July 13, 2023
Yesterday and today have been filled with saying our final goodbyes to Tanzania. The group slept in, and woke up to birds chirping and the smell of pancakes and Nutella. We officially went through more than 10 Nutella bottles in the past 3 weeks. Before hopping on the bus, Sam, Banks, Molly, and Oliver tossed around the frisbee to get their energy out for the trip back to our final destination. We drove from our campsite in Karatu back to Arusha. We stopped at a gift store and ate a fantastic lunch of chicken and naan bread, and cupcakes! Parks, Sophia, and Virginia bought matching t shirts to remember their great times in this amazing place. When arriving at the hotel, we were greeted with fresh juice and warm showers. Everyone spent the rest of the late afternoon packing up all their belongings. Biz and Fifo, the LODs, surprised everyone with a fancy banquet dinner and a night on the town. We inhaled loads of garlic bread, hummus, and tzatziki as our appetizers. Morgan and Justin demolished their burgers, which was a fan favorite and a dream come true. Noelle, Mary Henley, and Parker chose the Mac and cheese, along with warm brownies and milkshakes. After dinner, everyone was in a food coma and ready for our final moonup of the session on the roof of our hotel. This special time was spent under the stars and remembering the best couple of weeks we have spent together. This morning was a slow one, as all we had planned was our transfer to the airport in the afternoon. We enjoyed a buffet breakfast and laughs at the table. The rest of the day we hung out by the pool and munched on a classic lunch of pizza and cookies from Pizza Hut. Our bus picked us up in the afternoon and we headed our way to the airport, where Molly and the group said goodbye to our Tanzanian home and Logan, as he leaves tomorrow. We cannot wait to get back home and tell everyone about our amazing adventures!
July 11, 2023
Vipee (What’s up)!!! On Saturday morning, we cruised from Arusha to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area for the beginning of our Safari section. We made a few stops along the way including a wonderful lunch from Active Kili Top in the area we were the previous week: Mto Wa Mbu. We were greeted at the park gates by some curious baboons who may have been more interested in our snacks than us! Once inside the park, we stopped at the first lookout spot over the crater where Sam was quick to spot what he claimed to be an elephant. Sophia immediately pulled out her massive binoculars and made sure everyone got a good look at one of the big five. We continued our cruise through the park, and it didn’t take long for the group to learn that Mary Henley was a master at spotting wildlife; often even beating the guides to pointing out an animal! Before making it to our first camp the group spotted giraffe, elephants, cape buffalo, and some Antelope. What a day! We closed out the evening with a warm dinner and Moonup before calling it a night.
Saturday night was a chilly one – sleeping on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. We woke up early Sunday morning excited for the beginning of our newest adventure: Safari! Banks and Parker noticed a snack stand in the corner of the campground and capitalized by bartering for some hot coffee to start the day. After breakfast, we loaded up the land cruisers and descended from the rim down into the crater where we were immediately surrounded by herds of zebra and wildabeast. Animals of all kinds were everywhere! Elephants to the left; hippos to the right; and zebra, gazelle, and wildabeast in between. Fifo quickly noticed that we were not seeing Giraffe anywhere within the crater. The guides explained the crater wall is too steep for the giraffe to descend. We noticed a line of cars beginning to form along the road with everyone pointing, but we couldn’t quite tell what was going on. “IT’S A LION”, Biz shouted, to which Oliver replied, “Very nice!”. The rest of the day was filled with more driving and many close animal encounters to recall. We left the crater in the early afternoon and drove to the Serengeti to make camp. We were served a wonderful warm dinner, as usual. Our amazing day ended with a Moonup under the stars and falling asleep to the noises of the wild animals next to our tents.
Monday started early as we drove off from our camp site to our first game drive of the day as the sun rose. We watched hot air balloons rise along the horizon and lion cubs with their mama in the open field. Noelle captured the moment perfectly and everyone was in awe of seeing this circle of life. We continued down the road and were repeatedly greeted by zebras, elephants, antelope, and giraffes. The cars followed baby elephants and their mothers for a while and we were still so excited to get up close to them every time. Morgan and Fifo especially were in love with the babies and seeing their favorite animals right before their eyes. After our morning drive, we headed back to camp and munched on a hot lunch before hanging out in the sun for a little bit. In the late afternoon, our guides, Anderson, Enok, and Dennis made a pit stop at the visitor’s center for a quick Pringles and soda snack break. Banks even spotted an ice cream stand. With full stomachs, we set off for our evening game drive, which was filled with hippo watching while the sun set in the background. Parks, Virginia, Sophia, and Biz enjoyed the late afternoon hippo sightings. The group was happy to feel the temperature cool down, as it was a very warm day in the Serengeti. When we got back, we ate, had Moonup, and star gazed before falling asleep.
Today, we enjoyed our last full safari day. The group woke up to a beautiful Serengeti sunrise and ate breakfast before heading out for another game drive. Mary Henley and Justin pumped the group up and were eager to finish finding all of the big 5. At one of the first rock faces we came upon, Parks pointed out a leopard in a deep sleep. After a few minutes, the leopard woke up and started grazing in the grass. The group followed it and Virginia kindly lended Logan her lens so he could shoot the leopards face up close. It is rare to see this animal in this behavior, so the group was ecstatic! We continued our drive and watched families of elephants migrate to ponds of water to bathe. We wrapped up our safari with lunch at the Serengeti gates, where we enjoyed pasta, meat sauce, and our favorite: sprinter bars. As we made the way back into the town of Karatu, we rinsed off our dirt from the past couple of days and had a filling dinner before resting at our final campsite of the trip.
Sophia- Thanks so much mom and dad for sending me on this trip!!! I’ve had such an amazing time and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!! I love y’all and miss y’all so much and I can’t wait to see you!
Oliver- Hey guys, thank you so much for what you do for me. This trip has been amazing and is an experience I will never forget. Can’t wait to see y’all soon
Virginia- Mom & Dad thank you so much for this trip. I am incredibly grateful for y’all & I have had some unforgettable moments throughout the past three weeks! My group is indescribable and I’ve made some lifelong friendships!! Love y’all and see y’all soon.
Fifo- Thank you so much for sending me on this trip! I have been having so much fun and it has been such an incredible experience. We have been having fun on safari and I can’t wait to tell you about the safari. See you soon!
Banks- Thank you dad for encouraging me to come on Kilimanjaro. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and I met some amazing people, I am so grateful for the opportunity.
Sam- Thank you mom and dad so much for sending me on such an incredible and insightful journey across Tanzania. Submitting kili, working in the Mungere school and seeing beautiful animals truly made my summer. I will be forever grateful.
Mary Henely- Hey Mom! Thanks so much for making this trip possible for me-I’ve had the best three weeks and learned so much. Can’t wait to see you soon and tell you all about it!
Biz- Hey y’all! Thanks so much for sending me on this trip! I’ve had so much fun and am so thankful for the opportunity- see y’all soon!
Parks- Thank you so much mom and dad for giving me the opportunity to go on this trip I’ve had a ton of fun and am so glad I came. See you soon!
Parker-Thank you so much for sending me on this trip. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience and by far one of the coolest things I have ever done. I can’t wait to tell you all about it. See you in Europe!
Morgan – thanks so much Mom and Dad for sending me on this trip!! It’s been such a good experience and I have have the best time see y’all soon!!
Noelle – THANK Y’ALL <3 This truly has been the experience of a LIFETIME & I will never forget it. Y’all are the best. Can’t wait 2 tell y’all all about it
Justin – Thank you so much for sending me on this trip! This was the best experience ever and I had so much fun. see you guys soon
July 7, 2023
Saturday morning, we set off for our quest to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro! From Arusha, we traveled to the Machame gate to scarf down our last meal on flat land. Chicken roll ups and guacamole provided the fuel we would need for the first day of trekking. Our guides: Abel, Goodluck, John, Nrope, Wilfred, and Eric, introduced themselves as we would be living every moment with them for the next week. Noelle and Sophia bargained for a South Carolina flag they found at the gate to use as motivation to get to the top. Our hike consisted of 11km in the rainforest on our way to Machame camp. The group was welcomed into a fully set up camp; thanks to our porters. A delicious meal centered around fried fish was prepared for us before heading off to bed to rest for the coming days.
We were awoken early the next morning by one of our porters, Eric, with hot tea brought to our tents. While brushing our teeth, Mary Henley and Fifo were the first to notice the clear clouds showing our first view of the peak! This provided the group with a great burst of excitement for the day. We quickly packed our belongings and hit the trail! Today’s hike was a shorter in distance but had greater elevation gain. We hiked out of the rainforest and into the heather moreland zone which excited everyone since they were able to drop their heavy rain gear. Justin led the way today with his energy and kept spirits high. After a few hours on trail and a few exciting cliff traverses, the group arrived at Shira camp. Parker was the first to kick off her boots, as she was still feeling a little under the weather. This was our first high altitude camp, and our guides recommended us to rest our bodies in order to acclimate. We went on a digestive walk around camp with our head guide, Abel, to explore the caves where the first climbers of Kilimanjaro camped. Dinner was served to fill our stomachs and to help us get a good nights rest for tomorrows hike.
Last night’s sleep at Shira Camp was our coldest yet, with temperatures dropping below 20 degrees! The group was again awoken with hot tea delivered to their tents to help force off the cold weather. We gathered in the mass tent for our usual breakfast for the next week: porridge, eggs, toast, and fruit. During breakfast, Abel briefed the group on our plan for the day which consisted of hiking to Lava Tower at 15,200 feet for lunch and then back down to Barranco Camp for the night. The guides cautioned that today was the day the students would begin experiencing altitude sickness. However, when we arrived at Lava Tower, the group was still bursting with energy and hungry for lunch. Biz motivated everyone throughout the hike with her positive attitude and willingness for the group to succeed. After a noodle and chicken lunch, our LOD’s for the day, Sam, and Mary Henley, passed out ring pops for the group before the second part of the hike. We had a quick downhill hike back to camp at 13,800 ft, passing masses of trees that bloom every 25 years. Sophia, Morgan, and Noelle enjoyed a warm foot bath to clean off the dirt from the last couple of days. The day wrapped up with another 3-course meal and banana fritters which Oliver raved about! Biz, Molly, Fifo, and Logan, stayed up to photograph long exposure shots of the mountain and camp.
Parks and Biz were LOD’s for the Fourth of July and woke up the rest of the group with festive bandanas. A hefty American breakfast of pancakes and bacon prepared us for our climb today on the Barranco wall. This wall is considered the most difficult feature but the group handled it with ease thanks to our guides (especially our secret athlete: Parks). At the top, we met up with fellow Americans who we had passed days before and captured the moment with the American flag Sam and Banks brought. Mary Henley, Virginia, and Molly jumped above the clouds in a cool picture. We refueled ourselves with lots of energy bars and continued our way to Karanga camp. At camp, we chatted over tea and popcorn and shared funny stories. The ring pops were brought back out, as they were a great comfort treat for our whole team. The group spent more time resting today as we were all beginning to feel the effects of the altitude. Karanga Camp was around 13,000 feet in elevation as it was our final camp before heading to base camp the following day. After dinner, the group tried on their summit parkas for the first time and enjoyed a fun photoshoot above the clouds! Virginia, Parker, Banks and some others felt “on top of the world”. Afterwards, we had Moonup and rushed into the warm sleeping bags for another night’s rest.
This morning, Abel and his team briefed the group over breakfast. Due to how well the group was handling the altitude, the guides wanted to push our group past the lower base camp (Barafu) and onto the upper base camp (Kosovo). There was a buzz in the air as the aspirations of summiting began to feel more and more real. We popped on our packs for only a 6 km trek to 15,800 ft. We stumbled upon camp around lunch time and had our meal waiting for us on the table. The group struggled with the loss of appetite due to the high elevation, but we still were encouraged to eat to gain fuel for our summit attempt the following morning. Abel gave us a great pep talk and everyone shared their goals of why they wanted to reach the summit. After a rest, we met back up for an earlier dinner and them dozed off to prepare our bodies for our 12:45 am wake up call.
SUMMIT DAY!! We rose very early and tried to stomach a small amount of food, powered up our headlamps, and hit the trail! It was freezing but the group bundled in their parkas. Our group had a large team of support staff for the summit push consisting of our normal guides plus about 20 extra porters with us to assist at any time. We walked pole pole (slowly) up the face of Kilimanjaro. Each step required effort at this altitude of about 16,000 feet but the group was up for it. They pushed up the mountain with small breaks every hour. 3 hours into our climb, Sophia and Logan decided to descend due to acclimation difficulties. Molly and the rest of the group were sad to separate, but quickly refocused their attention to reaching the summit. As we watched the sun rise, we warmed our insides with ginger tea that the guides surprised us with during one of our break points. After long hours of pushing through, we finally reached Stella Point (18,800 ft). Morgan, Parks, Virginia, and Mary Henley were so eager and excited they ran to the point once it finally was 100 ft away. At this point, we were in awe of the crater and glaciers surrounding us. From here, it was only a final 45-minute push to the summit. Everyone in the group was giddy to fulfill their dreams. Parker was the first one to arrive to the summit, tearing up as she went through times throughout the trekking days. The view was incredible, and the group felt extremely thankful to have reached the peak. We rocked some surprise baby sunglasses from Molly and smiled big at the sign. Our hard work paid off. Woohoo! We are so immensely proud of every single person in this group and feel as through they have all made a huge impact on themselves, the porters, the guides, and each other. We congratulate everyone who pushed through the tough times to reach the tallest point in Africa! It was a moment that will never be forgotten. After around 30 minutes at the summit, we headed back down the mountain, sliding down sand and rocks. All of the boys loved acting like they were skiing down a black diamond ( especially Justin ). 3/4 down the mountain we were greeted by a familiar face hiding in the sand, Logan! He had graciously helped one of our cooks bring up juice to a quick drink break before finishing the descent into base camp. The group was exhausted from their strenuous summit climb and took a quick rest before eating lunch and heading back on the trail to descend further. Even though it was a long day, we pushed through another few hours from base camp and arrived at our final campsite, lower camp, in the dark. We started and finished the day with our headlamps and we went through 4 different climate zones in one day. It was epic! Beef and rice was a comforting meal, as we were glad to be on level ground and low altitude. Everyone fell asleep quickly and reflected on the best days of their life.
Today, we concluded our muddy descent from Kilimanjaro with a quick 4 hour downhill hike through the rainforest. Locals kindly brushed and rinsed our boots and congratulated us on a job well done. We celebrated with a pizza lunch where our guides and porters handed out certificates for those who summited and sang to us before our drive back to Arusha. Sam, Oliver, and Banks were still full of energy playing 20 questions the majority of the car ride while all the girls took a short nap. After a sad goodbye to our guides, we are all able to take our first shower in a week! The hike helped grow the group in too many ways to describe. We are thankful for these impactful friendships and so excited for our last stretch: Safari!
Parker: Hi Hollan! Can’t wait to see you in a week! Please pack my Thera gun in the suitcase and tell Morgan I said hi. Love you all!
Mary Henley: Hey Mom! I’m having so much fun and summited Kili!! Can’t wait to see you and everyone in a week! Love you so much!
Parks: I love you mom and dad I’m having fun and can’t wait for the safari!
Noelle: Hey Mom & Dad!! Love & miss y’all so much. Having the BEST time everrr
Fifo: Hi mama and papa! I am having the best time. The summit was hard but was worth it. Can’t wait to see you in a week!.
Justin: I made it to the top! Can’t wait to see you guys soon
Oliver: I miss all y’all. Made it to the top of Kili and am having a great time. Can’t wait to see y’all
Sam: Hey Mom, Dad and Morgan! Having a Great time In Tanzania! Much love
Banks: Summited! Miss y’all say what’s up to Reece for me
Biz: hey shnookums miss y’all
Morgan: Missing everyone back home!! This has definitely been an eventful trip! can’t wait to see y’all
Virginia: tell Katie our dorm is African themed. I love y’all so much ( btw I summited 😉 ) !!
Sophia: Hi mom! I miss you so much and I’m having such a good time! I almost made it up Kili….. I can’t wait to see you, grace, Mork, Sugar, Toostsie, and Zelda!! I love you .
June 30, 2023
Hey! Kili 2.5 here and we are having a blast!
On Friday, Logan met Molly and the kids at the Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania and the adventure began! We traveled back to our accommodations for the night, had a group dinner together, and then went to bed early to get some rest.
Saturday began with Oliver eagerly waking everyone up an hour early because he thought Molly had come in already with a wake up call! After a buffet-style breakfast, we hit the road for a few hours and stopped at an ATM to exchange our spending money for shillings, the Tanzanian currency. Once arriving at our campsite for the week, the kids quickly befriended our liaison for the Red Sweater Project, Ashley, as she introduced our service portion of the trip. Sam made Ashley laugh with many questions about the baboons in the area. As we winded down before dinner by the pool, Logan claimed he saw elephants and giraffes on the horizon, while Biz quickly pulled out her binoculars and proved him wrong. Justin, Fifo, and the boys jumped in a game of death sack with our chef, Samwell. The rest chatted at the dinner table with Molly before devouring goat, pork, and assorted veggies. After that, we had Moonup, and selected Biz and Sam to be our first LODs (leader of the day)! We called it another early night, as the group was still adjusting to the time change.
Our first day of service began with a delicious breakfast and a ride to the village in open air land cruisers named Kibuko and Kifari. We received a tour of the school and got to work with the students to start a new garden! Parker and some of the students quickly picked up some garden hoes and started digging. While others dug up the garden, Noelle and Morgan grabbed machetes and chopped up banana leaves which would later be used as fertilizer. We worked for several hours, ate a packed lunch, then ran onto the soccer field for a friendly match. The kids really loved playing with the students and Justin even scored a goal! We wrapped up our long day with spaghetti bolognese and a Moonup under the stars.
The LODs, Banks and Noelle, got day 3 going with a morning huddle during our pancake and bacon breakfast. Then we loaded up the land cruisers and headed back to the village. Mary Henley led the charge for one of the day’s service tasks, digging holes! Shortly into work, the kids and students both got distracted listening to music and a dance party ensued. The students taught the kids the Waka Waka and our kids taught the students the cha cha slide in return. Virginia and Parks got after it on the dance floor and Oliver and Fifo even jumped in on the action. After a hot lunch, one of the students, Kawia, invited us into his Boma (house) for a home visit. That evening, we had a three course African meal with a delicious cucumber soup, Chips Mai, and Banana fritters. Afterwards, we had a Moonup and got some shut eye.
Tuesday, we met up with the students in the village and walked their daily route to school with them. The group walked past Mpunga (rice patties) and ngombe (cows) while Virginia started to really bond with Yousalh and they giggled the entire way! Our work for the day was to plant Chinese lettuce seeds and water each section. Back at camp, we had our favorite afternoon snack of popcorn and tea. The group was thankful to Sophia for requesting extra salty popcorn! This afternoon everyone decided they needed to get their wiggles out and the group as a whole started doing handstand contests and eventually the boys log rolled down the hill till they were too dizzy. Parks and Biz kept the group laughing with their witty humor and charismatic personalities. Fifo and Mary Henely closed out the night after dinner and we closed with some group bonding around the fire.
The next day was sadly our last day of service with the students. We watered the plants and chopped up some more banana leaves as our final contribution to the school’s future garden. We then headed back to the soccer pitch for some fun drills. The students and kids were divided into four teams for relay races. Justin brought the energy to his team and the group with his effort during the drills. For one race, the students had to balance water bottles on their heads like the local Masai do. Virginia was a natural and claimed her skills came from balancing books on her head when she was younger! For the next game, which was dizzy bat, Parker and Sophia took a few tumbles and made the whole group belly laugh. Afterwards, we said our goodbyes to the students and headed back to camp. Everyone had been very curious about a trail to the ridge behind our campsite and our guide, Samwell, graciously guided us through the short trek. On the way down, we passed herds of sheep and cows followed closely by their shepherds. That evening we had another three course meal with soup, chicken, ugale, and apple pie! Visuri Sauna (Yummy)!
Thursday we traveled to the school for our last visit to do another warm up hike to prepare for our summit to Kilimanjaro. Two of the school workers, Sheb and Barracu, guided our group up the west wall of the Eastern Rift that travels throughout the region. Our hike ended with a massive waterfall which rewarded the group with some amazing photos that we cannot wait to share! We returned to the school where we enjoyed another delicious meal together and said our goodbyes to the school and its members. On the way back to camp, we stopped at several markets where Sophia and Parker demonstrated their expert bargaining skills. Everyone walked away with beautiful art and skillfully crafted wood pieces. The chefs at camp surprised the group with homemade pizza and juicy pineapple for the final meal at camp! After a wonderful Moonup, we laid in the grass and looked up at the incredible stars for a while, before calling it a night!
Travel Day! Today we traveled back to Arusha to prep for our big climb that begins on Saturday! We did a briefing with our guides and packed our bags before enjoying a buffet dinner in Arusha. Tomorrow the climb begins – wish us luck!!
Molly and Logan
June 24, 2023
Hello Kilimanjaro Families!
We heard from our leaders this afternoon and the group has landed safely in Arusha! 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!