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.
“One of the drivers, gave me his prayer beads, which was quite an honour. They really were very, very nice people.”
Learn more about this itinerary in Responsible Travel's interview with Cathal Murphy, a traveller on this tripRead full interview here
Responsible tourism: Sudan holiday, Desert Explorer
Accommodation and meals: This trip is mainly spent wild camping, which is better for the environment, but where we use the Grand Holiday Villa in Khartoun, the Nubian Rest House and the permanent Meroe Camp, there are community and sustainability regulations in place. Local people from nearby villages are employed in each place and building materials are purchased locally where possible. The Nubian Rest House has its own vegetable garden and both this accommodation and the Meroe camp have their own wells. Where ingredients for meals are not home grown, they are locally sourced in markets on a daily basis. The most common local dishes are ‘full’, a type of broad bean soup, ‘fasolija’ bean soup, lamb and falafel.
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.
Local Craft and Culture: Our main observation of local culture will be visiting archaeological museums, the Presidential Palace, pyramids and tombs etc. This is a great chance to support historical sites and their resources with our entrance fees. In terms of locally made craft and produce, there are a few sellers in the Meroe camp, which sell basic items such as jewellery and pyramid replicas. This is one of the few opportunities to support local production in this way, but there are chances to use local markets and cameleers on the tour which boost local business.
Charity: Our local partners support the local Tarabil Primary School by selling t-shirts every summer and donating funds raised to improving the school’s facilities. We also donate after every season and if clients wish they are able to donate gifts like clothes, pens, colouring books etc. to the school committee. Another project supported is the painting of Nubian village houses where they cannot afford to do so. It is traditional to paint homes with geometrical patterns and flowers, but with increasing costs of paint it is difficult to keep this custom alive. Our donations make this possible.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 15 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 Sudan holiday, Desert Explorer
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 21 Feb 2016 by Cathal Murphy
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
The most memorable part of my journey in Sudan was the Sudanese people, I have never experienced just a warm welcome in my life, it will for ever stay with me.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Just book it, don't ponder about it and worry about safety, I never felt as safe and for me it was a trip of a lifetime.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
The trip was linked with a local tour operator, who were directly involved or had links with local projects just as schools and education. Also they employed local people in remote areas where employment is not there.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?