Santo Horse Adventures, Vanuatu

There’s something about seeing a brochure or an ad on TV where there are people riding horses through waist-deep water on the beach that makes you feel that would be one of the best experiences in the world.

And the heavens open

And the heavens open

When we went to Espiritu Santo we weren’t sure if you could ride horses but we quickly found out that there is one (and only one), horse riding business offering trail rides and yes, that does mean a ride along the beach and in the water.

Saddling up at Santo Horse Adventures

Saddling up at Santo Horse Adventures

I’m a big lover of animals and I adore horses but I’m the world’s worst rider.  I have ridden quite a few times and seem to be highly skilled at falling off.  And that makes me nervous.  Because falling from a horse and ending up with one foot caught in a stirrup is terrifying.  But because I love horses I never say ‘no’ to an opportunity for a ride.

Great facilities

Great facilities

Megan is a Kiwi who owns and runs Santo Horse Adventures from land at Lope Lope Lodge.  Lope Lope is just 15-minutes from the town of Luganville and situated where you can trail ride through rain forest, arriving at a Blue Hole and then heading to a white sand beach to horse ride through the warm turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean.

The tariff includes pick-up and drop-off from your accommodation

The tariff includes pick-up and drop-off from your accommodation

Megan has had her business for over a decade.  She grew up in New Zealand and was given her first horse and started riding when she was three.  All the horses she has at Lope Lope are rescue horses and being an enormous lover of the four-legged friend that has best served man, she uses her funds to continually rescue horses who are being abused.

Off we go

Off we go

I was shocked to hear of the abuse of horses but Megan was quick to tell me that most abuse occurs through ignorance rather than intent.  More than half of the horses Megan has rescued will never be able to be ridden due to their traumatic past but the remaining horses have been successfully rehabilitated and are loyal, faithful and gentle, and have totally embraced their new life at Lope Lope.

The ride takes you through very different scenery and vegetation

The ride takes you through very different scenery and vegetation

Booking a trail ride with Santo Horse Adventures includes a pick-up and drop-off service from your accommodation.  Lope Lope is just a five-minute drive from Barrier Beach House and had I known how close it was I would have suggested we just take the bikes and cycle there.

One horse has a heavy load

One horse has a heavy load

When we booked the ride it had been raining in Santo for about 10-days straight.  Megan advised the trail ride she would normally take us on was closed due to the wet conditions but that there was an alternative she was sure we would enjoy.

The horses love to eat the long grass

The horses love to eat the long grass

We couldn’t have arrived at Santo Horse Adventures on a better day.  Megan was bubbling over with excitement because one of her mares had given birth to a new foal.  The new mother was being an excellent mum to her baby and the new foal was absolutely perfect-looking and up on his feet and doing very well.  The first thing Megan did was drive us to the fence where we could see the foal, not yet 12-hours old.  What a privilege!

A precious baby trying to stand

A precious baby trying to stand

The set-up at Santo Horse Adventures is impressive.  Megan’s horses are kept in beautiful conditions; their stables are clean and airy and spacious and there is an entire team devoted to their care.  And they’re not overworked; regardless of tourism demands, the horses aren’t ridden every day but are given days off from their duties just like humans.

Up he gets.  Just 12-hours new.

Up he gets. Just 12-hours new.

I was quick to inform Megan of my previous misadventures on horseback and she listened to me intently and was extremely sympathetic and took some time to think about which horse would be best for a ‘Nervous Nellie’.  Megan put me on ‘Whiskey’, a horse with a sad past who’s very gentle and predictable and I felt very confident while sitting in the saddle.

The main road - it's never congested

The main road – it’s never congested

All saddled up, Megan gave us a quick riding lesson and off we went.  I have to say this was the most relaxed I’ve ever been on a horse.  Megan knows her horses well and tells you what to look out for in their personalities and she’s everywhere making sure the ride and experience is going well for you.

Edging around a blue hole

Edging around a blue hole

We left the grounds of Lope Lope and headed through the rainforest and came out onto the main road.  But it’s not like a main road in Sydney as there’s no traffic to worry about.  We then called in to Megan’s property because Archie had somehow been in conversation with Megan where he mentioned, of all things, a flying fox bat.  Megan said, ‘I’ve got one’.  What were the odds?

Trail ride

Trail ride

Over a year ago Megan found an orphaned baby flying fox in her backyard and took care of it.  The bat’s not kept in a cage and is free to fly away but he just loves being a part of Megan’s family and stays on their property where he’s as well looked after as her horses.

Fruit Bat

A flying fox

We left Megan’s property then went around the outskirts of some villages and then headed into the rainforest.  You do need to duck your head as horses seem for forget you’re a metre higher off the ground than they are and they also need to be reminded to allow for greater clearance as they walk beside fence posts and tree trunks as otherwise your leg will make painful contact with a stationary object.

The main road of Santo

The main road of Santo

We went through the rainforest and came out at a blue hole on the Lope Lope land.  This was when the heavens opened and there was a massive downpour.  We headed down to the beach and had a ride through the water.  I had to put my camera away as it’s not water-proof.

A ride through the rainforest

A ride through the rainforest

After our ride through the water we made our way back to the stables where Megan gave us a fresh coconut water to drink.  The coconuts are delivered every morning for Megan, her team and the trail riders.

The blue hole at Lupe Lupe

The blue hole at Lupe Lupe

If we hadn’t been so saturated we would have walked down to Lope Lope and enjoyed a drink or something to eat at their restaurant but we were so soaking wet we just headed back to Barrier Beach House.  Even if it doesn’t rain, do be prepared to get wet as the ride through water is quite deep in parts.

There's a downpour on the way

There’s a downpour on the way

Santo Horse Adventures is an excellent way to spend half a day in Santo.  The rides suit everyone from the competent rider right through to the Nervous-Nellie amateur.  This was definitely the best trail ride I have ever been on and the most comfortable and confident I have felt on a horse.  And the best part is, all the money spent goes towards keeping these horses in the best possible conditions with all extra funds being devoted to rescuing more horses.

Approaching the beach

Approaching the beach

Verdict:  A ‘must-do’.

Looking like I've been in a wet t-shirt contest

Looking like I’ve been in a wet t-shirt contest

Santo Horse Adventures:  Lope Lope Lodge, East Coast Road, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

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Comments

  1. What a fantastic story – the adventure, the care, the rain, and above all to hear about such a worthwhile venture. It’s so encouraging to meet someone who cares so deeply for her animals and has even rehabilitated some traumatised animals. Looks like you had a great day, and you felt safe on the horse that was chosen for you.

  2. The closest I get to horse riding is feeding a horse an apple or carrot on my daily run. He lives in the field up the road.
    Pete and I would love a holiday like you all enjoyed Charlie.
    Have a beautiful day.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  3. Looks like fun… wish I wasn’t allergic to horses! Thanks for your photos and stories!

  4. What a lovely day and a fantastic woman, looking after all those beautiful horses, I’m glad you had a great day!
    Liz xx

  5. Charlie I wouldn’t have expected a wet tshirt photo from you but you do like to surprise! Riding horses in the ocean is like from an ad or movie-what an experience!

  6. What a fun adventure.

  7. your vanuatu adventures are amazing – seems like you tried everything on the island and such memorable activities – no wonder your kids are still happy to go on holidays with you – I rode horse a little as a child and only did about one trail ride but I did enjoy it – though being on a horse makes you feel so high above the ground that it is unnerving. Love your pictures of the foal – how lucky were you to see it as well as all the other lovely scenery.

  8. I’ve really loved experiencing your vacation with you! I think the horse ride may have been my favorite part. What fun! How exciting to see the new foal and the Flying Fox Bat is adorable. Who knew?

  9. What a vacation you’ve had. Such memories cinched away.

  10. What a wonderful adventure! Horses make a bit nervous too, but more than that, the horse riding is so hard on my knees. Though I may forget that if I can ride through the water on the beach like some movie scene.

  11. What a great day you had and I’m sure glad you didn’t fall off your horse this time. It sounds like the people are quite lovely which is such a bonus in a vacation resort; I’ve been to one place in the Caribbean where they were surly. What a nice treat to have coconut water, it’s suppo to be very good for you to replenish electrolytes.

  12. What a fabulous adventure! Sounds like something that I would love to do. Glad you enjoyed it.

  13. How lovely this all sounds Charlie. And what a wonderful woman Megan is to rescue those horses. Your family will have so many great memories of holidays together. Good on you for not falling off the horse!:)

  14. What a fun and fantastic trip, glad you are no longer a Nervous-Nellie on horses anymore.

  15. You all have many more adventures on your holidays than we do! A fox bat? Seeing a new foal? Such fun. Off to see my parents—will check in when I get back. My mom has taken a turn–and my dad is devastated 🙁

  16. What a great adventure!

  17. What a lovely way of giving these animals a second shot at life. It looks like the horses have an idyllic lifestyle- rambles through the rainforest,long walks on the beach and a dip in tropical waters to cool off. I’m sure they deserve every luxury they get after suffering through abuse and neglect. Wonderful adventure for you guys and what a wonderful business to support as well 🙂 xo

  18. Boom shakalaka … Looking hot in your Wet Tee. 🙂
    This looks like soooo much fun! If I ever get back to the South Pacific, totes gonna do this.

  19. That looks so beautiful Charlie and what a wonderful story behind the horses.
    I am a total nervous Nellie. I used to be a decent rider and we were on a trail ride at Noosa when my horse bolted on the beach. My mum who is a super rider couldn’t even catch up. I eventually fell off and have been scarred for life. I guess one day I will ‘get back on the horse.’

  20. What an absolute treat!

  21. What an amazing experience. My husband and I did a horse ride tour in the Daintree and that included riding along the beach, but not actually in the water! I’m a nervous rider too but it was a great thing to do and this sounds wonderful.

  22. Oh, what fun – Charlie – haven’t ridden a horse in years!

  23. Oh baby, I’d vote for you in the contest! 🙂

    We did a horseback ride in New Zealand in the bush and on the beach and I loved every minute of it.

  24. I am so glad you had a chance to ride a horse and feel safe and confident. I would think this experience would put yo at ease in the future, too, but horses have such differing dispositions I think it is a good idea to be paired properly. Megan obviously knows exactly what she’s doing. I admire the work she’s doing in horse rescue. Our friend, also Megan, is involved in small animal rescue and I see what work is involved. I can only imagine how much more complex with horses. What a wonderful family experience, too. I really enjoyed reading this post, Charlie! I’d have enjoyed being with you on this one. 🙂

  25. Wow!!! This trip would top all trips. What an amazing experience, and the scenery is beyond magical. Beautiful, Hugs, Terra

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