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: Himalayas walking holiday in India
On this trip we invite you to experience the essence of this amazing destination with its staggering diversity of cultures, flora, fauna and breathtaking landscapes whilst simultaneously minimising the negative effects such tourism can have. We stay in tents, not lodges or teahouses. We want to support the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayas so we travel as a self sufficient group and do not use resources that are scarce. We cook on kerosine stoves and do not burn wood which can contribute 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 busy trails. Our staff understand the importance of minimal impact and ensure we leave no litter, nor any trace that we have been through this fragile environment.
We supply treated drinking water and encourage all our customers to drink this rather than bring bottled water, which leads to a waste problem with 100's of plastic bottles that need to be recycled.
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.
With the help of our locally employed guides we endeavour to create the necessary circumstances to ensure we have a positive effect on the communities who welcome us warmly into their villages and most wonderfully often into their homes. By using local accommodation we are privileged to enjoy a special relationship and mutual understanding with our hosts and their environs.
In India we use private buses to ensure we do not take away seats and inflate the costs of these seats to locals as service providers realise they gain more by selling seats to tourists than to local people.
Wherever possible we contribute actively and financially to local community projects whether it be to extend the longevity of traditional customs, to preserve traditional ways of life, supporting education schemes or helping to develop environmental initiatives.
Local Staff Welfare As well as paying our guides out of season, and an above-average take-home wage, our porter welfare supplement includes insurance, all meals on trek, appropriate clothing and accommodation for ALL our porters on all our treks. Their safety and comfort is as important to us as our customers.
No local payments policy Local cash payments are becoming increasingly popular with many operators in the adventure travel industry. This policy seems to benefit the tour operators more than the local economies or the travellers, as it avoids local taxes and transfers the costs and risks of cash handling onto the travellers. In accordance with our Responsible Travel practices, we have chosen a policy of not asking for such payments.