Tropical Sands - Mozambique

African Paradise

5 star rating   16 January 2020

Kim who has been on 18 In The Saddle rides. Tropical Sands Mozambique - Undiscovered Beach Paradise | This was our third visit to Mozambique Horse Safari, simply because it is so amazing, with lovely people, great horses and incredible scenery and riding. We have been all over the world and rarely repeat our journeys, but this is one place that keeps drawing us back as it feels very much like home. It is a very personal experience, we have never had to ride with more than 4 or 5 people, and are usually on our own. Pat and Mandy are truly amazing hosts. They work incredibly hard and run a stable of well loved and well cared for horses, several of which are the original horses that they rescued from the atrocities in Zimbabwe when they escaped to Mozambique to start a new life. You can read about them in Mandy's book '104 Horses' which helps you to understand what a truly amazing achievement this is.

The horses are largely Arab and Boerperd crosses, so are not particularly big, quite narrow, but are very willing and extremely fit. The riding is relaxed and on a long rein with plenty of space to spread out. I have ridden Texas for the last 2 years and Brutus the first time, they were very different but I loved both of them. They are now breeding some of their own so they can produce the type of horse that suits their needs and terrain. The horses on Benguerra are used mainly for day rides with novices and are not as easy and responsive as those on the mainland, but the island is lovely to explore on horseback, we even saw pelicans and flamingos along the beaches.

A lot of the rides are based on the beach and therefore timing very much depends of the tides, a full moon this year gave a tidal shift of almost 5 metres and it's amazing how far and fast the water comes and goes. But it gives huge expanses of largely empty beach and with the guides knowledge of the safe hard sand areas, there are wonderful opportunities for some lovely long canters. The local fisherman are very active along the beaches, so you do need to be a confident rider with wits about you to ensure you keep a watchful eye out for ropes and anchors attached to boats and for holes dug by the locals to collect shellfish and bait for fishing. The Red Dune ride is probably one of my all time favourites, the view of the bay at low tide is stunning.

There are also opportunities to do swimming rides and ocean walks bareback if the tide is right, it is fun watching the horses play in the water and enjoy a good roll. Sea temperature is very warm, probably 28-29 degrees whilst we were there in January.

They do intersperse the beach rides with opportunities to see the inland lakes, the local fishing villages and also give you the opportunity to take a dhow ride to a neighbouring island to have a ride around some slightly different scenery. There is also an option to go on a canoe safari to watch the sunset and see the amazing fireflies once it is dark, can thoroughly recommend it!

The Riding

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The Accommodation

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We have always stayed in a beautiful lodge called Vila da Sonhos which is set above the beach in lovely mature gardens which attract birds and has an amazing view of sunrise if you are keen enough to get up at 5am to watch it! It has an upstairs balcony with chairs and a lounge and dining room downstairs, although most meals are taken outside on the terrace. The lodge comes with it's own maid and chef. The food is amazing and plentiful with lots of local fresh fruit and fish. Some meals are also taken along the beachside restaurants or in town. The fridge is always stocked with drinks for you to help yourself.

Mozambique is still a 3rd world country and is still not a well known tourist destination, so you have to be prepared for service and menus to be a little limited compared to home. There were several episodes of power cuts (the villa has a generator) and one famous day when the pizza restaurant ran out of cheese and took a while scouting the town to find enough to be able to provide us with dinner. There is always a back up plan, so if you go with an open mind and be prepared to adapt and laugh about it, you will not have a problem. This is Africa...…..and things don't always follow the European ideals. A sense of humour and adventure will help you make the most of the experience, but you most definitely won't starve! My diet and detox has to start when I get home.

Before Your Holiday

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As usual, all very good.

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Most people have never heard of Mozambique, it has a bad reputation from years of civil war. However it is a beautiful country with lots of open space and is very underdeveloped which is part of the attraction. It still feels very authentic and unspoilt. We never felt threatened or unsafe in our time there. The only downside is that the flights are relatively expensive as there are no direct ones, so it is a long journey to get there. However there is not really any jetlag as the time difference is only 2 hours!

We were very unimpressed with South African Airlines, we were under the impression we had booked 2 side seats and paid extra before we went and got stuck in the middle 2 of a middle 4 on the 12 hour leg, made worse by the French air traffic controllers striking which extended the flight by 45 minutes. Not sure we would want to fly with them again!