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: South Africa cycling holiday, Western Cape
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 handicrafts. By visiting Bontebok National Park and Cape Agulhas National Park, we are supporting conservation acitivites funded with contributions from our entrance fees.
Water: Water is a really important issue with cycling trips and whilst we must stay hydrated, it is also vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. Lack of recycling is already a massive problem in Africa so we suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle. We carry a very large container of treated water in our support vehicle to facilitate this.
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 & Meals: We will spend 7 nights in guesthouses and 4 in lodges. We predominantly use small businesses for accommodation in order to keep investment local and benefit the communities we visit directly. All the privately owned guesthouses and entrance fees paid on the trip also have a levy attached for contribution to local community and environmental initiatives. Almost all meals are provided and your local tour leader will endeavour to source fresh produce wherever possible. Meals might include fresh fruit, cold meats and regional cheese, potjies (stew) or braais (barbecue) etc. We also stop at a number of small cafe's en-route for locally produced food and drinks, outside Montague, Barrydale, Hermanus and Betty's Bay.
Local Crafts and Culture: We stop at a number of markets along the route of this trip, where clients have a chance to buy locally made products directly from the vendors. These are found on the Cape Peninsular. Guides will be able to advise which products to avoid and which to purchase e.g. large items made from local hard wood encourage deforestation, so we discourage this. We also stop at Stellenbosch, to see the local vineyards and sample the locally produced wine which makes this area so well known. Time allowing we will visit a local co-op wine cellar in Barrydale and have an opportunity to taste their produce, including the local Chardonnay which is well respected for its unique taste. This is a good chance to support communities in this area by buying souvenirs and regional produce.
A Fair Deal: We work closely with our local operator and ensure that all of our guides are local and that in exchange for their expertise on the wildlife, environment and culture that they are paid and treated fairly. The leaders will give a briefing on Responsible Tourism issues to help you understand how you can help reduce your impact and maximise the benefits to the local community from your visit. By supporting and employing these people we are helping to ensure that their wildlife areas, scenic beauty and historical significance generate value for the community and are therefore appreciated and protected from development and exploitation. Particularly with wildlife tours, proper employment conditionals are a great way to motivate locals to be part of sustainable, ethical activity rather than illegal alternatives, like poaching.
Charity: Our local suppliers support the Save Our Sausage Trees initiative in Botswana, which aims to address the issue of depleting forests in the area. The Mokoro is a boat used by the people of the Okavango Delta and it is crafted traditionally out of a single mature Kigelia Africana tree (or sausage tree). Although increased tourism has had some obvious benefits to the area, this has also brought a higher demand for Mokoro boats and therefore more trees are being cut down. As a wooden Mokoro only lasts about 5 years, there are hundreds of these trees being felled per year and not enough to sustain this. We have consulted with the Okovango community, and we have agreed to pay half the price of a fibreglass Mokoro if a poler wants to purchase the other half, in order to save the trees.
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.