Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Lemosho route Kilimanjaro climb and safari
Accommodation and Meals: We will spend 3 nights in comfortable hotels and lodges, 2 nights in a comfortable permanent camp and the remaining week in full-service, wild camping. By camping for the majority of the trip we make a minimal impact on the environment by saving energy. Our chefs are local people and enthusiastic about sourcing ingredients locally, which keeps money in the area. Whilst trekking, the emphasis is on a varied and well balanced diet with a greater amount of fresh fruit and soup to maximise the daily intake of fluids. For the remainder of the trip, we will be using small, unique hotels or lodges which otherwise may not benefit from the commerce of tourist groups due to their size.
Activity: Few holidays have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a trekking trip. It is a quiet, low impact activity requiring comparatively little resources to support. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem and our trip leaders encourage clients not to stray from paths to minimise this. We work with a strict ‘leave no trace’ policy, meaning we have respect for wildlife and the landscape, separate rubbish and take all burnable waste back to a proper disposal place.
Wildlife: Ngorongoro is a special place in that it is a conservation area, not a national park; this means that the whole area is managed for both the animals and the local Masai people who graze their cattle alongside the indigenous wildlife. Entrance fees in every conservation area are an essential form of support which goes towards the preservation and conservation of the remarkable amount of wildlife here (including lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard). By promoting a form of tourism that is against harming animals, yet is successful, we spread the message that there is a mutually beneficial way to co-exist with wildlife. This deters poaching activity and capturing of wild animals to be put in zoos.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
A Fair Deal: We are dedicated to providing fair treatment, wages and working conditions for our guides and porters. Despite wages being the biggest expenditure on ground, there is no temptation to pay less than what is deserved and as a result we pay one of the highest wages on Kilimanjaro. Alongside this, we always make sure there is sufficient food, fuel, shelter and medical attention with sick pay if necessary. The care for our local staff is not restricted to the trekking season: In the rainy months when work is restricted, we fund a project to teach English to porters and other staff in order to improve their career prospects. So far, with the support of our clients, the project has reached over 800 people in Arusha, Magangu and Tarekea.
Campaigning for Change: Our dedication to local community is not just for those working for us. In Tanzania, we have funded a project which has managed to install 180 smokeless stoves in 9 villages across Geita and to teach over 90 young people how to build and use them. The benefits of this project have been incredible as the new stoves eliminate the myriad of health issues caused by prolonged exposure to smoke and take far less cooking time. There are also environemntal benefits as much less firewood is required to run the new stoves.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.