The hottest new destination in Africa with unmatched beach riding on fit and well loved horses. This is an unmissable extension to any African holiday or a riding holiday in its own right. The tropical colours of the sea must be seen to be believed. Relax and enjoy activities from fishing, through to snorkelling on world class coral reefs or scuba diving. This is when you're not exploring the coastline on horseback, visiting the local markets, swimming with your horses or sailing to Benguerra Island to ride there.

Your hosts Mandy and Pat Retzlaff are people with a passion for life and great stories to tell. The spirit of fun and adventure runs deep here and the care and love for their horses is second to none.

Suitable for all levels of riding and with enough activities to keep non riders happily occupied for weeks, this is an all ride destination with great riding and luxury accommodation right on the beach. To see more:


Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from MG of Winchester on 14/08/2019

Ride Summary
Horses and African wildlife, just what I wanted
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Horses and Tack

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Sample itinerary: Please note that this itinerary is flexible due to the changing tide levels in Vilanculos.

Day 1 - Introduction Day

Guests are met at Vilankulo Airport by either Pat or Mandy Retzlaff, your hosts and guides for the week. After a short transfer from the airport, we will settle you into your lodging for the week. In the afternoon you will have an opportunity to meet the horses and staff at the stables. You will be presented with a number of horses to try in our riding school. Once you feel comfortable we will head out onto the beach for a slow and relaxing ride, allowing you to become familiar with horse and equipment. The ride incorporates all the wonderful eco-systems in the archipelago; wide open beaches, incredible cliff top views, pristine dune bush and mangrove shoreline. In the evening a fresh seafood dinner will be served under the stars overlooking the sea. 2 hours riding.

Day 2 - Benguerra Island Ride
An early start is imperative, a motorized dhow will whisk you through the Bazaruto National Park to the world famous Benguerra Island. A tasty packed breakfast is served on board as you listen to the sound of splashing water and the beat of an engine as you glide through azure blue waters. You pass old fishing dhows from a time gone by, pods of dolphins breach the water as you meander between the sandbanks. From a distance you see the shapes and colours of horses under palm trees on a pristine white sandy beach

You are soon saddled up, the horses are eager underfoot with ears pushed forward, you settle into your saddle and take in the magnificence of the vast Indian Ocean. Charlotte, your guide, chats you through the flora and fauna, her passion unbridled. As you move inland you pass through local villages, towards high golden sand dunes and fresh water lakes with flocks of flamingos. The ride continues with canters along sandy tracks onto a long beach past waving fisherman. Just before reaching the stables, you slip off the saddle and wallow into the sea bareback.

The afternoon is spent snorkelling on Magaruque Island, the warm waters and are surrounded by an array of colourful fish, small rays glide by and you spot an octopus hidden in a rock crevasse. A simple & delicious seafood lunch is served ashore under a shady tree and then it's time to return to the mainland. 3 hours riding depending on the tide.

Day 3 - Fishing Village and Bush Ride
Have a relaxing breakfast and morning swim before our ride begins at 11.30 am. Once saddled, Mandy guides the group down to the beach at a gentle walk, the tide is out and the blue and white colours shimmer into the distance. Past the rocks the beach opens up and under Mandy’s instruction you will canter towards mangrove trees in the distance and up a red bank to the "Finger Print of God". The panoramic views look out over the Bazaruto Archipelago, you will see colourful dhows glide along the channels and fisherwoman hunting crab in shallow sands. You continue through winding coconut plantations along a beach path to the Managlise Fishing Village.

You hear the distinct chatter of laughing children and are soon greeted by a horde of smiles. Once sat in simple thatch shelter, newly harvested coconuts are cracked open, the refreshing juice is rich reward after a long ride. Then a traditional lunch is served, fresh crab from the beach, grilled fish from the mornings catch and Matapa; a Mozambican dish made from cassava leaves, nuts and coconut milk. After your meal the children come out to sing local songs and dance, their smiles and energy make the occasion feel very special.

Late afternoon beckoning, the horses are saddled up and you start the return home. The ride is completely authentic, rich in cultural experience and brings much appreciated business to a locality well off the beaten track. It also means that locals who once feared the horses, have a better understanding and involvement with them in their community. 2 hours riding.

Day 4 - Red Dunes Ride, North Beach
After a delicious breakfast we will drive you over to the stables. Your group is soon saddled up, once down on the beach your horse’s ears pick up as she takes in the sounds of chatting fisherman in passing dhows. You gaze out onto a wide-open expanse with turquoise seas and settle in next to Pat, together you canter along the never-ending beach.

The ride takes you on past Vilankulo town back onto the beach, then in the distance across the bay, glimmering red, towering above the shoreline is the resplendent Red Dune. As you reach the base your horse takes the lead, you can feel her exploding strength underfoot surging forward as she ascents to the summit in a powerful canter, her stamina and will far beyond the ordinary. The views are difficult to describe, your breath taken away by the blues seas and silver sandbanks stretching into the distance. Obligatory pictures, dune jumps and you move on back down, cantering on across the beach for a fresh seafood lunch.

After lunch we will stop at a local arts and crafts centre that supports the community – there will be plenty of time to explore and get some souvenirs for friends and family back home. Relax by the pool in the late afternoon or take a stroll on the beach. Dinner will be served in tranquil settings as we savour and toast your last night

Day 5 - Farewell Swim Ride
Enjoy a relaxed breakfast, before a short morning farewell ride up the coastline. The views over the bay and long stretches of unspoiled beach will be a memory that you never forget. We finish off your safari with our world-renowned swim - to see horses wallowing and rolling in the sea is a once in a lifetime opportunity and truly magical experience. Riders are mesmerised by the grace, power and movement of these magnificent animals swimming. Bring your camera to capture the moment. Time for one more lunch before you bid farewell to Vilankulo in preparation for your onward journey.
* Please note that if the tide is out on your final morning the swim ride will be done on another day.

Alternate Rides: the changing tides in Vilankulo control the timing of rides and in which order they are to be made during the week. If you cannot do certain rides we will alternate with the rides below. Additionally, your hosts are very flexible and if you would prefer to do some of the rides below instead of the rides in the main itinerary then please speak to your sales consultant to arrange.

Beach and Bush Ride. 3 to 4 hours riding
A hearty breakfast will be served at your restaurant – today’s ride is a favourite with many of our guests. The route will take you along the old coastal main road running parallel to the beach before meandering up and wading across a small river estuary. Along the route we will pass through small rural villages where young children will come to wave at the horses. As the local population thins out there are long safe canters through coastal bush. After several hours in the saddle, a bush track through woodlands leads us down on to the beach with amazing views over the bay. The long, deserted, safe, sandy beaches offer a chance to experience romantic dream-like canters on our way back to the stables. After a long day in the saddle, there is a chance for sundowners and a fine dinner at a local restaurant.

Casa Rex Breakfast Ride and Market Tour. 1.5 hours riding
An early morning ride that follows the beach northwards passing through the outskirts of town into a wide-open bay, home to myriad of colourful dhows. The ride continues through the bay cantering along the beach, watching local fisherman make their way home. The ride ends with a delicious buffet breakfast at Casa Rex – Vilankulo’s most exclusive resort.

After breakfast, we will meet our local guide who will accompany us through the bustling and vibrant city market. The colourful displays and cacophony of noise will give you an insight into the lives of the local people. We will make our way back to your resort where you can siesta through the midday heat or relax at the pool. Alternatively, guests can enjoy a day scuba diving, kiteboarding or deep-sea fishing at an additional cost. A delicious lunch and dinner will be provided.

The Great Lakes Ride and Canoe. 3 hours riding plus picnic lunch & canoe trip
Today we will ride inland on single trails skirting African villages and vast natural fresh water lakes. The birdlife is fantastic and there is a good chance of seeing eagles, herons, harriers, rollers, pelicans and kingfishers. We will canter along bush paths through African farmlands, rural schools and past the ruins of old Portuguese homesteads. The old farm roads allow for a fast pace as we continue inland towards the Govuro River.

A revitalising picnic lunch with ice-cold refreshments awaits us on a grassy riverbank; the horses will be fed and watered before being led home and leaving us to enjoy a guided tour along the river. We will paddle along the picture-perfect Govuro River soaking up the lush river vegetation, looking out for native fish and listening to the magical calls of birdlife. In the evening you will enjoy a quiet drink and watch the stars light up an African sky as you sit around a bonfire. Dinner will be a mouthwatering Mozambican BBQ.


One day of this itinerary visits a local village. The school here is always very grateful for donations of supplies for the children (paper, pencils, rubbers etc.), if you have any space in your suitcase and would like to bring a few items they would be much appreciated!

Please note that the itinerary is a rough guide and the daily schedule is determined by the guide with the best interests of the group and horses in mind. Weather conditions and especially the changing tides in Vilankulo control the timing of rides and in which order they are to be made during the week.

This itinerary will run with a minimum of 2 people. However it may be possible to pay a small group supplement to allow the ride to run for 1 person.


Riders who booked this ride also considered:

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Caribbean Adventure - Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is well known for its white sandy beaches, towering palm trees, fascinating history, vibrant culture and adventure tourism. This combination makes the Dominican Republic an excellent location for a horse riding holiday.
This riding holiday gives riders the chance to appreciate the abundance of rare and exotic species many of which are only to be found in Madagascar and get very far off the beaten track. Riding terrain includes rainforests, volcanic regions with crater lakes, hot springs, waterfalls and traditional villages. There is no better way to get to know the gentle and welcoming Malagasy people.

Moose Ranch - Wyoming, USA
If you are looking for a wonderful ranch experience in a remote setting surrounded by nature and wildlife with some cattle work this is the riding holiday for you!

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

The horses on this ride are very special. The majority of them have been rescued from farm repossessions in Zimbabwe during the height of the political violence and with the brave actions of Pat and Mandy, were moved to Mozambique and often saved from being put down. You will meet 'Texas', the strong grey gelding who was about to be fed to lions and 'Lady' an orphan foal that has grown into the matriarch of the herd. 'Breitling' is the stallion of the herd and 'Corderan' is the newest foal and hope for the future. Each and every one of the 37 horses has an incredible story and there are more horses still to come.

Breeds include registered South African Boerperds and a combination of crosses with a strong mix of Arab. All riding horses are schooled to a very high level, are calm and react easily and lightly to the aids. They have lovely gentle natures and are very sensible, cantering on wide open beaches without any inclination to run off.

The care of the horses and their well-being take precedence ensuring that they are responsive, alert, tough and fit. They are your hosts' greatest and most treasured assets and are taken extremely good care of.

The tack here is mainly trail saddles, with some English and all are safe and in good repair. There is a selection of hard hats for beginners.

The riding is often at a walk, wading through the ocean or relaxing on the beach front. Frequent long canters can be enjoyed by better riders. There are some steep sandy cliffs to be climbed offering wide viewpoints over the Indian Ocean and Bazaruto Archipelago. Inland freshwater lakes and indigenous bush provide variety from the endless white beaches on the seafront.

Rider requirements

Riders of all levels can be accommodated. Good riders will be able to explore further and ride faster. The minimum age is 6 years.

The horses are saddled, cleaned and cared for by the staff, you are not required to help with this unless you would like to.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

You will be based on the outskirts of Vilankulo at Vila de Sonhos.

Vila de Sonhos is a exclusive lodge, made up of four luxury beachfront homes overlooking the turquoise waters of the Bazaruto Archipelago. Each villa has a set of impressive bedrooms uniquely designed with breathtaking views. The rooms are furnished in indigenous hardwood with a large double bed, they open onto a private balcony and have en-suite bathrooms. The villas has a fully equipped kitchen with resident personal chef, there is a comfortable lounge and dining room. Mosquito nets are provided in the bedrooms. 

Outside there is a centrally located swimming pool which serves the whole complex as well as a large braai area with a gas braai. At the bottom of the garden is private access to the incredible child-friendly beach below. Ancient Baobab trees from centuries before silhouette the blue skies and garden that beholds the chatter of the wild birds and monkeys all around. This is an exclusive home and the perfect setting for your African adventure.

Mozambique has a rich culinary heritage. With its strong Portuguese influence, specialties revolve around fresh seafood, coconut curries and its world famous peri-peri chicken. Mix that in with your host's English heritage and love of braaing (barbecuing) and you get an idea of what to expect on a holiday here. In the morning, depending on the guests preference, its fresh seasonal fruits, cereal or oats, a choice of eggs, bacon or tomatoes with fresh Portuguese rolls or toast. For lunch & evening dinner expect meals prepared by a personal chef, or to eat out at top restaurants or barbeque poolside. Mouth-watering barbeques from the poolside are a must as you look out onto golden sandbanks with colourful dhows sailing past.

Vegetarian diets can be catered for on this holiday, with an array of tropical fruits and fresh vegetables. Please note that diets such as vegan and gluten-free are harder to manage due to the remoteness of the ride. Please speak to your sales consultant to find out more.

There is no single supplement on this ride, all solo travellers will have a private bedroom and en-suite bathroom and are not expected to share.

Please note that in the instance that Vila de Sonhos is full an alternative but similarly privately rented home or resort will be offered.

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.

General information:

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.

General information:

UK citizens require a visa for entry to Mozambique. You can normally purchase a single entry tourist visas at major border crossings and international airports ($95, valid for 30 days, none renewable). Some travellers have reported problems with this service (no availability of visas, length of time to issue) and it is subject to change, often with no notice.
We recommend that you apply for a visa at your nearest Mozambican Mission, where all types of visa are available, prior to your journey and well in advance of your planned visit. You should ensure that you have the correct visa for the purpose and length of your visit and obtain a clear explanation of the visa's validity and what it allows you to do. You will receive a heavy fine if you overstay your visa or have the wrong type of visa for your time in Mozambique.

South Africa & Passport Validity
If you are planning to visit South Africa before or after Mozambique your passport must be valid for a minimum of six months. The South Africa authorities state that officially only one blank passport page is required for entry. But there have been reports that some South Africa officials insist on two blank pages. We recommend you have two blank pages.

High Commission of the Republic of Mozambique, 21 Fitzroy Square, London, W1T 6EL. Telephone:(020) 7383 3800, Fax:(020) 7383 3801, Website: http://www.mozambiquehc

The British High Commission in Mozambique is found at: Av Vladimir I Lenine, 310, (CP 55) Maputo, Mozambique. Telephone: + (258) (21) 356 000 (The High Commission answer machine gives an emergency contact number) Fax: + (258) (21) 356 060, Website:

Climate Summary

If you are looking for warm weather, blue skies and sunny days, Vilankulo & the Bazaruto Archipelago cannot be beaten.

April to November is the cooler, dryer winter season with temperatures at times reaching over 30°C by day. It is shorts and t-shirt weather and what most people from around the world would call an amazing summer. In the evening and early morning you may need a jacket and during the night a light duvet is required. The winter weather cannot be compared to South Africa which is very much colder.

December to March is the hotter and wetter summer season. With Mozambique lying in the rain shadow of Madagascar it has a relatively low annual rainfall and a great deal of protection from the tropical storms and the occasional cyclone which head towards it during this period. When it does rain it is usually very brief but with vigorous downpours after which the sun comes out again. The beauty of Vilankulo & the Bazaruto Archipelago during summer is that it seldom rains enough to spoil the riding and there is usually a cool breeze on the beach.

Climate Chart


You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. NHS Direct (+ 44 0845 46 47) can provide you with advice on vaccination requirements for Mozambique.
You should observe routine food and hygiene measures when travelling. Only drink boiled and filtered or bottled water.

Health (ride specific)

Vilanculos is a malaria area and we recommend taking anti-malarial precautions on this trip. Please consult your doctor or pharmacist. As well as any prescribed medication we recommend that you take along the following personal medication: insect repellent, sun cream, Imodium and antihistamine creams.


Electricity: 220/240V 50Hz
Electric Plug Details: European plug with 2 circular metal pins or South African/Indian-style plug with 2 circular metal pins above a large circular grounding pin.

Film and Camera Equipment

There will be electricity for a number of hours each day in your room and you can recharge camera and batteries then. A UK or South African plug adaptor are handy in Mozambique. There is not much opportunity to purchase film or lithium batteries, supplies are limited. It is best to bring whatever you need with you.
There is good mobile reception in Vilaculos. Internet access is erratic.

Packing List

Riding clothes:
Riding hat, ideally with ventilation
Long trousers/jodhpurs
Long-sleeved shirts to avoid sunburn and mosquitos
Riding shoes/boots that you can walk in
If you like to ride in chaps and gloves then of course you may take these items too. It is advised that all riding items are worn in before you travel (I.e. not brand new for the holiday) to be the most comfortable whilst riding in the hot weather.

Casual wear when not riding
Sunglasses on a string
Broad-rimmed hat
A light jacket or pullover may be necessary during the winter months of June and July
Personal medication such as Imodium, antihistamine creams, painkillers etc
Anti-malarial prophylaxis
Insect repellent (a repellent containing a high percentage of DEET is advised)
Passport and a copy of your travel insurance
Snorkelling equipment if desired (mask, snorkel, fins)
Waterproof camera

Water bottles
Bath towels
Beach towels

Electricity can be unreliable in Vilankulo and although a standby generator is provided at the lodges, a torch is very useful in the case of a late night power cut.

One day of this itinerary visits a local village. The school here is always very grateful for donations of supplies for the children (paper, pencils, rubbers etc.), if you have any space in your suitcase and would like to bring a few items they would be much appreciated!


This is a 5 days / 4 nights programme with 5 days riding available all year round.

Departure Dates

All year round on request.

A single room can be booked for no extra supplement when available.

No of   
Riding days Product item description £
2022 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5double pp2,779
2022 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5supplement - single rider555
No of   
Riding days Product item description
2022 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5double pp3,069
2022 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5supplement - single rider615
No of   
Riding days Product item description $
2022 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5double pp2,875
2022 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5supplement - single rider575
No of   
Riding days Product item description SEK
2022 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5double pp33,515
2022 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5supplement - single rider6,705
Additional Night Pricing
  No of days/nights Product item description £
2022 - Extra Night (no riding)per nightdouble pp289
  No of days/nights Product item description
2022 - Extra Night (no riding)per nightdouble pp319
  No of days/nights Product item description $
2022 - Extra Night (no riding)per nightdouble pp299
  No of days/nights Product item description SEK
2022 - Extra Night (no riding)per nightdouble pp3,499
Recommended Reading

One Hundred and Four Horses by Mandy Retzlaff
A Different Kind of War Story by Carolyn Nordstrom
The Wooden Ox by LeAnne Hardy
Mozambique: The Bradt Travel Guide by Philip Briggs and Mark Whittington

Other Activities

Horse riding is just one of the activities enjoyed by residents of the lodges. Almost every water based sport you can think of is available from here and many cultural and adventure activities.

Suggestions include:
Swimming in the ocean and swimming pool, canoeing or sea kayaking along the mangrove swamps, along the coast or to the islands, dinghy or yacht sailing, sunset sailing or day trips in local fishing dhows, windsurfing, deep sea fishing (see below for details), snorkelling from the shore or out on one of the spectacular reefs, scuba diving (beginner and refresher courses available), paddle skiing, bird watching, local town and market visits, excursions to the local nature reserve and marine reserves or mangrove swamps.

Deep sea fishing is a feature of this part of Mozambique. The Bazaruto Archipelago is a unique area with a large variety of fish species and world famous for its Black Marlin. The fishing in this area is of interest to various types of anglers: from the avid fly fisher to the spinning specialist and the big game angler. While fishing in the shallow waters around the many reefs, it is not uncommon to catch more than 10 different types of fish in one day.
The distinct change of water temperature in the area attracts both winter and summer fish. In the summer months there are the Giant and other Trevallies, like golden Kingfish, Brassy Jacks and other Big eye Carangidae. They have been landed and released in excess of 35 kg. Tuna fish such as Skipjack, Kawakawa, Frigate (Thazard) and Yellowfin can be caught from September to December and in May. In December most of the Dorado (Dolphin fish) can be caught. Sailfish is abundant from April to July and again from September to January. You will find King Mackerel, Pompano Queenfish Mackerel, Bonitos and many species of reef fish at any time of the year.


Mozambique's main attraction is its tropical beaches and warm waters. The most important area of all is the Bazaruto Archipelago, situated off the coast close to the fishing village of Vilanculos. Mozambique has an ecologically rich and diverse wildlife. The country has 232 species of mammals and 740 species of bird. Mozambique's conservation areas suffered great loss of life during wars from the 1970s until the early 1990s. However the Bazaruto Archipelago has not been affected. It is home to stunning coral reefs and over 80% of all marine fish families of the Indo-Pacific.

Other Information

One day of this itinerary visits a local village. The school here is always very grateful for donations of supplies for the children (paper, pencils, rubbers etc.), if you have any space in your suitcase and would like to bring a few items they would be much appreciated!

Vilanculos is a malaria area and we strongly recommend taking anti-malarial precautions on this trip. Please consult your doctor or pharmacist before you travel and ensure that you continue to take your full course of anti-malarial precautions once you have returned home.

Other Country Information

In the early 1970's under as a Portuguese colony, Mozambique enjoyed a thriving tourism trade centered on the capital Maputo and the BAzaruto Island Archipelago. After independence Mozambique descended into a lengthy period of civil war causing the large sections of the population to flee to neighbouring countries as refugees. The civil war ended in 1992 and a mass repatriation of the population started. Since then the economy has been growing at a healthy rate, aided by international aid, the revival of a fledgling tourism industry and natural mineral resources such as titanium.

Mozambique has a population of 17,000,000 and the capital city is Maputo. Portuguese is the official and most widely spoken language of the nation. The time zone is GMT/UTC + 2 and the Country Dialing Code +258.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Vilanculos Airport (VNX)
Included from meeting point. Transfer time is approximately 15 minutes.
Flight Guide:
Via Johannesburg to Vilanculos from £750 - £1,000