July 6, 2023
We are writing to you from the Kilimanjaro Airport, waiting for your wonderful children to take off and head your way. We have had an incredible three weeks here in Africa and are sad to part ways. But, we did have an amazing last few nights together.
Yesterday, we drove from our Safari back to Arusha where we were welcomed by warm showers and fluffy beds. We played games and hung out at our hotel until we left for our fancy banquet dinner. We ate like kings! We had garlic bread, pizza, burgers, steak and topped off the evening with ice cream! We laughed and shared our favorite memories from our trip-celebrating our time together. Then, we ended the night with Moonup under the Tanzanian stars and went to bed with full hearts and full bellies.
The next day, we slept in and had a late breakfast of eggs, potatoes, toast and pancakes. We spent our last full day together laughing, playing, and cherishing our time together. We had our final Moonup in the lawn where we reflected on our adventures together.
We cannot thank you enough for sharing your children with us for the past three weeks. We cannot wait for them to get home and tell you all about our adventures around Africa. Wishing you all the best and give your kids another hug for us!!!
Thank you again and Safari Njema!!
Briggs + Lily
July 5, 2023
We’ve had the best week taking in beautiful views and seeing the coolest animals in Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater! We saw everything from elephants to cheetahs and were lucky to have some beautiful weather along the way!
This past Saturday everyone woke up rejuvenated after resting up after our big summit. We woke up in Arusha and headed off for the safari – luckily Papa John was our Safari guide as well! We had a long drive to the Ngorongoro Crater but once we got there the views were worth it. We stopped at a viewpoint where you could see out over the whole crater and Papa John told us that the crater was formed from volcanic activity, but before it was an even bigger mountain than Kilimanjaro! Afterwards we headed to our campsite for the night and saw some elephants along the way! We had a great dinner before heading off to bed, and we shared our campsite with some very friendly African buffalo that night!
The next morning, we woke up to explore the crater. We took off in our Safari Land Cruisers with the tops down and binoculars out. Right from the start we saw buffalo, zebras, gazelles and much more! Manny and Avery were amazed when we saw our first female lion hunting some gazelles out in the wild. We even saw a black rhino from afar which is extremely rare in Serengeti. We had lunch at a popular spot by a hippo pool and Briggs and Virginia were amazed at the hippos as they had been anticipating seeing them for quite some time. After lunch we headed off for Serengeti National Park and arrived there around dinner time. We enjoyed some warmer temperatures in the lowlands of the national park and headed off to bed for a full day of safari after!
We woke up to sunrise the next day as safaris are usually best early in the morning or in the evening. We took off on our safari after breakfast and were treated to what Field called “the coolest thing that happened all safari” as a group of baboons chased a fully grown leopard across a field! The leopard roared loudly as it ran away from the baboons, and everyone was left in awe at the spectacle. Later on, we saw two groups of lions approaching each other, and thought we were about to see “Lion Warfare” as Cole described it, but the prides joined each other as the baby cubs ran to their mommas, it was one of the cutest things ever! Tanzania has the most lions out of any country in the world, and Serengeti National Park has ~3,200 lions alone, so we were spoiled with the beautiful kings of the jungle! We relaxed in the afternoon before heading off on another safari in the evening. The giraffe was the animal of the evening and Rowan could not stop laughing at the spectacle of the very lengthy animal. With the top down on the Land Cruisers and the sun setting down across the African sky, the vibes were so immaculate on the way back to camp that Clara was dancing in the car even though there was no music playing! After dinner, Stella led us in a new fan favorite game – “Fishbowl”. A unique version of charades, the group loved it and it led to an intense and fun game… but Team A ultimately prevailed! We had a great moonup under a beautiful full moon, and we headed off to bed after an awesome day!
Yesterday we woke up a bit later than the day before and packed up camp before heading out on our morning safari. We saw a few lions that morning but were treated to the most rare gift of all that morning – seeing a family of four cheetahs! That was Emma’s main goal on safari, so she was stoked to see them as they are not super common in Serengeti. After lunch break right outside of Serengeti we were on the road again to head for our campsite closer to Arusha. We were so lucky to have gotten to explore both the Crater and Serengeti as they are two of the most beautiful and lively places to see safaris in the world.
Once we got to our campsite closer to Arusha, we had some chill time and enjoyed some hacky sack and music. Walker led a book club group during free time – we have some fast, smart readers on this trip! We had some popcorn and tea time before dinner in which Sawyer dealt out some card games to the group, and after we had a delicious dinner. Papa John sneaked out during the day to give the group a very special surprise… ICE CREAM!!! Ella had been on the hunt for ice cream for a few days and was extremely excited at the surprise! Afterwards we celebrated the Fourth of July with songs like Chicken Fried and Born in the USA before playing another game of “Fishbowl.” You would’ve thought Sienna was in a timelapse with how fast she acted out some of the subjects in the game! Afterwards we had a great moonup and went to sleep, grateful for such an incredible Safari experience.
Today we headed back to the hotel in Arusha and got to stop by the Tanzanite Experience on the way to learn about the precious gem that is only found in Tanzania. Afterwards we had a great lunch stop before making it back to the hotel. Right now, we are about to head off on our banquet dinner to celebrate all we’ve accomplished as a group over the past few weeks. Thanks for following us along on our journey, and we are sad for these kiddos to be leaving us tomorrow, but are SO grateful that they joined us over the past few weeks!
Briggs + Lily
June 30, 2023
WE DID IT!!! This past Friday, on a bluebird day around 10:30AM, all 15 people in our group made it to the Uhuru Peak (19,341 ft) on Kilimanjaro as we celebrated an incredible feat that each and every one of your kiddos should be extremely proud of! It took a tremendous amount of teamwork, positivity and support for each other, and we couldn’t be more proud of the way all of the students carried each other up one of the SEVEN SUMMITS!
On Sunday we arrived at the base of the mountain to begin our climb. We set out on the Machame Route with full bellies after a delicious meal at the base, and were so excited to meet our guides, Papa John, along with many of his fellow guides and porters! We had about a 6 hour hike ahead of us, and hiked through the rain forest at the base of Kilimanjaro. It was beautiful and surprised a lot of us as the greenery, flowers, and trees were not what many people were expected. Field and Walker led us well during a great day of hiking we made it to the Machame camp which was a beautiful campsite nestled in the clouds on the edge of the treeline. We had a great first meal there and everyone was in great spirits after their first day on the mountain!
We awoke the second day to our porters offering us coffee and tea on a beautiful mountain morning. Papa John gave us the low down on the day, and we set out for Shira camp which was about a five hours hike away from our current campsite. It was a beautiful hike that took us out of the treeline and into a beautiful, Colorado-esque terrain! We made it to the Shira camp at around 3pm and headed on an acclimatization hike later in the afternoon to get our bodies used to the rising altitude. On the hike we were able to explore the Shira Cave where early explorers would take shelter and then hiked up to a higher point on the trail where Sawyer stacked rocks onto the “Cairns” that are signs of good luck to other hikers! We got back to camp and enjoyed a beautiful sunset and Sienna and Cole encouraged the group to go back outside after dinner to take it all in!
The next day we woke up on a mission to have lunch at the Lava Tower to acclimatize at around 15k feet before heading back down to Barranco camp. It was the toughest hike yet but after about 6 hours we made it to the Lava Tower for a great lunch of empanadas and sandwiches. We headed back down afterwards to the Barranco camp which had the best views yet. It sat right under the northern face of Kilimanjaro, and on the other side had a valley filled with clouds- we were finally above the clouds!! Rowan played some guitars to some starstruck porters in front of a pink sunset and all was right in the world. We had a music party in the tent to get the good vibes going and Emma and Avery crushed some Billy Joel and Elton John sing alongs!
The next morning, we tackled the “breakfast wall” at the beginning of our hike. It was the most technical part of the hike and required some scrambling across some amazing rock faces. It was challenging, but Manny led us as we took in some incredible views along the way. Once we got to the top we all got a great view of Kili behind us and clouds as far as the eye could see! Afterwards we hiked the rest of the way to Karanga camp we were treated to more incredible views of the mountain, clouds and city lights below once the night came. Virginia, Cole and Ella led a reading circle in front of some incredible views, while Manny and Sawyer listened to Briggs and Rowan play some guitar. Clara even led a dance party in front of the sunset before dinner! Night came and everyone got some much needed rest after a tough but amazing day of hiking filled with some AMAZING views.
The next day Papa John informed us that he was able to pull some strings to get us to Upper Barafu, a camp that was a bit secluded and higher up in elevation so our bodies could acclimatize before our hike. The group absolutely CRUSHED this last day hike and we got to camp around 2PM and Papa John briefed us on our long day ahead. We got to bed at around 7PM in preparation for SUMMIT DAY!
The night was cold when we woke up at 1AM for our summit push, but the group’s attitude was ELITE and we knew we could do it. We had a quick breakfast and hit the trail by 2am underneath the most beautiful, star-lit sky we’d ever seen. The early morning was long, but the group was AMAZING with how they encouraged each other and pushed each other to see the sunrise. We saw the tip of the sun rays beaming out into the African sky and smiles started popping up left and right. There aren’t words to say how beautiful the sunrise was Friday morning, but it was one that none of us will ever forget. It also brought some warmth and good vibes our way as we pushed for Stella’s point. We made it to Stella’s point around 9:30AM and our very own Stella had FINALLY made it to her place (the day before her 16th birthday!!!). We could see the summit across the valley, and the group pushed forward on the last leg of our journey after filling up on some starbursts and gummy snacks. After nearly 9 hours of hiking, we made it to Uhuru Peak at 10:30AM. It was a challenging journey, but it was one that none of us will ever forget, and Lilly and I were so grateful to have shared it with your kids!
After descending back to the camp we stayed at the night before, we had another four hours or so of hiking and made it back down to about 10,000 ft and slept among the trees once again. It was a long day to say the least, but one of the most powerful, awe-inspiring days we’ve ever experienced.
This morning we woke up and hiked a couple of hours to the departure gate of the mountain. We had a great final meal with Papa John and his guides/porters, and they all sang joyous, Kilimanjaro songs as we parted ways. It was the journey of a lifetime, and we are so proud of the way each and every one of the kids pushed themselves during the trek. We’re looking forwarded to a relaxing and INCREDIBLE week of Safaris in Serengeti National park, and are so grateful for the bonding we’ve done of this last week.
-Briggs and Lily
June 23, 2023
We just arrived at our hotel in Arusha and are coming fresh off of the most AMAZING week of working with the Red Sweater Project in Mto Wa Mbu. We are currently prepping for our trek up Kilimanjaro starting tomorrow and are soooo excited for it to begin. Before we get ahead of ourselves though.. let’s start from the beginning!
After a long couple of travel days, we met up with most of the group last Friday at the Arusha airport. While a few members of the group were able to get some sleep on the plane, the group was pretty tired for the most part. Emma and Virginia had some complications with their travel and were arriving the next day, so our team was not yet complete, but we ventured back to our hotel in Arusha for some much needed pizza before heading off to sleep to cure some of the jet lag we were feeling.
The next morning the group woke up energized and ready to head off to the village of Mto Wa Mbu. Lily headed back to the airport to pick up our last two travelers – Virginia and Emma – and we all met up at our campsite in Mto Wa Mbu later that afternoon. Our group was together at last!! The campsite we stayed at over the past week was a beauty. With an infinity pool overlooking Lake Manyara and the national park surrounding it–we had some of the most beautiful views we’d ever seen. Whether you’re a fan of stargazing or early sunsets, this campsite was an incredible spot for both, and we enjoyed every second we spent there! Saturday afternoon we relaxed by the pool and got acquainted with the camp. We had our own little section of the campsite and were able to relax before our first big day of service on Sunday! We had some fresh Tilapia served by our new best friend – and campsite guide – Samuel, and had our first moonup as a full group shortly afterwards! It felt good to all be united underneath the beautiful African stars.
The next morning, we awoke to a filling breakfast to prepare us for a big day ahead. We headed off to the Mungere School in the morning to work with the Red Sweater Project. We spent the next couple of hours meeting the students, getting a tour of the school and their mission and then even did a bit of gardening. Our kids and the students at the school quickly bonded, and the students of the Mungere School began teaching our kids their most difficult subject yet – Swahili. After lunch we went down to the soccer pitch to play our first game of a long, heated Tanzanian rivalry – Team Yanga vs. Team Simba. Although the students from Mungere dominated the game for the most part, we had some stars from our group as well. Manny showed off his soccer skills with a brilliant display of dribbling and scoring, and Cole was a defensive machine – and his dusty clothes after the game were a testament to his effort! Team Yanga prevailed in this first match, but there would be many more to come throughout the week. After a busy first day, we headed back to our campsite to relax and enjoy some pool time before dinner. We took in some more breathtaking views as the afternoon went on by the pool, and Stella and Virginia led us in an epic game of “Star” in the pool. After our pool time was over, we headed up to the kitchen tent for popcorn and teatime with our best friend Samuel, and shortly after had a delicious dinner of chicken stew and fries. Our LODs (Leaders of the day) Emma and Manny led us in another great moonup shortly after and we had some time to hang out before heading off to bed.
The next morning, we woke up to a very special surprise from the cook crew – Nutella crepes! We ate a filling breakfast before heading back to the Mungere for a full day of helping in the garden. While we eased into work the first day, we dove in head first on the second and got to work. At the Mungere School, they grow all the food used to feed the students right on campus, so having sustained and effective gardens is crucial to the operation of the school. Therefore, our project for the week was to build out the soil with nutrients and dig out two additional spaces for gardening. We got to work with the Mungere students immediately and made a lot of progress on that first day! Walker carried bags and bags of soil alongside his new friends with a smile, while Ella worked hard to learn all the names of the Mungere students, and by the end of the second day she had nearly all 17 memorized! We worked hard until lunch and afterwards headed back down to the pitch for another match between Yanga and Simba! While most of the group headed out for the game, a group of our girls and the students danced to one of our new favorite Tanzanian songs – Kwikwi! Sienna picked up the dance to Kwikwi quickly and the group enjoyed learning a bunch of other dances from the students. Team Simba won the second round of the heated rivalry, and after the game we headed back to our camp feeling good after a great day of work and building new friendships. We enjoyed another afternoon of pool time and tea time at the camp, and ate a delicious meal afterwards. Sienna and Walker led us in a great moonup afterwards, and after day two of working with the Red Sweater Project, we began to reflect on our time at the Mungere School thus far. Our kids talked about all the things that they cherished about the community, with generosity, patience and friendships being some of the few things they noticed in their new friends. We went to bed excited for the few days left at the school, and slept well after a long day’s work!
The next day we had a similar morning of working at the Mungere School and continuing our work in the garden. Clara worked hard alongside her new friend Lightness, and enjoyed teaching her some American slang, she even got her to tell Briggs that he was “slaying” at his job in the garden. We worked hard until lunch and were treated to a very special treat in the afternoon – visiting some of the students’ homes! We got to visit both Grace and Kweya’s houses and got a glimpse into what it looks like to live in Mto Wa Mbu. All of us were extremely grateful to both of them and their families for letting us into their homes, and we cherished the experience a lot. Afterwards we headed back to the campsite for some much needed R&R. After another great dinner, Virginia and Cole led us in a moonup, and Rowan treated us to some beautiful guitar around the campfire afterwards. The next morning we had a shorter day of service at the school, but were treated to a special surprise after about an hour of work – A WATERFALL HIKE! The students and two of the managers at the school, Sheb and Barracka, led us on about a mile and a half hike through part of the village to a nearby waterfall and we had an amazing hike. We saw rice fields, banana trees, and so much more along the way! Emma and Avery got a photo shoot with some of their friends from the school, and we hung out for about an hour by the waterfall before heading back to the school. We headed back for some pool time before having a feast of chicken skewers and veggies for dinner. After another great moonup we headed off to bed. Cole, Field, and Rowan elected to “cowboy camp” under the stars that night to take in the beautiful, African sky, and everyone got a great night’s rest for our last day of service.
For our last day of service we wrapped up the project in the morning, with some of our kids even having contests against the students to see who could carry the heaviest bags of dirt… needless to say the Mungere students won this contest with ease as they’ve been working in these fields all of their lives! Although we were sad to say goodbye, we took some photos with the students and shed some happy tears as we said goodbye to so many new friendships. Our kids shared their plans of keeping in touch with their new friends by mail and other forms of reaching out in the future! Afterwards we headed out to the Maasai markets where our students were able to buy some beautiful wood carvings, paintings and many other special keepsakes. Sawyer and Avery even showed off their bartering skills with several of the local vendors! Who knows… maybe one of these gifts will be heading your way! After seeing all of the different marketplaces, we came back to camp for a special PIZZA PARTY with Red Sweater’s very own Ashley (CEO), Sheb and Barracka. Afterwards they joined us for a special moonup in which we talked about what we were inspired by after our week of working with the Red Sweater Project. It was a special last night at the camp, and we are grateful to have spent such a special week in such a special place!
This morning we headed back to Arusha, and are about to go meet our porters in preparation for our Kilimanjaro climb!! We are beyond excited for the adventure ahead, and can’t wait to share the stories and memories we make over this next week with you all soon. Thanks for keeping up with our adventure, and we hope you all are doing well!! Pole Pole!
Briggs + Lily
June 16, 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!