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“Best Birthday ever”

Mozambique Horse Safari
Ranked #1 of 18 things to do in Vilanculos
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: Come and share in the epic adventures of the Retzlaff family where the legends of the rescued horses of Mozambique Horse Safari come to life. Open your eyes to a different world, where you will ride the beaches on a sprightly bay, wade into turquoise seas and share in the unbreakable bond between man and horse. The majority of our horses were rescued from Zimbabwean farms at the height of political violence and each horse has their own incredible story. You will meet Texas, the strong grey gelding who was about to be fed to lions, and Princess, a gentle loving mare who survived a spear to the shoulder by marauding thugs. You will also meet Lady an orphan foal that has grown into the matriarch of our herd, and Morango, a newly born foal and hope for the future. Our guests become part of the family and often return regularly with deep bonds forming between horse and rider. Riding with Mozambique Horse Safari is a truly life changing experience!
Reviewed January 15, 2014

So i decided i was going some where special for my birthday this year, so i chose Mozambique horse riding safari , it was a truly amazing week i spent with Mandy & pat , riding every day , wined & dined in some lovely restaurants , i did the full weeks riding program and was looked after in every way.
The swimming with the horses in the see was awesome..
The horses are very well cared for. All staff could do enough for me..

Thank-you all for a truly amazing stay..

2  Thank emmafirth
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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102 - 106 of 137 reviews

Reviewed January 13, 2014

I hired a villa in Vilanculos and so cannot comment on staying or the accommodation however, when I found the website and saw the photos I was beyond excited. I e-mailed and didn't get a response so I called and spoke with Mandy. She was very friendly and assured me riding wouldn't be a problem and just contact them once we arrived at the villa which we did. There were 7 of us on the trip and only myself and partner riding. I had already been told he wouldn't be able to ride on the island because he was too tall for the horses kept there, however, I wanted to ride there. Mandy had assured me this wasn't a problem, the others could stay at the hotel on the island and snorkel etc whilst I was riding. Everyone was really excited but trying to arrange this was ridiculous and probably took about 5 phone calls which I was not at all impressed with. When booking we were also told the price included breakfast and lunch at a 5* hotel. Both actually consisted of a picnic on the journey to and from the island on the boat. Riding on the island was simply stunning and the lady who looks after the horses there is extremely knowledgeable about the island and a joy to ride with. The horses were lovely, very well looked after and well suited to the ability of the rider. Back on the mainland my partner and I wanted to ride several more times but couldn't actually arrange it. This was extremely annoying as we had put a good chunk of money aside for riding, carted our riding things half way around the world and would have ridden most days but we simply weren't being called back and so couldn't arrange anything. Vilanculos was, apparently, very quiet for the time of year and as a prospective customer and business person myself find it disappointing we were trying to fight to give them our business. What Pat and Mandy have done is truly admirable and an incredible story, I only wish I could have given them more business.

Thank CazMold
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 12, 2014

I am a very inexperienced rider and just like horses so I thought I'd give it a go...oh my gosh it was AMAZING! The horses are absolute gorgeous and so lovely and I ended up going three times during my 10 day stay. Charlotte is a wonderful teacher and the whole experience has got me really excited to do more horse riding now i'm back in the UK. Thanks for an amazing experience and love to Charlotte and all of your lovely horses! xxx

1  Thank ImiKof
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 22, 2013

Lots of details below but if you have specific questions please send me a message!

*AMAZING* rides through the bush, along the beach and among the villages surrounding Vilankulos, Chibuene, Mozambique, where the tides dictate your rides and a drink is never far away

Day One: Introductory Ride (horses: Texas, Evita, Black Magic, Holly)
Saddled up around 4pm, descending from the paddocks down to the beach, heading south along the firm packed sands of the bay, along the beach in front of the lodge, over a small rocky point leading to long canters and gallops. We had 1,000 questions for Pat and he gamely answered all of them. Wove through Mangrove forests, marveling at the bird and plant life. It was spring and EVERYTHING was in blossom. As the sun set to the west, the tide receded east. We passed colorful wooden boats (dhows) atilt in the sand, patches of cockleshells and gently rolling sand bars. I rode a rangy gray gelding named Texas who was relaxed and easy going. My friend rode a spirited chestnut mare named Evita (daughter of Princess, featured in the book One Hundred and Four Horses and who we later met on Benguerra Island). Both horses were great partners in our adventure, far more than mere trail horses; they responded easily to the leg and both were kind and alert during the ride. Other horses on the ride: the gorgeous dark brown mare Black Magic and the light footed bay mare Holly. Post-ride drinks and dinner at Archipelago, followed by drinks at Casa Gucci. Note: now is the time to give input on the horse—they are happy to swap you onto different mounts to find a good match. Keep in mind that if you want to ride together you should ask for somewhat like minded horses; we found that Texas and Holly were a good match for the longer rides.

Day Two: Beach & Bush Ride (Texas, Evita, Black Magic)
A long ride south of the stables along sandy tracks that linked up with the old road to Maputo. Our heads swiveled from side to side, taking in the picturesque scenes of village life. Some villagers & children rushed out to greet us, waving and hollering in Portuguese, while others shrank into the brush as the horses approached. We passed rondovals/huts, piglets & chickens wandering free, school houses, and lots of fruiting monkey orange trees. As we headed further south we enjoyed long canters, glorying in the fact that everyone on the ride was skilled and kept their horses evenly spaced and collected. These are the horsey moments young girls dream of: the rhythmic cadence of ground-eating strides, ears pricked forward, the occasion tail swish. Our canters brought us from the sandy crest of the beach cliff to the grassy banks of a small river. As we approached it the grasses turned to a meadow of ferns; the horses gamely waded through the clear, cool water pushing aside lily pads and we popped up the far side of the bank into another long canter. We traveled south for about two and a half hours, then cut east through the low scrub brush to get down to the beach for the trek back. At the start the tide was out so we got in a few long canters, dashing past storks and egrets, then hugged the deeper sand closer to shore as the tide came in. The grooms met us at Archipelago and we opted for a shower and drinks in our lodge instead of at the bar. We again had many questions for Pat and he did a great job of answering our myriad queries. Note: have a snack before dinner!

Day Three: Eric’s Village Ride (horses: Brutus, Holly, Spice Girl, Megan, Echo)
Our first ride with Mandy I rode Brutus, a savy bay gelding who relished being at the front of the pack. We headed south again along the beach in front of Archipelago, then rode along the road at the crest of the cliff past numerous western-style properties. Mandy had a story for every structure and it was fascinating to hear the details and heartbreak associated with each. The slow pace was well suited to the slightly overcast day and gave us a chance to see many birds and flowers we would have missed at a faster pace. Mandy has a relationship established with the head of a local fishing village; Eric was a great host, greeting us with a warm candor as he deftly wielded a machete to crack open coconuts full of delicious coconut water. He and his family provided a delicious traditional meal (possibly called matata?). The village children gathered and sang. Mandy led us back along the beach through the coconut groves. Dinner at Archipelago as it was a bit windy for the beachy Casbah (but we made it there later in the trip!). Note: bring sweets/pencils for the children!

Day Four: Ride to the Red Dunes (horses: Texas, Holly, Black Magic, Brutus, Meagan)
I was up on Texas again. The ride to the red dunes is a fabulous ride—one of the best in my 20 years of riding--and we had the perfect band of horses. Pat is adept at managing the varying experience levels on the rides; for this group the more advanced riders lingered over breakfast allowing a volunteer to take out a less experienced rider at their own pace. The ride was AWESOME, and our first venture north of the stables, with lots to see on the way. We had some phenomenal canters along the beach to catch up with the earlier group and after politely clip-clopping our way through town we enjoyed a cool drink at Samara as the slower-moving duo advanced ahead of us again. Everyone found this arrangement pleasing and when the groups merged again we had some marvelous group canters and gallops. Then we were at the foot of the red dunes, which the sure footed horses easily scrambled up. The view was spectacular. This tiny nook of Africa is a beautiful place and you’ll be framed by the red sand of the dunes, the shimmering blue hues of the sea and the stark blue of the sky. Note: Take lots of photos!

Day Five: Benguerra Island ride (Tequila, Stardust, Princess)
A long, captivating day consisting of numerous mini-adventures: breakfast on the dhow boat as we traveled to Margaruque Island for snorkeling (wide variety of fish), dolphin spotted on way to Benguerra, epic ride along the wild coast of Benguerra, quick swim on the horses, dinner on the boat back where we spotted a dugong (!!!!) and pods of dolphins. I rode Tequila, a handsome bay gelding who liked calling the shots. My friend rode Stardust, a pleasing, easy-going chestnut mare. The bay mare Princess rounded out the group; she has a temperament similar to her daughter Evita and I can’t wait to read about her in the book. The island horses were fat and sassy, with gleaming coats and flowing tails, clearly well tended and lovingly cared for by the grooms and volunteers. Two of the volunteers based on the island led our ride along picture-perfect white sand beaches, pointing out items of interest. We quickly left Benguerra Lodge behind us, passing Azura hotel, then headed inland to enjoy sweeping views of the bay and mainland. We hopped back down the knolls onto a beach inhabited by striking bluish-green crabs, each king of a sand castle; large pelicans rested in the shallow water; soon we crested brilliantly white sand drifts to be greeted by the pounding waves of the wild side of the island. The only thing between us and Madagascar were pink crabs stalking the frothy surf. We turned inland past freshwater lakes, alert for crocodiles, past villages and along the grass runway of the “airport”. As we drew closer to the two hotels we could see waiters setting up dinner tables in the gentle waters bordering the properties; dolphins often come into the shallow waters to rub along the fine sand, much to the delight of the diners. This was our final ride and Pat kindly arranged to have us do a quick swim on the horses, taking advantage of the shallow waters to ease us up onto their slick bare backs before leading the horses into deeper water. The dhow captain and crew prepared a tasty meal that we enjoyed on the way back to the mainland. Already feeling lucky beyond words to be soaking up the sun beachside on horseback in Mozambique, we got the added bonus of seeing a rare endangered dugong and a few dolphin pods on the way back. Tip: use the bathroom post-snorkel—it’s a long boat ride to Benguerra!

I’ll leave separate reviews for the hotels we stayed at (Archipelago Lodge and Casa Rex—both positive experiences, very different) and the restaurants (mixed reviews). While we were visiting there was a lot of seaweed on the shoreline—not sure if that is a year round occurrence. Our riding and beach vacation was mostly spent on the horse end of that spectrum: getting ready to ride, riding, recovering from riding—very little time for the beach so tack on a few extra days to snorkel and play in the surf. Note: I didn’t see any hotels that had beach furniture on the sand; no chaise lounges and umbrellas so if that’s what you’re looking for double check your accommodations.

The trip had a few small blips but everything associated with the horse riding went well. It’s hard to zoom in for a week and instantly connect with every person you meet, but the staffs of every establishment were friendly. As every other reviewer has said, Pat and Mandy go out of their way to make sure their clients are content. Their son J. was a game, if recalcitrant, companion when we wanted to stay out late to observe the nightlife or get up early to observe the birdlife, and who finally gave in and started smiling at our jokes after about 85 attempts at getting him to laugh. Whichever Retzlaff is involved you will be taken care of: from greeting you at the airport (btw, visas were easily obtained in the airport for USD $85pp in Oct 2013) to plying you with a final drink in the waiting lounge the day you leave, they will shepherd you through a great trip. It wasn’t perfect but it was wonderful. Be upfront about what you like and need and you’ll be fine. Thanks again for the emergency samoosas and stocking us up with seltzer water. And procuring us biltong. And the liquor store trip. And the bird watching hike! And the market tour! And ferrying us around town! …see what I mean?? I could write a lot about them but it would just be my impressions; most of our interactions were activity-focused and it’s hard to have heart-to-hearts at a full gallop or in the midst of a large dinner party. As much as you are visitors in Mozambique, you are visitors in their lives. Any flashes of exasperation were balanced with a sincere desire to take care of their clients. You WILL be called darling. Not every moment was magical but so, so many were amazing and the memories will truly last a lifetime.

Go. Soon.

6  Thank SkylineRider
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 16, 2013

It was 23 years since I was on a horse and I loved it, I was so impressed by the way I was looked after by Pat, it would have been worth it just for the drive and his excellent and interesting company, but it just exceed all my expectations. I rode Lady who was the most beautiful responsive horse, while I was nervous and out of tone it was amazing to be back in the saddle, it has now inspired me to start riding again as I just want to go back. The ride and scenery was stunning, wow. The horses are beautiful, well trained and so well loved and looked after. I felt so inspired by Pat and Mandy who have devoted so much to the most noble of creatures, the horse.
Not only is it proper riding on horses worthy of eventing, a ride you never forget but I came away with such a good feeling to have met Pat and shared a small of something really special, Mandy and Pat's story is incredible.

Thank Peta M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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