July 25, 2023
Our incredible adventure in Kenya + Zanzibar ended with the best couple days in Ol Pejeta. On Saturday morning, we left Nairobi and embarked on our four-hour car drive to the conservancy, with an obligatory stop for ice cream of course. We arrived just in time for lunch and filled up before heading out on our first activity of this section: a visit to the chimpanzee sanctuary and a game drive! When we saw the chimps for the first time, Kaitlyn was immediately entranced; we had to drag her away from the enclosure when it was time to go. We drove around Ol Pejeta’s 90,000 acres for a few hours and spotted so many animals like elephants, hippos, water buffalo, and even a cheetah! We watched the cheetah try and hunt, but some other tourists ended up scaring it away. We were all disappointed in the behavior of the other tourists but excited about the rare opportunity to see a cheetah in action.
We ended the day early with dinner and Moonup and then caught up on some sleep after some exhausting travel days. The next morning, we woke up ready to help the rhino sanctuary with some chores. When we met with the sanctuary supervisor, he asked if we could help make the rhino’s bed, which is made from dirt and gravel. We transported mounds of rocks to the enclosure, where the rocks were spread out with rakes. We created the perfect system: some people shoveled the rocks into the wheelbarrows, some people took the wheelbarrows to the enclosure, and some people spread out the gravel evenly across the bed area. Selah and Katelyn were our outstanding shovelers, Kaitlyn and Katie wheeled the rocks with ease over to the enclosure, and GiGi, Caitlyn, and Caroline manned the rakes. Everyone else stepped in wherever was needed and we finished the task in a record-breaking hour.
As a reward for our hard work, we got to drive into the enclosure which houses the last two northern white rhinos in the world. We drove right up to them as the supervisor explained the history behind their functional extinction. The older rhino, Najin, was very curious about our presence in the enclosure and came to say hello! She got so close, both Kaitlyn and Katie got the chance to pet her. It was an unforgettable experience for everyone. Before we left the rhino sanctuary, we visited Baraka, a blind black rhino that lives there. Everyone got to feed him a carrot and pet his horn. He tried to lick Caitlyn when she gave him his carrot. Caroline got a little nervous feeding Baraka and dropped her carrot before she could give it to him. It was such a cool experience.
We followed up our incredible morning with an afternoon of lion tracking. We drove around the conservancy in search of the lions and found a couple younger lions relaxing in the shade protecting their kill. We watched them nap for a while and then headed back to camp for dinner and Moonup.
Monday was our last full day in Africa, and we knew we had to make the most of it. We started the day with a presentation led by a conservation specialist from Ol Pejeta. We learned all about how the conservancy functions and its protection goals for its animals. Then we did our visit to the local community. We first stopped at a community farm that is run by a local church. They showed us how they plant their crops and then gave us the chance to plant a few. Armed with shovels, rakes, and sticks, the group got to work planting beets. Maggie carved out lines for the seeds while Olivia and Katelyn sprinkled them into the rows. In seven days, the beets will start to sprout.
We left the farm and headed to a local pottery studio where we ate lunch and learned about the ceramics process. At one point, the clay had to be kneaded with everyone’s feet. Mary Grace, Caroline, and GiGi jumped at the opportunity to get their feet dirty and started dancing on the clay to knead it down. They had a whole routine going!
Our day closed with an chill late afternoon, in which the girls spent a few hours chatting, drawing, and laughing. Jayden was the MVP of the afternoon and drew impressive fake tattoos on everyone. We saved the best nighttime activity for the last night – a game drive in the dark! Everyone bundled up and we drove all around looking for any animal we could find. Olivia saw her newfound favorite animal, a white-tailed mongoose. She spent the whole drive looking out the window for them.
We ended our last night with some stargazing before everyone went to bed for the last time. Tuesday morning, we squeezed in one more activity before driving to the airport. We visited the livestock sector of Ol Pejeta and saw how they keep their cattle from getting diseases by spraying them with organic pesticides.
Sadly, we found a snake and a frog that drowned in the water tank there and Selah insisted we give them a proper funeral before we left. It was a beautiful service with lots of singing and giggles. We got in the car still laughing about it all and drove back to Nairobi. We enjoyed one last meal together before heading to the airport.
It has been such a memorable two weeks in Africa with these girls and Cameron and I couldn’t have asked for a better group. Thank you for giving us the chance to hang out with them!
July 23, 2023
The last week has been a whirlwind on Spice Island! Zanzibar was full of welcoming locals, cultural visits, unique flora and fauna, and some of the bluest water we have ever seen!
After a long day of travel from the Maasai Mara to Nairobi to Zanzibar, our group was greeted with fresh juice and a big dinner less than 10 paces away from the beach. In addition, our accommodation had live music and karaoke. Within a few songs, Gigi was at the front leading her fellow Moondancers in songs by Adele and Beyoncé. Our group also learned a local song called Jambo, Jambo that we all find ourselves singing to this day. We ended our first night in paradise by the beach with a Moonup full of thanks to be in a place that is truly magical.
The next morning, our group was up and at ‘em for SCUBA certifications in Open Water courses and Advanced courses. Even after a cold 3 hour pool session, our group was positive, and we spent the rest of our afternoon relaxing on the beach with DJ Caroline’s amazing taste in music. This afternoon of relaxation by the pool and beach was much deserved after long days in the heat of the Maasai Mara. Katelyn and Olivia even treated themselves to a massage at our hotel while everyone lounged in beach chairs to fully refresh for our coming adventures. While the sun set in the distance, it was safe to say we had another great day with much needed emphasis on relaxation.
We kicked off Day 3 on the SCUBA boats for the first day in the beautiful water of the Mnemba reef. Dolphins wizzed by. Jayden and Olivia swam and captured photos on the surface while our students practiced their first set of skills on the sea floor. In no time, we were back for lunch at the hotel ready for another restful afternoon. Nevertheless, others like Selah, Gigi, Caroline, and Mary Grace chose the more social route and made friends with some locals of our hotel that were cracking coconuts.
The next day was the special day that our Advanced divers were going to go really deep (approximately 100 feet). I want to give a big shoutout to Caitlyn who faced her fears with the help of her friends to dive down to those depths. She killed it and along with the other Advanced divers and our Open Water divers, everyone was ringing the bell at our dive shop. With cheers from all the Dive Masters in the air, the ringing of the bell signifies to all that they passed their courses. After lunch, our group headed to a large spice farm to understand why Zanzibar is nicknamed “Spice Island”. Everyone sampled spices from ginger, cardamom, turmeric, vanilla, and cinnamon to name a few. Katelyn, who has a love of spicy foods, casually tried a handful of fresh peppercorns without hesitation. Mary Grace shopped for perfumes with her peers and Selah was our Spice Queen as our tour guide applauded her knowledge of spices and her dance moves with Maggie and Caroline. Blake and I would like to further applaud our brave souls that had to use the facilities at this rural farm. Shoutout to Mary Grace and Kaitlyn for being troopers as always! We got back in time for another dinner close to the beach and retired to rest for our last day of SCUBA.
Our last day of SCUBA was our fun day. It was all good vibes, fun dives, and a party on the boat to celebrate our divers and the amazing weather. Maggie was our hula girl. She donned a fun hula skirt and a special hat that even followed her into the water. Equipped with the GoPro, Caroline was our oceanographer for these dives. She captured great photos of fish and friends alike. We admired our divers like Katie, Kaitlyn, and Maggie that stuck it out with Caroline and braved all dives. Between dives, we sunbathed, ate fresh fruit, and danced to fun tunes on our boat in the middle of the ocean blue. Of course, the party didn’t stop there. By early afternoon, our crew pulled into the most historic and populated part of Zanzibar called Stonetown. Weaving through old streets around mosques, stalls, and churches while dodging cyclists and mopeds our group looked like travel pros such as Caitlyn who seemed to be unfazed by the intriguing chaos of this bustling and colorful city. This was further evident when our guide jokingly asked if we wanted to explore an open-air market that possessed a fish market. Some of students insisted that we enter and explore. Our guide was shocked as no group had ever wanted to explore this market for obvious reasons. Our guide said we could enter on one condition: no one can hold their nose because it really offends the vendors. Our students took this as a challenge, and we went straight in. I followed behind Jayden and Katie into the labyrinth of stalls and was very impressed that everyone kept it together while taking in all the sights and smells. We continued through Stonetown and shopped for some souvenirs with Olivia who certainly knew her way around these interesting stores. After exploring the streets, markets, shops, ruins of a Portuguese fort, artisanal doors, parks, and a quick stop by the birthplace of Freddie Mercury, the group ascended the stairs of a beautiful hotel by the water for a sunset dinner. We all sat and watched the sun set over ships and the blue water and reflected on our past few days. I sat with Kaitlyn and Jayden and thoroughly enjoyed myself. We talked about everything from food to back home to what we like journal about. Our fun day ended at a tasty gelato shop and a bus ride back to our lodging.
In the morning, we were all packed and ready to depart for Kenya, but we needed to make one quick pit stop to a little island called Changu/Tortoise/Prison Island. The island goes by many names but it is known for its ruins of a former illegal slave trade outpost that was converted into a quarantine station and the growing presence of ancient tortoises. Katie and Kaitlyn were intrigued by these old creatures. We each got to feed the tortoises and marvel in the fact that the oldest tortoise is roughly 197 years old! After a short boat ride back to the main island and some lunch, our group hopped on a plane to head to Nairobi to start our next journey in the Land of Rhinos.
-Blake and Cameron
July 15, 2023
Greetings from the land or “Mara” of lions, wildebeests, warriors, and brilliant orange and red sunsets.
Just a few days ago, our amazing group arrived in Nairobi on a cool Tuesday night. We hopped into safari cruisers and headed to our Eco Camp for a welcome dinner and some much-needed rest for our weary travelers. Nevertheless, even after 24 hours of travel, our students barely showed it as we conducted our first nightly Moonup around a cozy fire pit. They all were eager to start our adventure, so it was no surprise that our students were up and at ’em the next day and ready to head to the Maasai Mara via our safari cruisers. By lunch time, we stood with the Maasai warriors of Oseki Camp who dressed in their traditional red shuka cloth. We followed them into the bush to learn a little bit about our new hosts. Jackson and Luka taught us how to survive in the bush. Mary Grace and GiGi immediately bonded with the warriors and tried out a Maasai hydration technique of chewing on the inner bark of the Black Bark Acacia Tree. Kaitlyn Murphy learned perfectly from the warriors and threw one of the farthest spears, and Olivia learnt to shoot a bow and arrow that soared far past the rest of the group’s arrows! In addition, as some might know the Maasai are famous for jumping quite high, Maggie was our jump champion as she could reach a tall branch that even some of the junior warriors couldn’t reach. Back at camp, everyone’s favorites, Selah and Jayden could be seen chatting and listening intently to their peers to make them all feel very comfortable. We love to call a Selah our conversationalist as student and leader alike can hold a conversation with her for hours. Jayden is our compassionate listener and is never afraid to advocate for group! In no time, we finished our day around a campfire under the stars with our nightly meeting called Moonup.
The next day, our group visited a Maasai village to truly immerse in the tribe’s culture. Katie was a pro as she bargained for a better price on bracelets and was the first to help rebuild a mud house. Next, We followed the village’s women to the river and fetched water that had to be hauled back. Olivia carried the heaviest jug that held roughly 30 liters. We never saw her complain or falter once! As our Maasai Guide and Team Leader might say: she is a warrior! Later that day, our group helped the Oseki community by building back trails for the camp. With music and lots of laughter, our grouped never stopped until the job was done. As sunset approached, our students took on the Maasai warriors in a friendly game of soccer. Caitlyn Medley and Caroline lead our team with cheers while GiGi was our fierce goalie. Last, it was Maggie who showed true grit by defending some very skilled soccer players and allowed Katelyn Bastos and the strikers to take the lead with 4 goals. Sadly, it was our opponents that broke the tie and came ahead to finish the game 5-4. Nevertheless, our girls never stopped cheering.
This positivity carried over into the next day for our all-day safari. Without a doubt this was one of the best game drives Blake and I have been on this summer. Not only did we start the day by seeing a leopard, which is one of the hardest of the Big Five to spot, but also, we got to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration where millions of wildebeests migrate from the Serengeti up to Maasai Mara Reserve. We can’t remember a time when Mary Grace was not standing up on her seat peering out into the savannah or Katie with her binoculars that were very handy for spotting! Olivia was our amazing giraffe spotter and could always find them from over 500 yards away. We truly had some picturesque moments that Jayden, our resident photographer, captured on camera. We all marveled in these photos as we headed back to camp. After a long safari day and a satisfying dinner, Selah, our Leader of the Day, lead us in a very meaningful Moonup about each person’s legacy and how they wish to be remembered.
Today, the group attended the Semadep Primary School that sits just outside of our camp. We shadowed an environmental club session and got to meet the teachers and students. After lunch, we headed back to play soccer and volleyball with our new friends. Caroline was our volleyball star and Kaitlyn was our key soccer striker against the Semadep girls. The day ended in lots of music, dancing, and hugs with our new friends. It was hard to pull Caitlyn away from these students that impacted all of us with their happiness and openness to all.
We are now resting in our tents and weaving friendship bracelets that our dear friend and student Katelyn Bastos brought for the whole group! A new adventure with completely different colors, people, and experiences await for us in Zanzibar! Kwaheri or Goodbye! Stay tuned!
From Kenya with Love,
Cameron Baird & Blake Thacher
Kenya + Zanzibar Group 3C
Here are some lovely shoutouts from our students:
Jayden: Jambo mom, dad, dylan, and Matt! Thank you so much for sending me on this trip I’m having the time of my life – miss you guys!!
Katelyn: Jambo mom and dad!! I miss you so much and I’m having so so much fun, thank you! Love you!🍑🦒
Olivia: JAMBO!! I miss you guys so much, I’m having the best time here! Love y’all to the moon and back!❤️🌙
Gigi: Jambo family!! I miss y’all a lot but I am having the best time! Love y’all and can’t wait to see y’all soon!🍑🌕
Caitlyn: Hi family! I miss y’all so so much but I am having the best time ever! Love y’all and can’t way to see y’all soon and hope California was fun! 🍑🌕
Maggie: Hey Mom! Funny story… while we were on a safari we went pee off the side of a car and a family drove by and saw us! Anyways, love you and miss you!🍑🌕
Caroline: Hi family! We are having the best time ever in Kenya. Love and miss y’all!! 🍑🌕
Mary Grace: Hey guys!!!! I’m having the best time in Kenya I’m so excited to tell y’all all about it!!! I hope y’all had a great trip and William loved his! Love and miss y’all so much!!!🍑🌕
Katie: Hey Family! I’m having so much fun in Kenya on safari’s and doing service at schools, I can’t wait to tell y’all about it. Love and miss y’all so much!!🍑🌕
Selah: Hiiii guys!!! I love and miss y’all sm and I am having smmmm fun. I am see lots of cool things and have so many stories!!! Thank u sm for sending me on this amazing experience and helping me live my life to the fullest❤️❤️
Kaitlyn: Hey queens! Thank you so much for sending me on this trip, I’m having endless amounts of fun. Can’t wait to tell you all about it, love and miss you guys
July 11, 2023
Hello Kenya + Zanzibar 2A 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 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!