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Kenya + Zanzibar 2 A • June 24-July 10, 2022

Checking in from Zanzibar!

July 9, 2022



What better way to celebrate the fourth of July than kick off the segment of our trip that lands us in tropical paradise!! The kids have been stoked to go to Zanzibar since the start of the trip and we can’t blame them. With crystal blue water and white sand beaches, it is definitely an idyllic place. But first, we had to travel there! James and Ava woke up the group in a festive way, pumping Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus and handing out red, white, and blue beads. Leaders of the day, EG and Reagan, put on their matching America cut off tanks and were given a red white and blue fedora to wear. Spirits were high as we munched on breakfast and departed Maasai Mara, waving goodbye to all of our new friends and thanking them for their hospitality. 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 awaited for our equally small airplane to take us to the Nairobi Wilson airport and then to Zanzibar. James or “Papa” as the kids call him bought the group some airport goodies and we enjoyed some packed lunches in the airport. Travel was smooth sailing and before we knew it, we landed in tropical paradise. We all rushed to the beach and watched as the sun set. Downing said he was on cloud nine and that Zanzibar was the perfect way to end our trip. We all agreed. Our new lodging is situated right on the beach and has gorgeous views. We had a delicious dinner of vegetable curry, fries, penne pasta, pumpkin soup, salad, and peanut cake. Reagan and EG decided to have Moonup in the pool and to keep it festive for the fourth, we whipped out some glow sticks and fourth of July swimsuits. We chatted about what being an American means to us and then, to really celebrate, all jumped in the quite chilly pool together. Tommy showed us some of his killer swim team moves (butterfly stroke, freestyle, flip turns!) and we were all very impressed. We got a bit chilly, rushed back to our rooms for hot showers and to rest up for our first full day of scuba diving!!


Day 1 of scuba diving was a success! We split into two groups. One with Jack, Landyn, Springer, and Casey doing advanced open water certifications and regular diving. The other group, Tommy, Mason, Downing, EG, and Reagan working on their open water certification. Since the first group is already certified, they got to go diving off of a boat near the Mnmeba Atoll while the others stayed at the pool and went over diving basics, safety, and equipment. The boat group saw an octopus, an eel, and tons of fish. The pool group crushed it as well and picked up scuba diving like pros. Regan, Downing, and EG only struggled with trying not to make each other laugh underwater. With that group, that is nearly impossible because they are always cracking up. The pool water was a bit chilly so the kids were eager to dry off and head back to lunch. After lunch, we hit the beach and enjoyed some sunshine. Ava and Mason had a hand stand contest. Some kids whipped out their summer reading. As the afternoon progressed, we moseyed on over to a couch near the restaurant and talked as a whole group for two hours straight about funny stories, embarrassing moments, love languages, and more. It was so fun seeing how close our group has gotten. Dinner was delicious – chicken curry, rice, spaghetti, veggies, and marble cake. Moonup, led by Casey and Downing, was insightful and allowed us to grow closer, discussing a struggle we have gone through in the past year. Looking forward to day 2 of scuba tomorrow!


For our second day of scuba, we got to ride on a boat all together! James and Ava threw a dance party on the front of the boat as we headed off on our scuba adventures. The weather was perfect – sunny and clear blue skies- and the water was a brilliant shade of turquoise. During our first dive, both the advanced team and the open water certification team fought some strong currents. We saw lion fish, octopus, eel, and huge schools of fish. Mason and Downing were having the time of their lives underwater and were eager to get through skills so they could explore more of the reef. The afternoon flew by and before we knew it, we were eating lunch and gearing up for our next activity: a sea turtle aquarium! We drove 30 minutes away to Nungwe beach where there is a sea turtle petting zoo/aquarium. Our group got to swim with and feed a group of twenty or so sea turtles. Reagan got a bit spooked by the size of the turtles but still loved the experience. After turtles, we headed to Kenwa beach (a popular tourist destination), ate some ice cream, and watched the sunset. We had a quick photo shoot too. As nighttime approached, we headed back for dinner and Moonup at home base. Landyn and Springer asked us “Who is someone who inspires you or who you look up to?” And “If you could swap places/brains with one person in the group for a day, who would you choose?” Tommy won the majority of the vote. We headed off to bed to prepare for an early rise in the AM.


The third and fourth days of scuba were equally as exciting as the first two. The advanced certification group smashed out three dives in one day and managed to ace all of their skills. For everyone else, regular open water certifications were earned with ease. We spent the afternoon of our third day lounging on the beach and in the hammocks. The afternoon of our final full day of Zanzibar involved a trip to Stone Town, the most popular spot in Zanzibar with a bustling market and historical setting. We perused shops, heard from our tour guide about the history of Zanzibar, saw Freddie Mercury’s birth place, and ended our evening on a rooftop overlooking the Stone Town harbor. Downing got some sick braids in his hair and EG got a henna tattoo of a rhino. We ate our final banquet dinner watching the sunset over Zanzibar. As the literal sun set, the sun too set on our time together. We discussed our favorite memories of the trip and gave out superlatives. Everyone was laughing and happy to have one last dinner around a table all together. The laughter continued on the car ride home. The kids were belting out some Journey, Taylor Swift, and more. Moonups for the final two nights in Zanzibar were led by Reagan and Jack then Casey and Tommy. We look forward to a final day together tomorrow and the journey from Zanzibar to Nairobi to Amsterdam to the US! Big travel day for our crew! Look out for our final trip update once the kids take flight!


-Ava and James

Zanzibar here we come!

July 5, 2022

Hi families!

The second portion of our trip has begun! After eating a delicious breakfast at the restaurant on Lake Naivasha, we headed to our next destination, a camp in the Maasai Mara. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a warm lunch and even warmer smiles from Maasai warriors and women. We were escorted to our new homes. Each tent has its own shower, toilet, three beds, and electricity so you could say we are living a lavish life here in the Maasai Mara. After lunch, we had a few hours to unwind and kick back in our new digs. Tommy and Ava started kicking around the soccer ball. This quickly turned into an incredible pick-up game with not 1… not 2… but 8 Maasai warriors. Mason joined in on the fun and played goalie. The rest of the squad was playing a heated game of cards called “ERS” or “Egyptian Rat Slap.” Jack dominated in a heated battle.  After an hour of fun and games, it was time to get serious. It was time to become warriors. Led by three real warriors, Luka, Jackson, and Ezekiel, our group went on a bush walk where we stopped along the way and learned different Maasai cultural practices, medicinal treatments, and other warrior rituals. There are many tasks a young Maasai man faces on his way to become a warrior such as defending cattle and sheep from wild animals, jumping high to win the affection of local ladies, and spear throwing. It used to be required for warriors to spear a lion to be a warrior, but wildlife conservationists have educated the men to avoid this practice. We didn’t just talk about warrior training though…we got to partake! Jack got to hold one of the warrior’s machetes and Tommy helped them carve sticks into spears to practice spear throwing. Mason sent her arrow flying through the land. We encountered zebra, baboons, and an elephant during our walk in the bush. We made it back home, showered up, and then our evening concluded with a family style dinner and Moonup around the bonfire.


The first full day in the Maasai Mara began in an incredibly impactful way. Our group was invited to tour the Maasai Village. We were welcomed into the Maasai village with a warrior song, a jumping competition, and a song from the Maasai women. Once we entered the village, we got to tour their homes which are made of clay, sticks, and coated daily with cow manure. Though the living conditions were remarkably different than our own, we were amazed at the resilient spirit and kindness all the Maasai people showed us. During our visit, the kids had the chance to try traditional Ugali made by a woman named Lydia. We also beaded bracelets with the local women and learned how to make fire from the Maasai men. Downing and Jack gave it their best efforts but decided the warriors had a bit more practice under their belt. One of our favorite parts of our visit was getting to meet and play with many of the children in the village. Springer, Casey, and Landyn gave some of the little girls their bracelets. EG and Regan played tag with a group of boys. Ava, Mason, and Downing each had a kid on their shoulders and played ring around the rosy. It was such a joyful and meaningful experience. The Maasai people are truly remarkable and visiting their village was an unforgettable experience. We came back to the camp for lunch and got to go on a safari in the late afternoon! We saw a male lion snoozing under a tree, a female lion snacking on a wildebeest, and a herd of elephants crossing the road. James’s car was bumping some tunes while Ava’s was deep in conversation. The sun set while we were on safari, and it was stunning. All in all, it was an incredible day. EG and Tommy led Moonup where we discussed hobbies and how money does not always buy happiness. Super important life lessons were gained today, and we are incredibly grateful for this place and these people for being our teachers.


Day 2 in the Masai began with our final safari! This time, we got up close and personal with the rarest of the Big Five… the leopard! We watched as the leopard sunbathed by a river. We also made a pit stop by a different river with twenty or more hippos. We headed back to the camp, had a delicious lunch of noodles, veggies, beef, and pasta, and prepared for our afternoon activity… a soccer game against a local Kenyan boys’ team. They were quite intimidating, so we had to bring our A game. EG, Springer, Reagan, Jack, and Tommy crushed it on defense and mid-field. Downing was our fearless goalkeeper. James, Ava, and Mason led our offensive attack. Casey and Landyn were busy playing games with a bunch of local children who came by to watch the match. Casey emerged from the play date with her hair fully braided. It was super cute. Mason had our one and only goal against our opponents. We ended up losing 3-1 but, judging by everyone’s laughter and smiles, I would say we were all winners. As we walked home, it began to rain (a much-needed rain for the dry Maasai land). We picked up our pace, jogging and skipping hand in hand with some of the local children, and made it back to camp. We showered, had a fantastic dinner, and Moonup under the stars. Tonight, leaders of the day Jack and Springer asked us what meal we were most looking forward to when we got home and what we have learned from our time with the Maasai people. Lots of people answered Canes, Zaxby’s, and Chic-Fil-A for the first question so it seems our group members are craving some fried chicken. For the second question, many people discussed a newfound gratitude and appreciation for all that they have been given in their lives. We are learning a ton and grateful for all the lessons.


Day 3 of our time with the Maasai people happened to fall on a Sunday and so our group got the privilege of being welcomed into a local church for a worship service. Church in Kenya is quite different from church in the US. The music was pumping, people were dancing, kids were running around, and the worship was extremely passionate. We even got to come up to the front of the church to deliver our own song and words of gratitude (translated by the minister). It was a moving experience and one we will definitely remember. We ate late lunch, did some laundry, and then began the second activity of our day: building a flower bed from cement and used bottles. Much of our program has focused on sustainability and repurposing items. We put these words into action with our team-building activity. Jack and Tommy wheelbarrowed some heavy rocks with the warriors. Reagan, Springer, and Casey helped mix the cement. Downing and EG crushed it on the wheelbarrow as well… and as our resident DJs on James’s speaker. Mason and James worked in a tag team, spreading and smoothing the cement into a flower bed. After building the flower beds, we took some showers and got ready for dinner. Tommy and Ava helped the chefs cut some veggies, make coleslaw, and prepare the rest of dinner. We wrapped up the evening with Moonup, led by our leaders of the day Landyn and Mason. The kids are all pumped to head off to Zanzibar for the final section of our trip! It’s time to get tropical!!


Here are a few words from the kids:

Hello all. I’m having a really good time here and the animals pretty cooleo. We leave for Zanzibar tomorrow, and yesterday we went in our last safari :(. Cant wait to see y’all soon and tell you all about it. Love and miss you!! -Mason


Hey guys, I’m having so much fun in Kenya so far, we have seen a lot of animals, including the big 5.  We leave to go to Zanzibar tomorrow and im soooo excited, its pretty cold in Kenya right now. I’m excited to see and tell y’all all about it, love and miss you! – EG


Whattup Johnsons, having a blast here over yonder. We have seen so many animals and are about to go to Zanzibar in the morning so I can’t wait. We have been in nice beds and very good environments and the food is amazing, I might have gained a couple lbs. Love and miss y’all so much and can’t wait to see y’all. -Reagan


Whattup Creators, Im having a super good time in Kenya. I can’t wait for Zanzibar we leave tomorrow morning for it! We have been seeing so many pretty animals out on the safaris. I mis y’all sooo much! Make sure you guys tell Allie I say hey and I am all good! I love you guys! Cant wait to see y’all soon. -Downing B


Hey guys I am having so much fun here. We are still in Kenya right now, but we leave for Zanzibar tomorrow. I got to see the Big 5 and some other animals which has been great. I am really excited for scuba diving in Zanzibar and all the animals we will see there. I love y’all so much! See you guys soon. – Casey


Greetings family, we have gone on safaris thus far and done some work as well— today I left the group to help the folks in the kitchen. The Maasai at this hostel / resort area are very personable; e.g. I’ve befriended a Maasai named Jackson, and I hung out with him for a while last night when he was on guard duty. It all seems interesting to me. — Tommy


Hey Family! I am having so much fun here. Tonight is our last night in Kenya and tomorrow we are flying to Zanzibar on July 4th. We saw the Big 5 and so much more the safaris are super cool. I am very excited to go to Zanzibar to scuba. Miss y’all so much!-Springer


Hey hey! This trip has been so much fun, on our last day of safari we got to see all of the big 5 and a ton of other animals! We are about to head to Zanzibar to finish up the rest of our trip. Love and miss y’all so much and can’t wait to tell y’all all about it! -Landyn


Hey! I have had a lot of fun so far. We have done our service work and safaris. Saw a lot of cool animals like lions and Hyenas. We are heading to Zanzibar today to Scuba dive and I’m looking forward to getting my advanced diver. Miss y’all. – Jack

Talk soon!

Ava and James

Jambo Jambo!

June 30, 2022

Jambo jambo!!! Our incredible Kenya and Zanzibar squad has safely made it and just like that we are off and running on session 2. These kids had the opportunity and challenge of traveling alone from the United States to Africa. James and I spoke about how much we admired the courage it takes to board a plane taking you halfway across the globe with a group of strangers. Quite an impressive and a bit daunting of a task to take on at 16-18 years old so kudos to this group for stepping up to the challenge and arriving with such positive attitudes and mentalities.


The group landed around 10 PM Nairobi time and made it through customs in around 30 minutes. Our leader team was eagerly awaiting their arrival, playing some hip tunes in the airport pick up crowd. Casey was the first one to emerge from the airport and she had an air of confidence and just the biggest smile on her face. Everyone else followed shortly after and we hopped in two 7-seater land cruisers and headed towards our lodging. Upon arrival, we had a late dinner where Reagan and Eva Gray (EG) had us cackling with laughter. Despite being exhausted from a long day of travel, conversation was flowing, and we could already tell that this group was going to mesh.


The next morning the kids rubbed the sleep out of their eyes, had an early delicious breakfast of eggs, toast, sausage, beans, and fruit, and hopped in the Land cruisers for a 4-hour car ride to the Wildlife Conservancy. The car ride consisted of a few naps, snacks, and incredible conversation. Tommy discussed aestheticism and the concept of free will versus determinism. You know… casual small talk for seventeen old guys. Landyn and Springer bonded while opening up about their personal lives. It was so cool to see how quickly we were getting along, and the connections being formed already. A few stops later and we made it. The lodging here is awesome. There are ping pong tables, picnic benches, and monkeys everywhere! The Bandas where we are staying are in a protected area of the conservancy. We are really immersed with wildlife. The monkeys got a bit sneaky and stole an entire bunch of bananas from our table, but Downing scared them away with some impressive displays of dominance (aka banging on his chest and making noises). We had a lunch of rice, veggies, and meat and had an hour of free time before our Safari began. Jack kicked off a game of frisbee throwing and the whole group got involved. We transitioned to a game of 3-hack-wack (a combination of dodgeball and hacky sack) and Mason absolutely crushed it. We then got a quick sweat in with Zumba and pushups with Ava and James. Tommy was the only one to complete the push up challenge. Following our workout, it was time for the big moment… our first safari. Pumping some jams, we cruised through the African savanna and saw tons of buffalo, gazelle, impala, rhinoceroses, ostrich, and… drumroll… a lion! The kids were so excited! They were fighting off some jet lag, though, and were eager for dinner and bed when we returned. Before bedtime, we had our first Moonup- a chance to chat about our days, connect with one another, and hear from our leaders of the day. Our leaders of the day today were the trip leaders (James and Ava) and we discussed why we are here and what goals we have for the session. Lots of great answers ranging from seeing the Big 5 to being present and off their phones. We are pumped to see these goals become reality.


The second full day in Africa started with a breakfast of eggs, sausage, and toast and quickly after a talk about community development projects in the Ol Pejeta community. We spoke about agribusiness, community energy and water projects, and environmental conservation. Quickly after, we began our community project of the day which involved working at a church farm planting legume trees in the garden. We enjoyed our time, chatting and laughing while we worked. Then, we transitioned to the second segment of our service day – building stoves from clay with a local man named Gilbert. The kids loved getting to meet and interact with Gilbert. He is an incredibly kind individual who radiates joy. Tommy enjoyed petting his sheep named Pope and his two dogs Happy Dee and Juliet. We shoveled dirt near the river, sifted the dirt, and formed it into workable mud and clay. Mason was an expert using the wheelbarrow and Jack and Casey were master shovelers. Part of the mud making process involved mashing mud with our feet and we all danced to some of the music Gilbert played while mashing. It was a great time. On the way home, we passed by a herd of elephants and saw one tiny elephant – only 4 months old. So adorable. We showered and had some snacks back at the lodging and then set off on a sunset Safari! The kids saw more elephants, hyena (EG’s new favorite animal), and a giraffe. Reagan, who says giraffes are her spirit animal, was over the moon. Dinner was penne pasta with veggies and fruit, and we scarfed it down. It was a gorgeous night, the stars were so clear under the African sky, and we had Moonup, led by leaders of the day Jack and Landyn, sitting around a bonfire. Afterwards, we shared scary stories and debated whether aliens are real and what might be hiding in Area 51.


Our last full day at the Nature Conservancy began with a breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and tea! We then boarded our Land Cruisers and headed to a rhino habitat. This habitat is home to the last two remaining Northern White Rhinos on Earth. Upon arrival, we put on our work gloves and got to work shoveling fertilizer into wheelbarrows. Springer and Reagan immediately took to the task with enthusiasm, while Jack and Landyn transported the fertilizer in wheelbarrows. The kids had great attitudes while working and got to reward themselves by touching one of the two rhinos, their names are Najin and Fatu. It was a really cool and also a saddening experience to touch a nearly extinct species. But the fun didn’t stop there…The afternoon consisted of lion tracking! After off-roading in the Safari vehicles, the group stumbled upon the carcass of a buffalo which meant that lions were nearby. The cruisers quickly discovered a group of a dozen female lions, adolescent male lions, and cubs. The cubs were ridiculously adorable. We made our way back to camp and were treated to soup and personal pizzas. The evening concluded with a beautiful Moonup around the bonfire, led by Regan and Tommy. The questions for this Moonup were “Would you rather be 8 feet tall or 3 feet tall?” And then, “what is your best friend like from home?” James and Ava told some scary stories around the fire. EG got a little scared and requested we switch to embarrassing ones. Everyone was laughing and happy to be together.


We departed early the next day and headed to our next destination: Lake Naivasha. Lake Naivasha is a large freshwater lake filled with hippos and birds! It was absolutely stunning and, after having lunch at a restaurant, we got to go on a boat ride around the lake. A hippo emerged right near Springer, and she shrieked. We were all safe, though, and got to see 15 to 20 hippos, 4 of which were babies. After the boat ride, things got competitive. We played games of ultimate frisbee and soccer on the field overlooking the lake. Ava’s team, the hippos, suffered a devastating defeat to James’s in Ultimate. EG assisted Downing in a sick touchdown. After the game, Mason and Springer tossed the frisbee with James, and Ava taught Tommy some soccer skills. We even did a little yoga and some plank workouts! Dinner and Moonup quickly followed with Mason and Springer as leaders of the day. We were asked to share our favorite part of the trip so far and many people said safari, friendships made, and community work. We cannot wait to continue making memories as we head to Masai Mara for the next segment of our trip! We will check back in after Masaai Mara!



Ava + James

Safely in Kenya!

June 27, 2022

Hello Kenya + Zanzibar Families!

We heard from our leaders late last night that the group has landed safely in Nairobi. The trip is off to a great start as they begin their animal conservation today, 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!

-Moondance HQ


  • Casey
  • Downing
  • Eva
  • Jack
  • Landyn
  • Mason
  • Springer
  • Tommy
  • Mary