The hottest horseback riding destination in Africa with unmatched beach riding on fit, well-loved horses. This is an unmissable extension to any African holiday or a riding vacation in its own right. The tropical colors of the sea must be seen to be believed. When not exploring the coastline on horseback, relax and enjoy a spot of fishing,  snorkeling on world class coral reefs, or scuba diving. Visit the local markets, swim with your horses or sail to Benguerra Island for a ride.

Hosts, Mandy and Pat Retzlaff, have a passion for life (and great stories to tell) and the spirit of fun and adventure runs deep, as does the care and love shown for their horses. Suitable for all levels of riding and with enough activities to keep non-riders happily occupied for weeks, this is an equestrian destination with great riding and luxury accommodation right on the beach. To see more: https://vimeo.com/125597306
 

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

Additional Comments
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
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Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
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What could we do to improve this ride?
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
6
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Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
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May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time!! :)

Sample itinerary: 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.

Day 1 - Introduction Day
Guests are met at Vilankulo Airport by either Pat or Mandy Retzlaff, the hosts and guides for the week. After a short transfer from the airport,  settle you into the lodging for the week. Meet the horses and staff at the stables where the riders are presented with a number of horses to try in the riding school. Once comfortable, head out onto the beach for a slow and relaxing ride that allows riders 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. Approx. 1.5 hours riding.

Day 2 - Benguerra Island Ride
In the morning a motorized dhow will whisk riders through the Bazaruto National Park to the famous Benguerra Island. Look out for pods of dolphin’s breaching the water, and old fishing dhows from a time gone by. The horses will be waiting under palm trees on a pristine white sandy beach. The horses are eager underfoot as the the guide points out the local flora and fauna. As the group heads inland, pass through local villages, towards high golden sand dunes and fresh water lakes with flocks of flamingos. The ride continues at a relaxed pace along sandy tracks onto a long beach past local fisherman. Before reaching the stables, slip off the saddle and enjoy a bareback swim in the warm waters. If the tide allows, can spend some time snorkeling on Magaruque Island where a simple & delicious seafood lunch is served under a shady tree.  Return to the mainland as the sun is setting for dinners and drinks. Approx. 3 hours riding.

Day 3 - Fishing Village Ride
Enjoy a relaxing morning before a lunchtime ride to a local fishing village. From the stables, Mandy guides the group down to the beach at a gentle walk. On passing the rocks, the beach opens up allowing for a canter toward the mangrove trees in the distance, and up a red bank to the "Fingerprint of God". The panoramic views look out over the Bazaruto Archipelago, with colourful dhows that glide along the channels, and fisherwomen hunting crab in shallow sands. Continue through winding coconut plantations along the beach path to the Managlise Fishing Village. Riders are greeted by smiling, laughing children, and fresh coconut juice. Enjoy a lunch that will possibly consist of fresh crab, grilled fish from the mornings catch, and Matapa; a Mozambican dish made from cassava leaves, nuts and coconut milk. After the meal, the children entertain the riders with local songs and dances. Once goodbyes are completed, the horses are saddled up, ready for the trip home. The Fishing Village Ride is a completely authentic, rich cultural experience and brings much appreciated business to a locality well off of the beaten track. It helps the locals (who once feared the horses) have a better understanding and involvement with them in their community. Approx. 2 hours riding.

Day 4 - Red Dunes Ride, North Beach
After breakfast, head to the sables to saddled up and ride down to the beach. your horse’s ears prick up at the sound of chatting fisherman in passing dhows. Enjoy a long morning canter. Ride past Vilankulo town, and back to the beach, and to the Red Dune, towering above the shoreline. The horses take the lead on reaching as they climb to the summit. The views of the blues seas and silver sandbanks stretching into the distance is breathtaking. After numerous photos and dune jumps, head back down to the beach for another canter before lunch. Stop at a local arts and crafts center that supports the community in the afternoon – 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 this tranquil settings, perfect to toast the last night of the trip. Approx. 3-4 hours riding.

Day 5 - Farewell Morning Ride
A farewell ride in the morning that follows the beach southwards, passing through lines of mangroves and swaying palms. The ride allows for long canters up towards the "Fingerprint of God"; the viewpoint overlooking the Bazaruto Archipelago. A little further on it is time for a canter along the beach in time for lunch before bidding farewell to the horses, hosts and Vilankulo.

 

Alternate Rides: the changing tides in Vilankulo control the timing of rides and in which order they happen. If any f the rides can't be undertaken, they will be alternated with the rides below. Additionally, your hosts are very flexible and if the group 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. Approx. 3 to 4 hours riding
This is a favourite of many guests. The route takes riders along the old coastal main road running parallel to the beach before meandering up and wading across a small river estuary. Along the route, riders 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, follow a bush track through dense woodlands that leads down on to the beach with amazing views over the bay. The long, deserted, safe, sandy beaches offer a chance to experience dream-like canters on our way back to the stables. After a long day in the saddle, relax with sundowners and a fine dinner at a local restaurant.

Swimming Ride and Canoe Trip. 1 hour riding + 3.5 hours activity
To start this extraordinary ride, riders mount your horse bareback on the beach before wading chest deep into the blue turquoise seas on an amazing ocean walk that takes you along our shoreline for approximately 30 minutes until reaching a safe swimming spot. Once dismounted, lead a new horse into the shallows. There is a sense of excitement as they play in the water. Once the horses have settled, mount bareback and wade out to the deeper water, the majority of time the horse will be attached to a long lead rope for safety.On reaching deeper water one can feel the exploding surge and strength as the horse propels forward. It is an experience that cannot be described, each horse is different and it is truly something not to miss.
In the late afternoon, travel out to the Govuro River by vehicle to be paddled along a picture-perfect waterway. Soak up the lush river riverine, look out for native fish and listen to the magical calls of birdlife. As evening falls ducks will return inland to roost.

The Great Lakes Ride. 3 hours riding 
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. 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 aon this cross-country ride. There is plenty of opportunities for long canters on the beach on the way home.

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 40 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, and riders are not required to help with this unless ythey 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.

Guests are based at the Sea Horse Private Beach House, a charming seaside home set in a large garden on the beach with exquisite views overlooking the Bazaruto Archipelago. The house has recently been rebuilt in 2022 with swimming pool, cobbled fire-pit, patio, driveway, WIFI and all the latest amenities added.



It is fully serviced, sleeping up to 6 people with 3 spacious bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It has a fully equipped kitchen with large dining island and a comfortable lounge with all the modern conveniences of a beach home. It is tastefully decorated with handcrafted furniture, kilim rugs and local art & photography. The terraced lawns run towards the beach with swimming pool, al fresco dining area and fire pit. At the bottom of the garden is an ancient Baobab tree and private access to the incredible beach below.



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.



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 Sea Horse Beach House is full an alternative but similarly privately rented home or resort in the area will be offered.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures When visiting Mozambique your passport should be valid for 6 months from the date you arrive and have at least two blank pages.Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements..British passports no longer require a visa on arrival since May 2023, just a USD 11.00 | MZN 650 registration fee. Other passport holders may still be required to have a valid visa.  You must present a return air ticket on entry (for air travellers) and either an invitation from family / friends or a confirmed hotel reservation. If you are planning to visit South Africa before or after Mozambique your passport must be valid for a minimum of six months and we recommend you have two blank pages. Be sure to check the latest regulations concerning travelling with children under 18. Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements. Passport and Visa 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 should you need a visa. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/mozambique In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Mozambique.html In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/mozambique


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

Health

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

You should always bring any regular prescription drugs you may need with you, and spare, just in case.

Hospital facilities are generally poor in Mozambique, especially in the north of the country. In cases of serious illness or injury, medical evacuation to South Africa or the UK may be necessary.

Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 08911 or 21313103 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Mozambique and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.


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.

You should observe routine food and hygiene measures when travelling. Only drink boiled and filtered or bottled water

Electricity

In Mozambique the supply voltage is 220V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 230V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.

Mobile, WiFi and charging

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.

Other:
Casual wear when not riding
Swimwear
Sandals/flip-flops
Sweater
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
Toiletries
Anti-malarial prophylaxis
Insect repellent (a repellent containing a high percentage of DEET is advised)
Sunblock
Passport and a copy of your travel insurance
Snorkelling equipment if desired (mask, snorkel, fins)
Waterproof camera

Provided:
Water bottles
Bumbags
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!

Programmes

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

Departure Dates

2024: Year round on request

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


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2024 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5double pp2,405
2024 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5supplement - single rider459
2024 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5non-rider sharing1,079
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2024 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5double pp2,805
2024 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5supplement - single rider539
2024 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5non-rider sharing1,265
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
2024 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5double pp3,115
2024 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5supplement - single rider599
2024 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5non-rider sharing1,405
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2024 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5double pp31,819
2024 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5supplement - single rider6,099
2024 - 5 days/4 nights5d/4n5non-rider sharing14,325
Recommended Reading


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.

Wildlife

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

Mozambique is regularly affected by natural disasters, including floods, drought and cyclones. Cyclones and floods are particularly common during the rainy season (November-April). Monitor local reports and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation,


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)
Transfer:
Included from meeting point. Transfer time is approximately 15 minutes.
Flight Guide:
London to Vilanculos from £920pp return (via Johannesburg)