Kalahari desert expedition safari, Botswana

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2017: 9 Apr
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Holiday type
Small group holidays
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?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
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.
Mythbuster
“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?”
No.
Meet a group leader
As well as taking care of all the day-to-day practicalities, your group leader is the one who will turn your trip into an adventure. Leaders are extraordinary characters – the kind of person who has spent 14 Christmas days on the slopes of Mount Everest, runs marathons wearing tiger suits to raise funds for their conservation and thinks nothing of leading an overland trip in Sudan or Afghanistan. Fearless and inspiring, group leaders are as important as the destination itself.

Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure. As well as doing crazy things like climbing Kilimanjaro 100 times, they also donate their time to local projects supported by travellers – such as rebuilding Sri Lankan villages following the 2004 tsunami.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Kalahari desert expedition safari, Botswana

Environment

Low Impact tourism:
- Camping safaris mean that the environmental impact of your visit is a bare minimum. We stay in designated campsites, and we leave each campsite in the same pristine condition when we leave. Camping safaris leave a very small footprint
- Cooking on gas when feasible so that we don’t have to burn firewood which depletes limited resources (particularly in desert environments – Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Nxai Pan National Park & Makgadikgadi Pans National Park),
- Requesting clients to purchase small wooden carvings curio instead of large pieces, again to conserve the forests around the carving markets.
- Ensuring that we take all of our rubbish out of wilderness areas and use proper waste disposal facilities on all tours (and in the workshop). Entrance Fees: All entrance fees for the National Parks are used by the Botswana of Wildlife to maintain the condition and infrastructure of the National Parks, and run regular anti-poaching patrols.
As it is such a unique National Park all of the clients who join us on this trip are giving a full briefing of the fragility of the environment. Litter is strictly policed, the potential of creating wildfires is great, so the group is briefed on smoking restriction, etiquette within campsite, wise use of water in a very dry environment, and how to behave with the wildlife. All camps are un-fenced, so the potential is there for the wildlife to come into camp. The tour leaders are very experienced in dealing with such situations. Clients are advised to stay calm, listen to the tour leaders instructions, and never put the wild animal in a situation where they feel threatened which may illicit a fight or flight reaction. The tour leaders always teach the clients to allow the wildlife to have right of way so that no incidents occur. If an incident does happen the animal will have to be destroyed. Protecting the natural habits of the wildlife is of utmost importance, so client are told not to feed animals or leave food in a place where wild animals might feel tempted to eat it.

We travel through wild areas and stay in un-fenced campsites, the tour leaders make clients aware that animals have right of way, and that as visitors to the area we must not affect the animals in any way. By building a healthy respect for wildlife within the people who visit the area, the impact of people in this area, and on the wildlife is hugely minimized. Due to careful management of the wildlife in the area, and how people interact with the wildlife, the animals no longer see man as a threat, and are often curious to see these strange 2 legged creatures, instead of fearing them. A huge part of the tour leaders mandate is to ensure that clients respect the wildlife and eco-system and to be aware that they are only visitors to the area, and should feel extremely privileged to be able to visit the area, with local guides who know the environment intimately.

Community

Okavango Delta guides: We use local 'polers' to take us into the Okavango Delta. The polers have an intimate knowledge of the Okavango Delta, and their employment as guides ensure that the local community benefit from tourism and ensures that these areas are conserved for future generations.

Food: All food and drink on tour are bought in local grocery stores which creates economic activity directly from tourism.

Charities: When in Maun we visit Sibandas Fine Art Fabrics. This is a local community initiative to employ local women who produce hand crafted fabrics. This is a non-profit organisation, and all visits from our groups generate some revenue for the charity and if any clients buy some of the products, it ensures that the charity remains self sufficient.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre: We assist a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Springs, outside Johannesburg. Judy Davidson runs a licensed rehab centre from a small holding. She is an amazing person, dedicating her life to the welfare of animals and makes enormous personal sacrifices to live on this plot and care for sick and injured birds. A variety of birds are cared for, from injured barbets, doves, and crows to a brown snake eagle, a gymnogene, and a spotted eagle owl. All birds are treated in a small makeshift clinic, and then kept in aviaries until they have recovered. Once able to fly, or care for themselves again, they are moved to a 'flight' aviary, for a period until they have regained strength. They are then released back into the wild. Those birds which are unable to be released are kept in large aviaries and fed through various donations. We assist the project with donations of practical equipment including shade netting, paint, etc. These are used to repair and maintain several of the existing aviaries.

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