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: Bangladesh holiday, small group tour
Wildlife: We are lucky enough to visit Lawachhara National Park for a forest walk, where there are plenty of birds in the forest, as well as macaques, deer and giant squirrels, and the lesser sighted Hoolock gibbons. Madhubpur National Park is known for its proliferation of sacred sal trees and in Sundarbans National Park we search for crocodiles, deer and dolphins. With such a variety and frequency of wildlife viewing opportunities, it is even more vital for us to operate with a ‘leave no trace’ policy. This involves being very vigilant with proper disposal or litter and being sure not to bring harm to any flora or fauna we encounter. Our staff are trained with environmental stewardship in mind and protective guidelines are then passed on to our clients through briefings in order to keep our impact neutral.
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 will spend eleven nights in a mixture of comfortable, locally run hotels or guesthouses and two nights on a boat cruising in the Sundabarns. The size of the vessel used will depend on the size of the group, so that fuel isn’t wasted on an excessively large boat. All accommodation is locally staffed, meaning that the community benefits from employment opportunities. There are also opportunities for homestays in the UNESCO area of Paharpur, which bring clients closer to the culture of local people, whilst also putting money directly into their pockets. Where meals are included, the ingredients will be sourced from local shops, markets and bazaars as much as possible. Free meal times are an excellent opportunity to support local businesses and try some regional specialties, like fresh fish curry and rice, spiced vegetables and paratha, lentil daal, samosas and bhorta- which is mashed potato mixed with prawns, onion and mustard oil.
Local Craft and Culture: We manage to cover a range of palaces and temples as well as many small villages and big cities, so there is a real range and diversity of culture and crafts available on this trip. There are old Islamic mosques, Hindu temples, Buddhist ruins and Christian churches; bustling and colourful markets and bazaars alongside modern, fixed-price shops. We see a cultural performance at a local school where clients can make donations, and visit the indigenous villages of the Garo, Meitei and Khasi people. Clients can purchase local handwoven textiles, clay and pottery items, handmade baskets and carved wooden pieces amongst other things. There are also countless attempts to see small, cottage industries at work- like brick manufacturers, fishermen, farms, rice paddies, tea plantations and textile weavers. This gives some insight into local agriculture and often presents opportunities for buying snacks en route.
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.