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
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: Nepal trekking and rafting holiday
We stay in tents, not lodges and teahouses. Why does that make a difference? We want to support the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayas. Many lodges and teahouses burn wood to heat their water for cooking and hot showers. This in turn contributes to deforestation, associated erosion and loss of biodiversity. That is why twenty five years ago, we pioneered the use of only kerosene above and below the tree-line – to ensure that we are loyal to our policies of making a minimal impact on the environment. Also, we want to stay off the beaten track. We believe that you will get a greater understanding and appreciation of the natural beauty of your surroundings if you are away from the hordes which follow the ‘tea-house trails.’
Our Responsible Travel Guidebook Our philosophy since 1975 has been to leave only footprints and take only photographs. To reiterate this, every customer who travels with us receives a copy of our award-winning Responsible Travel guidebook. This detailed book outlines our environmentally sustainable principles, and outlines how each customer can minimize their impact while travelling.
Global Warming and Carbon Balancing The root cause of Global Warming is society's dependence on emission creating fossil fuel. Planting trees is not going to reverse this trend or cancel our carbon emissions very quickly or effectively. We believe the way to reduce these dependencies is to create clean energy production. Therefore, we support renewable energy projects like wind and solar power, and we are aligned with Climate Friendly, the gold standard setter in effective, meaningful action addressing climate change. So, while we believe that tree planting can play a small role in greenhouse gas abatement, we have gone the extra mile in promoting a longer term solution. Is this cheap? No. Is it responsible? Absolutely.
By joining this trek you can be assured that you will not be contributing to deforestation or the associated soil erosion and loss of biodiversity but rather you'll be making a significant contribution by supporting our efforts to set the standards for a sustainable trekking service.
Protecting our porters: Porters are an integral part of our philosophy and style of travel. We strive to take our travellers off-the-beaten track, avoiding the congested trails, to experience our remote tent-based adventures … this style of trekking is enabled by porters. Porters are as important to us as our travellers. Without them, we would not be able to run our quality programs. When we trek, the entire group - travellers, guides and porters alike - are a team who share the same needs for safety in the mountain environment. For this reason, all our porters are provided with the following: A good working wage All food for porters while on trek Accommodation while on trek Work related clothing and equipment * Income protection insurance We also provide emergency helicopter evacuation if required * The most visible sign of this porter protection is the equipment we provide: wind and waterproof jacket and over-trousers, 2 pairs of woollen socks, 2 pair of leather shoes on long treks and 2 pairs of canvas shoes while on short treks, woollen gloves, warm cap, sunglasses, mattress and sleeping bag and tent as well as cooking utensils, stove and kerosene fuel.
We will stand by our commitments and abide by its porter protection policies because it is the responsible thing to do. We will continue to campaign to ensure that all trekking companies adopt similar policies because we strongly believe the welfare of the entire trek crew, from porters to the most senior guide, is the responsibility of the company that sends them out there. We support the good work of two international organisations that operate to ensure the health and well being of porters, they are: International Porter Protection Group and the International Mountain Explorers Connection
In Nepal we immerse our travellers in the local culture in a way that is inclusive and positive, through the sharing of stories, songs, poems and the expression of appreciation for the villages, children, dress, and culture and mountain scenery. In turn, this inspires the local people to be proud of their culture and to protect their surrounding environment, providing an incentive to resist resource exploitation and the Westernisation of their culture.
Employing local people in our offices and in the field ensure that a good proportion of your trek fees remain with the people who are custodians of the places and cultures we visit. Additionally, there is no better person to teach about the landscape and culture than a local person.
Since 2005 we have completed many small community projects in Nepal including renovations of numerous schools and medical centres as well as the construction of waste management systems. Along with our community projects we have had many school groups and private groups travel with us in Nepal with the specific purpose of partaking in a grass roots type of community development project.