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.
“The sheer pleasure of seeing the landscape as you are cycling, seeing the vastness. There were times when you just saw this road going on forever...”
Learn more about this itinerary in Responsible Travel's interview with Jennifer Milward, a traveller on this tripRead full interview here
Responsible tourism: Namibia cycling holiday
Activity: Few holidays have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a cycling trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints (or tyre tracks!) although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants and use markets to purchase traditional gifts and crafts. During wildlife safaris and game drives we behave responsibly with any wildlife we may come into contact with and this is reinforced by our staff and by an environmental code of conduct which is posted in every vehicle we use. Twenty-five percent of all park entrance fees paid is reinvested by the MET (Ministry of Environmental and Tourism) through the Game Products Trust Fund into essential infrastructure and services related to tourism in Namibia’s parks.
Conservation: We stop at the headquarters of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Otjiwarongo. The centre is a renowned research facility and home to leading conservation studies for the species. The cheetah is the fastest animal on earth, but also the most endangered big cat in Africa. You will have the chance to meet the animals that cannot be released back into the wild, as well as visiting the education centre and museum. By buying souvenirs and donating here, we are contributing to this impressive initiative.
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.
Accommodation and Meals: We spend four nights in hotels or lodges and the rest of our time is spent in full-service camping. All of the accommodation we use is locally staffed and local produce and supplies are used, which benefits the wider community. Energy saving bulbs and water conservation signs are common in our permanent accommodations, whilst camping is a great way to reduce environmental impact in itself. We are careful with managing waste, litter and noise pollution. Meals will generally consist of fresh fruit, cold cheese and meat, bread rolls and more traditional dishes like Potjie (Stew) or Braai (BBQ). Where meals are not provided, we encourage clients to support local restaurants. In Windhoek, clients can even try local game meat varieties such as Oryx, Zebra and Crocodile!
A Fair Deal: Our tour operators are 100% African owned and each member of staff has a huge passion and knowledge of Namibia. This is not only beneficial for our clients, who get real insider’s knowledge on our tours, but this benefits the economy by creating local jobs and ensuring that all income stays within Southern Africa. Our local employees are trained on responsible tourism issues and are given refresher courses regularly. When visiting places like Etosha, we employ an experienced guide from that area which helps surrounding communities benefit directly from our tours.
Local Craft and Culture: We visit Swakopmund, which is a small German colonial resort town with quaint cake shops and coffee houses and a centre for adrenaline activities. This is a great chance to explore local businesses and learn about Namibian culture on an optional township tour. Clients can support the local economy by buying beer brewed in the area or – if you’re feeling brave- trying a regional specialty like Mowpane worms. There are also plenty of craft markets in Swakopmund, as well as on route to Etosha, selling wooden carvings, jewellery and material Herero dolls.
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.
Reviews of Namibia cycling holiday
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.
I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 03 Feb 2016 by Jennifer Milward
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Cycling through such varied landscapes was spectacular - the dunes were AMAZING!
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Somewhat: we visited the cheetah conservation foundation - to understand more about these lovely animals. And we stayed in smaller local places (rather than large hotels).
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Excellent - a great mix of exercise, touring and relaxation. The local company (Mabaruli) was excellent and looked after us very well.