rambunctious neighbors with an unprecedentedly positive attitude. We all stepped off after another 8-hours feeling ready to stretch our legs and meet our final group members! Wynn met us at baggage claim, already feeling like a local and free of jet lag from his previous few days in Africa. Our team is finally complete!!! Our transportation guides Joseph and Nick guided us from the airport to our sick rides — some huge safari land rovers — to take us to our first lodging of the trip. We were greeted with a hearty meal upon arrival and some giant canvas tents to rest our heads on our quick stop in Kenya. After our first Moonup as a full group, George and Julian took the opportunity to take some gnarly night sky photos while recovering from jetlag. Moonup is a nightly tradition here at Moondance where we reflect on the day we had, get to know each other better, practice leadership skills, and prepare for the day ahead. After a successful first Moonup the group retired to their canvas tents to get some much-needed sleep.
On the morning of Day 2, the group was awoken by new sounds of African birds rustling in the lush trees above our tents. Still trying to align on a new sleep schedule, Finn accidentally woke up with the wrong group (haha) and spent the next few hours reading his book until the rest of the group joined him. Blake was the first to guide the team to breakfast and the boys hit the hotel zip lines for a solid portion of the morning. We had a ping pong tournament before we packed our bags and loaded back onto our safari rovers for a travel day unlike any other! Upon arrival at our first airport stop, we checked in, grabbed lunch, and boarded the plane to Zanzibar. It was a quick flight, which some of the kids spent taking pictures of Meredith and Owen sleeping. When we touched down, everyone stepped off the plane and into the warm island sunshine. Ellie thankfully had her first smooth customs experience of the trip. We grabbed our bags and loaded into our 15-passenger bus to head to our lodging on the largest of the Zanzibarian islands, Unguja. On the way, we passed through multiple towns all swarming with people, before settling in our village of Matemwe. The sights, sounds, and smells were all totally new to our group, along with the impressive driving abilities of the locals here. Preparing us for our safari experience next week in Kenya, we were also greeted by the Zanzibarian Big Five — cows, donkeys, chickens, ducks, and cats. After setting down our bags in our rooms, we had a very eventful dinner and a Moonup that bonded the group together.
Our group woke up early for a gorgeous breakfast spread on our dining patio, where we ate local Mandazi (triangular Swahili doughnuts) along with a variety of fruits, sides, coffee, and juice. We then piled into the vans and sped through village streets to our very first activity: SCUBA DIVING! Upon arriving at our dive shop, we split up into four training groups (two morning and two afternoon sessions). Our first group with George, Anna, Elizabeth, and Owen stayed at the shop pool to learn their first certification lessons with instructor Bacari. Julian, Everett, Ellie, and Blake scooted to the pool next door to have their morning session with Asherri. Our third group with Wynn, Finn, and Mary hung around and played some pretty competitive volleyball and basketball by the pool while they waited for their turn to begin with divemaster Ludo. Our extra advanced diver, Sarah, and Meredith made up the fourth group, where they went with instructor Eva on an open water dive. They saw octopi, eels, puffer fish, and so much more in the beautiful ocean blue. While everyone completed their dives, some of the group found a group of local soccer players on the beach and joined them for a game. Blake manned one of the goals, and Owen and Julian ended up playing for hours. George made fast friends with some locals, as well, while he took loads of sick pictures on the beach. When we arrived back at our hotel, the group was pooped from a long day of scuba lessons. Sarah and Wynn were our first official Leaders of the Day (LODs) and managed to rally the troops for an amazing first Moonup in Zanzibar.
We fueled up for our second day of diving with a solid breakfast of samosas, eggs, beans, veggies, and toast. Blake started a daily tradition with our Scuba fish driver who began to teach her a new Swahili phrase every morning. She has since helped the rest of the group build their vocabulary. We then headed out on our first open water dive. WOOP WOOP!!! We drove down the beach a little ways because the usual take-off spot was at low tide and our boats were sitting on the sand. We were shuttled out to the diving boats with a few other divers from Paris. They all dropped into the water for a descent of about 25 feet amidst a coral ledge drop-off to deeper waters. While Elizabeth and George initially started floating up, they quickly got the hang of maneuvering with the use of their breath. Anna was a quick pro and conserved a lot of her air. George was curious as always, looking closely at each and every sand dollar on the ocean floor. We saw the finding dory fish, cowfish, blue starfish, and much more as the kids solidified the skills, they learned the day before. When we got back up onto the boat, they served us spice tea, cinnamon mandazi, and fresh fruit. We jumped off the boat for our second dive of the day and came up to a storm brewing. It was a bumpy but fun ride back, and Everett and Ellie got especially soaked on their side of the boat, laughing all the way. We thankfully made it back in time to watch the storm blow onto the shore, but we were all beat from an adventurous day. We returned to the hotel for a lunch of whale fish (served whole), sandwiches, pizza, rice, beans, and veggies. Everett, George, and a few others were brave enough to try the fish. Then they sat around and played spoons and Bologna Sandwich until sunset. We spent sunset on the beach, where Finn beat Owen in a sprinting race. George and Julian showed off their wrestling skills. Mary and Meredith colluded to table-top Owen, but he put aside his grievances to end the night leading a peaceful yoga session in the sand. We had a dinner of curry chicken, rice, potatoes, beans, veggies, soup, and cake. The kids hung around, talked, and had water chugging contests in the spirit of hydration. Finn seemed to win most of the contests and proved the most hydrated camper. We ended the night by sharing riddles, and Sarah pulled one out that stumped one of the two leaders. Finn told a mind twister of a riddle as well, which made the group crazy when they found the simple hidden answer. Wynn had deep conversations with Ellie and Blake on the hammocks, asking about each other’s lives at home and their philosophical approaches to living.
Our third day of diving marked our last day of lessons before everyone officially became PADI certified! Our morning started off ~swimmingly~ with LODs Everett and Ellie sharing a positive morning quote. Though we woke up to drizzly skies, they quickly cleared as we headed onto the scuba boats. George, Anna, and Elizabeth played tic-tac-toe underwater, while Finn and Mary practiced their subsurface yoga poses. George successfully staved off motion sickness enough to finish his last practice dive to become officially certified. Meanwhile Sarah, who stayed behind to get her ear checked out by a doctor, explored the town of Nungwi with Owen and practiced meditation and yoga on the beach. When the rest of the group arrived back at the dive shop, everyone logged their dives, took a card picture, and rang the bell to announce their official certification!!! They are all dive masters in the making. Arriving back at the hotel, a few brave souls tried octopus for lunch and everyone else munched on alfredo pasta, chicken, rice, and salad. After a small rest, the group loaded into a bus to head to one of the largest spice farms in all of the spice islands: Kizimbani Spice Farm. On the drive, Mary brought string so everyone could make friendship bracelets. When we arrived, our tour guide Sai helped us explore how many of the world’s most exotic spices are planted and grown. We got to try or smell a variety of spice plants, including cardamom, cinnamon, eucalyptus, cloves, curry, and pepper, along with fruits and coconuts. Wynn even expanded his palette by trying coconut jelly and meat after we watched master climber, Butterfly, climb for and chop up some delicious coconuts for the group. We headed back to the hotel with arms full of necklaces, crowns, and spice mixes all made by local Zanzibarian women. We arrived home after singing along to our growing playlist, where we ate chicken, rice, fries, veggies, and soup for dinner. At Moonup, Owen and Sarah gifted the group with cookies that they picked up while on their outing, and everyone hit the hay with smiles.
Preparing for our last full day in Zanzibar, Meredith, Owen, and George went on a sunrise jog, where George snapped some gallery worthy photos of boats resting on the Indian Ocean shoreline. Everyone felt ready to eat after hearing Wynn’s daily, “Hey Y’all!” and we headed out for our last dive on the shining sea. On our first dive as official certified divers, Finn and Wynn were given extra-large tanks because of their unique ability to swallow an absurd amount of air. A rare frog fish was spotted, a stingray, many eels, and more. Everett hilariously grabbed the wrong person underwater thinking it was Owen and accidentally scared a stranger. The kids honed their scuba skills as they gracefully navigated the reefs, no longer floundering for underwater balance. We took a break and ate fruit and mandazi while waiting for the next dive, chilling on the boat with the guides. Once we returned to land, the kids said some sad goodbyes to the friends they made on the scuba team, but we got a commemoratory picture to celebrate our time together. We headed back to the hotel for another delicious lunch of fish, chicken, rice, and pasta. After an hour rest, we headed into the town of Nungwi on the northernmost tip of the island. We played an eclectic mix of music in the car, first enjoying Wynn’s favorite 70s and 80s music (consisting of a passionate ‘I will survive’) and transitioning into some of the Moana soundtrack. We walked around the shop stands of Nungwi and the kids worked on their haggling skills. Elizabeth bought a keychain to add to her collection at home. Blake bought some beautiful jewelry and made friends with a local Zanzibarian woman. Julian bought a lovely present to bring home. George negotiated huge price decreases. We eventually headed to the beach, where Finn pulled out a ring, he bought in town to fake propose to Wynn at sunset. Sarah got the chance to practice her cartwheels on the beach showing off her previous gymnastics training, and then she and Ellie gave the leaders swing dancing lessons. This prompted an exciting gymnastics performance by some locals in front of the kids. We headed back to our hotel to enjoy our final dinner at our beloved hotel. Our LODs Mary and Finn switched up our usually Moonup and began with a game of ninja on the beach (congrats to Julian for taking the award for fastest reflexes of the group). Afterward, the kids celebrated their final night in Zanzibar with a pool party before catching some much-needed Zs to prepare for the next day of travel.
Today we travel to the second stop of our African adventure: KENYA! Wish us safe travels and an easy trip back to Nairobi! We love each of the adventurous, kind, and creative kiddos already – thank you for sharing them with us. We are SO excited to see what the rest of this trip will hold!
Owen and Meredith
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!