July 8, 2023
Ol Pejeta, a 90,000 acre conservancy in northern Kenya, was the perfect place to end our awesome adventure in Africa. We left Nairobi early on Wednesday morning and headed towards the conservancy. As soon as we pulled through the gate, we were greeted with a herd of zebras! Such a cool way to start this section of the trip. We ate a tasty traditional Kenyan lunch of rice and chicken and then hopped back in the car for our first activity in Ol Pejeta: the chimpanzee sanctuary. Our guide Gilbert brought us over to the fence where we could see eight of the thirty-two chimpanzees that live there. Sophie was freaking out about how cute the nine month old chimpanzee that was riding on its mother’s back was. We walked around part of the enclosure and Abby revealed her passion for Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees. Although Ol Pejeta’s chimpanzee sanctuary was not founded by Jane Goodall, she visited the sanctuary in 2016! We said goodbye to the chimps and spent our afternoon on a game drive, where we saw elephants, giraffes, lions, zebras, and warthogs. That night, we had another great meal before getting to bed early to sleep off our jam-packed day. The next day, we were treated to a conservation presentation by one of the Ol Pejeta researchers. The girls listened attentively and Clarice was especially moved by the anti-poaching video, which explained how the conservancy uses anti-poaching dogs to protect all of their animals. After the presentation, we drove to a local elementary school so we could meet some kids. They welcomed us with a traditional dance and then invited us to join in the dance. Gabby and Corinne were given the chance to dance with beaded collars, which the Maasai tribe women use in their dances. Some of the local boys then challenged us to a jumping competition; Caroline and Clarice got pretty close to beating them. Afterwards, we played volleyball with some of the kids and teachers. Abby and Clarice were dominating the game, while Estelle chatted with the director of the school. They had a long conversation about everything from the founding of the school to the director’s adventures in the United States. Izzy was constantly swarmed by little kids who all wanted to hangout with her and take a million selfies on her camera. Saying goodbye to the kids was hard, but we knew we had to head back to the conservancy. The rest of the afternoon was spent reading in the sun. The girls started trading books so everyone had something new to read. We ate dinner and did our Moonup around the fire before heading to bed. Our last full day in Africa was filled with activities, just the way we like it! We got the incredible opportunity to spend the morning with the last two Northern White rhinos, Fatu and Najin. The girls started their service portion by helping out the conservancy rangers! Emerson took charge of wheeling the manure back and forth between the enclosure and the stables; she might hold the record by taking over ten trips! Samantha and Elizabeth were another hard worker and were a huge help. After they finished their service, we hopped in the car to get a closer look at the rhinos. We drove right up to them, so close that Gabby and Corinne were able to pet one of them through the car window! It was such a unique experience we will never forget. We continued our busy day with some lion tracking and drove around the conservancy looking for one of the eight prides that lives there. We were lucky enough to find some lions and watched them lounge around for thirty minutes. As exciting as our day had been, it wasn’t done! After a quick dinner, we embarked on our nighttime game drive and relied on a big spotlight to find some animals. We saw lots of impala, bats, a few giraffes, and some baby hyenas, which we all agreed were super cute. We closed the day with our last Moonup and went to sleep for the last time. On our final day in Africa, we squeezed in one last activity before driving to the airport in Nairobi. We visited the livestock sector of Ol Pejeta to learn about their cattle practices. It was such a cool way to end this trip. We packed up our things and headed back to Nairobi for a final banquet before their flights. All the girls were reunited with CeCe, who had spent the past couple days recovering from feeling ill. We laughed and reminisced on our trip and all agreed it was a once in a lifetime experience. This trip was an amazing roller coaster ride, and we were so lucky to have done it with this group of girls.
Signing off for the last time,
Cameron and Blake
July 3, 2023
As our time on the dazzling island of Zanzibar comes to a close, we are excited to report back that the 9 students who set out to achieve their SCUBA Open Water Certification have all now successfully completed their certification!! They braved a very cold pool session and multiple skilled dives. Blake and I wholeheartedly believe that what sets this amazing Moondance group apart is their tenacity, positivity, and grit. They never give up and always get through even the hardest tasks with a smile on their face. They always lift each other up as seen with Izzy and Abby, who did not undergo SCUBA certification but were right there to support our students by cheering them on from the boat. Izzy was always present and there for the girls as they got out of the water from their dives and joined the group in music and sun tanning on the boat rides home. Furthermore, Abby was recovering from an illness but always showed up to listen to the group’s stories and jokes. She came on the boat during the final day to cheer our divers on as well! Estelle was our SCUBA diver pro as she finished her pool session the quickest. I got the opportunity to shadow her on her first day of skills in the ocean and was very impressed with her poise and focus in the water. CeCe is on the mend from an upset stomach, but remains steadfast that the group continues to enjoy and experience all that they can. Her positive mindset is admirable, and all the girls are supporting her in recuperating. We are truly honored to lead these young, capable, and bright individuals.
In addition to our morning dives, our afternoons have been just as, if not more eventful. First, the group toured the historic and oldest part of Zanzibar called Stone Town. Weaving through streets full of vendors, mosques, and churches, our group showed just how composed and mature they truly are. Souvenirs were bought and many photos were taken! Emerson remains undefeated with her purchases as she is collecting cool t-shirts from our trip like a Kilimanjaro shirt and a Marine conservation shirt. We finished our night with a rooftop dinner that overlooked a beautiful sunset, which illuminated minarets, steeples, ancient Portuguese fortifications, and an expanse of islands in the clear blue water. At dinner, the brave Clarice and Caroline teamed up with the restaurant’s musician to serenade the whole place with a classic: Landslide by Fleetwood Mac. Our group has great taste in music, so on the bus ride back from Stone Town it was no surprise that Corinne (our resident Grateful Dead Head) was playing some cool tunes to keep the vibes high.
The next day after SCUBA and a good lunch, many of the students would spend their time joining in on soccer games, and having great conversations that continued their bonding. Samantha and Gabby even received local hand sewn dresses! In addition, our Moondancers headed to a spice farm to survey everything from perfumes to turmeric to nutmeg and cinnamon. Each student got a spice crown, bracelet, and necklace to wear as we paraded around the grounds. Back at our resort, we finished our night with deep thought provoking questions from Elizabeth and Samantha at our nightly Moonup.
Our final tour was to Prison Island. This old island was once used for slave trade and later was a quarantine island, but now with its ruins and colonial structures are the main attractions, along with its tortoises that are almost 200 years old. Gabby and Sophie could be seen feeding these old tortoises and taking great photos. On our boat ride back to the main island, another beautiful sunset greeted us. With tunes and wind in the air, I could tell that all the students were content, confident, and fulfilled with our 5 days of tropical adventure. This trip has been absolutely remarkable, and we cannot wait to see what is in store!
Signing off for now,
Cameron & Blake
July 1, 2023
Jambo from Zanzibar!
We have had an exciting start to our 17-day adventure in Africa. The girls landed in Nairobi after a late-night flight and were greeted with a feast from our local eco-lodge. The next morning, we made our way to our first destination of the trip: the Maasai Mara. The locals welcomed us warmly and treated us to a bush walk through some of their land. They taught us about their culture and some traditional practices, like throwing a spear and shooting arrows from a homemade bow. Caroline was a natural with the spear, while Izzy and Abby were pros with the bow and arrows! On our walk, we also spotted some giraffes. Corinne and Estelle spent some time gazing at the giraffes before we continued on. We then enjoyed an early bedtime which was much needed after the long travel days. The next morning, the girls took a walk around the local land and picked up plastic. Plastic pollution is one of Kenya’s worst ecological issues and the girls were so happy to make an impact. Samantha and Gabby were especially committed to the task at hand and picked up more plastic than everyone else. By lunchtime, Elizabeth and Cameron came in after some flight delays and our group was finally whole! We spent the afternoon as guests in the nearest Maasai village and were given the privilege to learn about some fundamental cultural practices. We were greeted with multiple dances and jumping competitions. Elizabeth and Clarice threw themselves into the dances with the locals and were treated with intricate beaded necklaces to wear for the rest of the time at the village. CeCe quickly became every child’s favorite with her endless supply of SillyBandz. The local women taught us how they build their houses, cook their food, and bead their necklaces and bracelets. Sophie had a special connection with the local woman who beaded her a bracelet and the two sat and beaded together long after everyone else had finished. The men of the village taught the girls how to spark a fire with two pieces of wood and Caroline was eager to create some smoke. After browsing for some souvenirs, we waved goodbye to our new friends and made our way back to camp. We enjoyed another relaxing night under the beautiful African stars. Our final day in the Maasai Mara was slow because of the afternoon rain and some of our members feeling under the weather but the girls did not let the weather dampen their mood. They played lots of card games and went on another bush walk when the skies were clear. The day was full of rest and rejuvenation for all. We ended our day around the fire, listening to music and laughing like old friends. Everyone woke up giddy to make our way to our next, more tropical destination – Zanzibar! We had a long travel day flying from the Maasai Mara to Zanzibar, so we were so grateful that our hotel had a platter of fries and freshly squeezed juice waiting for us. We were treated to a traditional African dinner of samosas and octopus for dinner, which the girls adventurously sampled. Bedtime came shortly after so that we could get some good rest before our first day of scuba diving. We had an early start to the morning and filled up on a buffet of pancakes, crepes, and fresh fruit before starting our three-hour pool session with the scuba instructors. Everyone successfully made it through the first day and spent the afternoon playing soccer on the beach with some locals. Gabby and Caroline were easily voted MVPs and Emerson was everyone’s biggest cheerleader. We closed our first full day in Zanzibar with dinner and beachside Moonup, where we reflected on our day and shared insightful answers to a probing question. We are thrilled to be in Zanzibar and cannot wait to keep exploring this island, both underwater and on land!
June 25, 2023
Hello Kenya + Zanzibar 2C Families!
We heard from our leaders and the majority of the group has landed safely in Nairobi! Due to some travel delays, Elizabeth and Cameron will be joining the group tomorrow, just in time for there game-drive! We cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure as they head to their service section.
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!