July 9, 2023
Good morning from our last morning here at the conservancy!
And a very happy birthday to America! We hope all of you celebrated as if we were with you because let me just tell you we definitely did!
We woke up early, took a few showers and headed to the cattle ranch on site. We have seen so many herds of cows mixed in with the wildlife, so it was interesting to finally understand how they are able to coexist. Turns out the cows actually help with vegetation! They are moved to different sectors of the conservation area so they can maintain the grass levels. They also provide a farm to table service, and with this they are able to support the whole conservation and surrounding communities, even reaching customers in Nairobi! Patrick and Carson didn’t waste any time jumping in to help out! Patrick even started calling to the cattle!Once we learned everything we could from the cattle ranch we packed up our stuff and were ready for our next adventure!
We decided to split the safari cars up into boys and girls for this road trip! The girls jammed to Taylor swift headed by Evie who went to her concert right before joining us in Africa! The boys took lots of naps and listened to Frank Sinatra! Halfway to our destination for the night we stopped at the Equator to stretch our legs and learn about the differences each hemisphere has. Water in the Northern Hemisphere spins one way and the Southern Hemisphere spins the other, how crazy! This includes hurricanes, tornadoes, and even hair. There was also a shop so Chase was able to continue his bargaining and worked his way down to over half price! He is coming home with so many goodies he might need an extra bag! Once we all finished up there we continued on our journey to the lake! Right before we got to our campsite we mailed our postcards. Not sure when they will arrive but they are in the mail, so keep an eye out for those! We had the absolute best 4th of July dinner consisting of pizza, burgers, even wings that Carson and Tawes split! It was so good and just what everyone needed! We took a little time after dinner to hangout, read, journal, and settle in for the night. We, (Mary App and Carter) decided to surprise the kids with a firework show, but this one looked a little different. It was with glow sticks! Carter held up a towel while I threw glow sticks over it while Firework by Katy Perry played in the background! It was such a fun surprise and the perfect way to celebrate in Kenya! Shortly after we went back to the restaurant and got either chocolate or toffee cake with ice cream. It was delicious! Our dessert was followed with an amazing Moonup lead by Audrey and Patrick and a great night’s sleep!
The following day we finished our voyage to the Mara! Once we arrived we were greeted with our amazing Maasai warriors, Jackson and Soapi and enjoyed a hot meal of beef stew, cabbage, potatoes, fried rice, cucumber salad, and fruit! Our meals have been above and beyond. Once we finished with our late lunch we put on our tennis shoes and headed out for a bush walk! During our bush walk we learned what it is like to become a true Maasai Warrior. We threw, jumped, speared, and shot our way into the true way to become a warrior! Will threw the makeshift spear the farthest, while Lucy and Carson jumped the highest! We also did target practice where Margaret was the closest to knocking the stick out of the air, I’m not sure how she does it! She has great aim! Our last contest was the bow and arrow, first and definitely the best was Susanna! She has a natural talent for it. We were able to see the whole valley on our walk and even a Giraffe! Thanks to Bray’s binoculars, we were all able to see it up close and personal. Once we got back to camp Carson, Tawes, and Lucy threw the frisbee while Audrey, Chase, Margaret, Evie, Bray and Will sat by the bonfire. We all enjoyed one of the prettiest sunsets Carter and I have ever seen over the mountains! We couldn’t be happier getting back to the Mara!
We got to put our skills to the test the next day. We woke up and ate a delicious breakfast of fried eggs, donuts, sausage and veggies. Once we finished with that we geared up and walked to the village. Once we arrived the Maasai men sang and danced for us! They performed three different songs and it all ended in a jumping contest where Carson and Chase gave each other a run for their money! Walking into the village was surreal, it’s set up like a really big circle lined with Arcacia tree thorns for protection. All houses are made by the women and out of soil and cow manure, definitely an interesting combo but lucky for us we got to fill in some cracks! Susanna and Lucy got wrist deep into the mud mixture and filled in almost all crevices. After we cleaned up we had a tour of a traditional house! They usually are 3-4 rooms, the main bedroom where mom, dad, and kids under 10 sleep, the kitchen, a space for baby sheep or calves, and sometimes an extra bedroom for kids over 10! After getting a tour and a slight cooking class we all made bracelets with the Maasai women! They are world famous for their beadwork. We got to see each family’s work laid out at their market! Many of us are coming home with new tools, others new jewelry, but everyone with a little less money and a lot of laughs!
We were fortunate enough to be able to visit a nearby primary school just to further emerge ourselves into the true Maasai culture. They welcomed us with hugs and smiling faces no one couldn’t forget! We got into two heated soccer games. The first was all girls where Lucy scored and led us into PK’s for a tie breaker! Audrey and Lucy made their PK’s leading us into victory! They boys were not as victorious. They ended their 2 hour game 0-1. Although they didn’t win, they put up a good fight! This was some of our favorite hours the whole trip just due to how happy everyone was, and it started to rain but no one wanted to leave so we all stayed! Although Patrick wasn’t able to play, he didn’t mind. He made more friends that day than anyone! We danced, sang, and played their version of duck duck goose! It was such a treat to get to see them and join in on a good few games of soccer!
Our last full day in the Mara was a day full of game drives! Once we entered the park we immediately saw tons of zebras, giraffes, and gazelle! We also got to see a Leopard, and they are so rare that it was so exciting! Best part was he was asleep with his prey he killed the night before. After observing we continued onward through the grasslands! We saw a hippo out of the water running AND an African crocodile, two things no one has seen yet! The landscape felt like it never ended, and Chase and Tawes said it was exactly what they pictured in their mind. We got lucky and got to see a pride of lions, and a male sleeping only inches away from us! We got to eat lunch in the middle of the grass! Evie’s camera was a fan favorite for this! We definitely are going to need all of those pictures! After lunch we continued our drive seeing many more elephants, zebras, cape buffalo, giraffes, and even ostriches! Sadly we couldn’t stay forever, but a bonfire and dinner awaited us! We ended our perfect day with a bonfire and a classic game of Mafia. To start Patrick almost won with his reverse psychology but sadly might have been too suspicious. Then Chase came out with a bang but also came short of the trophy, nonetheless that was two of the most fun games we have ever played!
We spent our last day driving back to Nairobi listening to our favorite songs and soaking up every last minute with everyone! We also distributed little notebooks so all 13 of us could have written notes from everyone on our trip! It really made the trip more special, and started the tears. We had an incredible banquet dinner and a final Moonup where we gave each of our kids a little keepsake from the trip! Our trip could not have gone smoother and we are so lucky to walk away with 12 new best friends and a million new memories!
We also have gotten word the kiddos made it to Amsterdam, and just boarded their flight to Atlanta! Thank you all so much for sharing your loved ones with us. We can’t wait to hear all about the rest of their summers!
Mary App and Carter
July 4, 2023
We have reached the equator!
After two days of travel by plane and safari cars we made it to the conservancy! We woke up in Zanzibar, had our last meal at our amazing hotel and hit the town, Stone Town that is! We started by walking past Freddie Mercury’s house! He was born in Zanzibar and lived there until he was 8 due to his father’s consulate position in the British parliament. He then later moved back to the UK and began his music career. After seeing where he grew up, we headed down the streets and alley ways and came to the center of town known as Jaws’s corner! Most local’s hangout here to play board games, watch sporting events, and even meet for business. Chase mentioned how European the buildings looked, and we totally agree! Interesting considering most of Zanzibar is Muslim and originally colonized by the Arabic and Indians. We also learned the difference between an Arabic door and an Indian one. The Arabic were proud of the slave trade they started in Zanzibar, so most doors are bordered with chains and depict lots of plants for the rich soil. While Indian doors have sharper points on the decor, never have chains, and always depict animals like the tiger and eagle because they were so proud of their animals and the contributions they brought to the island. Before we went to lunch, we stopped by the local fish and spice market! We saw just about every fish you could imagine being sold, from tuna to octopus and even squid! We went to an authentic local restaurant for lunch where we ate curry either chicken or octopus with rice! To make it even better Lucy ordered an Oreo milkshake, Will and Susanna got chocolate, and Carson switched it up with a Mango smoothie! They all agreed the consistency was interesting, but the taste was there, giving them an overall rating of 8/10. Pretty solid if you ask me!
After we wrapped up lunch it was time to head to the airport! Kenya awaited! We had a smooth check-in and passport control process, which we are very thankful for. Then we headed in grabbing a few sweet and salty treats before our flight! During our first plane ride most people took a quick cat nap. I’m not sure how some of them were even remotely comfortable but Tawes and Patrick definitely were because the flight attendant had to wake them up from their slumber. We were fortunate in having another smooth transition in Mombasa, and right back on heading straight for Nairobi! Will and Bray got into an intense game of war during our second flight, and Will came out victorious! Once we landed it was a short drive back to camp for the night. We had a delicious meal before moonup including fish, meat, potatoes, broccoli, two types of salad, and a slice of chocolate cake to end! The next morning, we woke up ready to finally hop into safari cars! We split into two cars, one consisting of Suzanna, Chase, Margaret, Patrick, Will, and Tawes, while the other was Evie, Lucy, Bray, Carson, and Audrey! There were tons of music, singing, and most importantly dancing! We stopped at a market halfway to do a little shopping and stretch our legs. Chase and Margaret are starting to get the hang of negotiation! They both were able to talk down their original starting price by over half! We couldn’t be prouder. They also picked out postcards, so be on the lookout for those! They have been signed, sealed, and sent!
Once we arrived at the conservatory, Patrick spotted lions almost instantly! It was crazy how close we were! We had a quick lunch and got back into the safari cars and went on an afternoon game drive! We saw elephants, Cape buffalo, a Black Rhino, Water Bucks, giraffes, and MORE lions! We also stopped by the Chimpanzee’s 240 square acre enclosure, that Jane Goodall started. Our favorite fun fact was learning that we, humans, share 98.6% of our DNA with chimpanzees! That wasn’t even the best part, we also got to see a baby!! After that our day was made so we headed back for dinner. We enjoyed hot coco and a warm meal in the rather cooler temperatures. We ended the day with Moonup by the bonfire and a few good rounds of Mafia with music. Tawes and Patrick were our only successful Mafia’s in all 7 rounds we played! Evie might take the cake with best narrator; everyone was living their best life in Evieville! Regardless of how many times we played, Audrey seemed to always be suspected, but never was actually the mafia. It was arguably one of the best nights we have had yet! Nothing is better than sitting around a bonfire hanging out with some of your closest friends listening to music! The next morning, we got to sleep in a few extra needed hours!
We started our morning off with a conservation briefing on the Northern White Rhinos! The last two in the world! Kenya is special in the fact that it houses all three types of rhinos: the black, white southern and last two northern. We have been fortunate enough to see all three thus far! The northern whites are a mother and daughter, which makes it even more sad that they are the only two left. Don’t worry, there is hope! They are attempting an IVF route with a surrogate Southern White rhino. The coolest part about everything that we learned is they are expecting to do that very soon, maybe even weeks! We lucked out on timing because we got to follow up with everything we learned! We cleaned out their water trough and got to see them up close and personal! It was slippery but that didn’t stop Carson, Evie, Lucy, or Susanna from diving in! Bray and Will took a wack at the shrubs surrounding it with a machete, for an easier access for the rhinos. It was a team effort and didn’t take long before we were done! After that we got back into safari cars and got an even closer look. Najin and Fatu are paired with a southern white rhino, so they are able to better adjust to living in the wild. Both northern whites were raised in a zoo where they were given people food and never had predators, so they didn’t know how to graze, walk on the ground, or understand danger. The southern white has allowed them to acclimate grazing to the point where the conservation has completely cut out all human food! After we got to see those three, we grabbed carrots and headed to Baraka, the blind black rhino. Baraka is also in the same enclosure as Najin and Fatu, so it wasn’t hard to find him! He lost his left eye in a fight with another rhino for dominance, and got cataracts in his right eye, regardless he is self-sufficient for everything but protection against other rhinos. He eats and moves around on his own due to rhinos not having great eyesight in the first place, but because he isn’t able to see the conservancy wants to protect him! We each got to give him a little treat and scratch behind his ears! Once we finished that we headed back to camp for lunch. We had a delicious meal of beef stew with veggies and ugali, a traditional side! The best part of this day was our afternoon activity of lion tracking! We tracked the Equator pride that consists of a mom and her only surviving cub. The mom lost her two other cubs to fighting with another male lion and in a hunting gone wrong. They were laying all over each other just basking in the sun, it was really cute! Patrick got some of the best pictures of lions yet! We also got to see hippos right after! Definitely a 10/10 day.
The next morning, we started bright and early with a conservation talk where we learned about all the different animals in the conservancy as well as how they keep track of them. They have over 150 black rhinos! That’s a crazy amount considering they are also endangered. They are able to tell them apart by the notches on their ears, which helps the rangers better identify how many are there. The conservation team has decided that all animals need to be spotted within a 3–4-day span so they are able to keep better numbers on all. The same is with the lion prides, like the one we previously tracked. We also learned about poachers, to Carson’s surprise there haven’t been any successful attempts in the past 5 years! We learned so much we couldn’t wait to get back out and try to identify more animals! During our quick break, Evie introduced a fun new game of assassin that we have been obsessed with! You basically have tasks to complete without the other person knowing about it and if you are successful then you keep going but if you get caught then you are out! We have been playing for a few days now! After the introduction to that we headed towards a small local clay makers house, Gilbert. He started by allowing us to eat lunch in his back yard, but then took us step by step into the clay making process. It was all very interesting because there isn’t natural clay here, it’s all mixtures of water and soil! Will and Tawes were our main men getting the soil, then Margaret and Audrey sifted through to get out all the larger rocks. After we understood the beginning process, we saw each stage in action! The girls all mixed and kneaded the soil and water with their feet. The boys then kneaded the clay into little balls before Gilbert pressed it all into a mold. Once it has sat at room temperature for 3 days it is ready! What is it you might be asking? A stove! We got to investigate the process and help with making a clay stove! Gilbert even lit one to show us how it works! He was so kind and gave each one of us a little keeps sake from his workshop.
We also went on a night safari! Something we have all been looking forward to for DAYS! We layered up and jumped back into our safari cars! It was a full moon, so we didn’t even need a spotlight! We still used one though. Right off the bat we saw 10 giraffes and a rhino all hanging out together! We also saw so many spotted hyenas we lost count! It was funny when we saw their den because there were around 10 babies and 4 adults babysitting the little ones while the pack was out hunting. We were wondering how you ended up getting that job! One safari car was deep in conversation headed by Bray while the other was calling out to any and all animals headed by Patrick! We saw tons of Jackals, probably one of the cutest animals on the planet. They look like small, cuter foxes! We had to put Evie on a strict watch, so she didn’t try to sneak one into her duffle. I think it was a consensus that this was one of our favorite nights thus far!
We have a fun travel day ahead of us as we leave the conservancy tomorrow but want to wish each and every one of you a Happy Fourth! Definitely missing the states but we can’t wait to share with you all of our experiences from the Mara! We have a few short messages for all of you!
Tawes – Hey Mom and Dad, I’m having a great time in Africa and so excited to see y’all in Amsterdam. Miss y’all but im having so much fun. See you soon.
Will – Hey Mom and Dad, I miss y’all, and Lilly. But not Mac.
Lucy – Jambo Mom, Dad, Sam, and Jack! Happy late birthday Sam. I am having a wonderful time exploring the African bush. I can’t wait to see y’all and tell you all about my adventures! Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to come here. Give the pets love from me please, love y’all!
Margaret – Hey Mom and Dad! I hope all is well at home, I’m having such a good time in Africa and having such unique opportunities. I will see y’all very soon, love y’all!
Susanna – hi mom, dad, Liddy, and everyone else! I am having SO much fun! Everyone is really nice and fun and I never wanna leave! Scuba diving was really cool! I miss y’all and love y’all!
Audrey – what’s up mother, dad and B. Africa is cool and the safaris we have done the past couple of days are literally wild. Our group is so fun despite being outnumbered to the guys. I miss y’all (especially B) but I’m so excited to see everyone back in the states. Love y’all.
Evilyn – hey famo¡ Africa is everything I was hoping and more! I miss y’all so much(especially the dogs) but don’t know if I’ll be able to leave! See y’all soon with lots of stories!! Hope y’all are all well in Nashville!
Carson – Hey mom, dad, and Austin. Hope y’all are doing good back in CLT. Having a really good time with the group. Loved the conservatory and all the animals. Missing y’all lots and see y’all in a few days.
Patrick – Hi mom and dad. Africa is so awesome and the animals are super cool. I have a great group and great leaders and am having lots of fun. Super excited to go to the Maasai and excited to see you in a few days.
Bray – Hey mom and dad. I’m having a super fun time and I’m not ready to leave. Zanzibar was amazing and going the conservatory with all of the animals was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Miss y’all and I’m excited to see y’all on Sunday!
Chase – Hey mom and dad. I’m having an awesome time in Kenya rn. The conservatory with all of the animals was so cool. Scuba in Zanzibar was also neat. The water and beaches were very pretty. I’m definitely not ready to leave! See y’all soon!
Stay in touch, talk soon!!
Mary App and Carter
June 30, 2023
We arrived in Nairobi and hit the ground running! We were greeted with a delicious meal of ribs, pizza, fruit and soup as soon as we arrived at our home for the night. We had a quick night’s sleep before jetting off to Zanzibar! Airport day was filled with Carson’s card games and good conversations! Our plane ride was just long enough to be the prefect nap time. Chase was in awe when halfway through our flight we could look out to the right and see Mt. Kilimanjaro! It’s HUGE! Once we landed, we were greeted with our trusted guide Seif, who we couldn’t wait to introduce to our new kids! Evie was learning as much Swahili as she could on our bus ride to our beach resort! As soon as everyone realized we were on the beach, we decided to checkout our front yard with a beach walk! The girls went to the left and the boys went to the right. After a good day of exploring, we ended the day with dinner and Moonup!
Our first day of pool dives went great! Everyone passed with flying colors! While a little over half of the group was in the pool during the morning session, our afternoon session consisting of Margaret, Tawes, and Patrick were on the beach playing soccer with quite a few island kids! The morning session had a free afternoon, so Audrey, Chase, Lucy, and Will waded out into the water to find a land mine of sea urchins. They were literally 2 inches apart! After everyone completed their pool session, we played more soccer on the beach, got massages, and caught up on sleep! Evie had her first ever massage and LOVED it! A good game of poker, led by our fearless dealer Carson, had Bray bringing home the win!
The next day we dove into the Indian Ocean! First time for most, definitely memorable for all. We had a few weather obstacles but that only made getting under the surface that much better! Susanna was first to dive in backwards, setting a perfect example for the rest of our group! Once we logged out first two dives, we headed down the road the Prison Island. It was never actually a prison, just named that so people could still partake in the Atlantic Slave Trade. It is now known for giant tortoises! We were able to see the oldest one at 197! We all agreed they were straight out of the Jurassic Era. We ended the day with a local meal on the rooftop of a hotel in the middle of Stone town. We timed it perfectly because we were able to watch the sunset from there! Evie was having great memories on her camera! Susanna tried Chicken Tiki Masala for the first time and LOVED it! After one of our best meals yet, we ventured back to our hotel ready for what’s to come next!
Our next day was arguably the most rewarding! On the first dive of this day one lucky group, Chase, Bray, Lucy, and Susanna got to see a pod of dolphins swim by! Other than that, we saw eels, grouper, unicorn fish, sting rays, and starfish! We are happy to report that all 11 kiddos are now SUBCA CERTIFIED!!! It was definitely not without its challenges, but each and every person got to ring the bell and get their picture taken for their certification card, wet hair and all! Once we finalized everything with the dive shop, we had a quick lunch and went on a Spice Tour. Zanzibar is known for all of their spices, some used for medicinal purposes, others for food, and some even in cosmetic products. We got to try and smell just about everything they had! We got to taste ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, lemon grass, and jackfruit! The jackfruit tasted like a mix between a banana and a pineapple with an interesting chewy texture. Carson mentioned how this was his favorite part of our time in Tanzania. Audrey was our adventure seeker, tried anything and everything regardless of if she knew she didn’t like it (ginger)! A few lucky kids are coming home with new perfume, locally grown and made in Zanzibar!
Our last day in this beach paradise was perfect. We got to sleep in a few extra hours due to the strong tides! After we were well rested, we hopped onto the boat for our last two dives here in Zanzibar. After the first dive the sun started poking it’s way out and we were able to get even better visibility for our second dive! We saw HUGE schools of fish and even a few lionfish! We were sad to be done but an afternoon of soccer and volleyball awaited us. As soon as we finished with our logbooks, lunch, and an interesting game of telephone headed by Will, we sprinted to the beach with the soccer ball. Patrick started drawing lines in the sand for our field, while Tawes went to grab sticks for our goals! We had an intense game going that had beach walkers wanting to join! Once we looked up the sun was setting, and the sky was pink and purple; presenting an amazing photo op! Margaret and Chase were mesmerized by the shells and sky, while Lucy was picking up jellyfish to throw with Carson. Before we knew it, it was dark and time for dinner! We were treated with a traditional African meal paired with a Tanzanian Maasai tribe showing us how they jump, sing, and dance! During dinner, Bray was perfecting his card counting and dealing. Watch out Vegas! After our dinner and a show was over, Chase, Margaret, Susanna, and Lucy went shopping at their pop up shop! Many cute bracelets and bowls coming home with us! To end our day perfectly in the wise words of Margaret, “I’m sad to be leaving this place, but I’m excited for what’s to come next!”
Thanks for tuning in, we will be back soon and reporting from the conservancy!
Mary App and Carter
June 25, 2023
Hello Kenya + Zanzibar 2B Families!
We heard from our leaders and 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 as they head to Zanzibar!
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!