Gobi Desert expedition

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Check dates

2017: 31 Aug
Holiday type
Small group holidays
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?
Big experiences
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

Responsible tourism: Gobi Desert expedition

The ger camps where we stay in the countryside are owned, and have been developed by local entrepreneurs and the staff are all people from the vicinity or students from town, who benefit greatly from the opportunity to get a modest cash income during the short tourist season.

One or two places that we go to in the Gobi, for example Yoliin Am and Bayanzag, are the highlight of any tour to the Gobi and have quite a number of tourist visitors each day. This has encouraged a few local people to station themselves at these places and sell small souvenirs that they have made, for example wooden carvings or felt handcrafts. These make wonderful reminders of your holiday and in buying them you can be sure that you are making a positive contribution directly to the family who is selling the items. These people live in an almost cash-less economy and have little opportunity to make money to buy essentials such as flour and tea.

When passing through certain areas of Mongolia we are obliged to pay a “Protected Areas Service Fee” on behalf of each tourist (already included in price of tour). The fee contributes towards the following services: (i) introduction of the activities of the information centre and eco-ger and provision of information on legislation and security activities of the protected areas, (ii) regulation of camping places in these areas, (iii) to provide tourists with information, brochures, booklets and warnings, (iv) garbage disposal.

The staff on this tour are all Mongolian and their salaries make a considerable financial difference to their families since unemployment in Mongolia is high and for those employed by the State, salaries are low. People joining this tour will enjoy the country and the people in the knowledge that they are making a positive contribution to the local economy.

There is little opportunity to make waste on this trip, but there are a few situations in which we can make a difference. For example, if people drink bottled mineral water, we save all the empty bottles and give them to nomadic people we meet along the way who will use the bottles for their milk products. They live in a largely cashless economy and these kind of containers are very useful to them. We also ask people not to throw away plastic carrier bags, but give them to the staff to be re-used in their work. Good quality plastic bags are hard to come by in Mongolia; they are not given away free with every purchase as they are in the West.

Western travellers tend to already be aware of the importance of not leaving litter, and in this respect they provide a very good example to Mongolian people who are not yet used to the idea of non-decomposing waste. We always provide litter bins / bags at every stage of the journey to make it easy for our travellers to dispose of litter properly. The litter is dumped whenever we reach a town or settlement which has correct disposal facilities.

Both electricity and water are limited by the ger camps where we stay. Some ger camps do not have electricity, so we use candles. Those camps which do have electricity usually have a generator, which is switched on for a few hours each evening, giving enough power for an electric light in each ger. Hot water for showers is usually heated by solar power, and when the tank supply has been used up, that's it for another day. The showers are (purposely or otherwise) designed to have a modest flow - they are not power showers.

At the time of booking, everyone is given a Tour Dossier which gives advice on how people are expected to behave. During tours we often meet local people and are invited into their homes, and the tour leader always gives tips on appropriate etiquette. Mongolian people themselves have an inherent respect for wildlife and the environment. Inappropriate behaviour would not be tolerated, but in truth our visitors are always aware of the need to preserve Mongolia's rich natural heritage.

Normal group size is between 4 and 12 people, travelling in our 4 x 4 minibus vehicles. If the group size is more than 10 people, we use only one vehicle (our 6 x 6 expedition bus). Larger group sizes are welcome at the local ger camps as this is more business for them and benefits the local community directly. Visiting local families in larger groups is, in practice, not a difficult issue as Mongolian people are quite unflappable and always delighted to welcome any number of people into their home, as this is their culture.

All meals on this trip are provided by the ger camps where we stay. The catering staff at the camps buy food produce (meat and milk products) from the local community where they can. To make meals more interesting, some imported food is bought in Ulaanbaatar, but Mongolian vegetables are always preferred to Chinese. All services (transportation and accommodation) are locally owned and benefit the local community.

Reviews of Gobi Desert expedition

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
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 01 Oct 2009 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

That's a hard decision to make. The Gobi desert in Mongolia awesome. I took around 4000 pictures and movies that we'll put on our website along with a travel log. We really liked the sand dunes and camels. I got some great pictures of horses, camels, people and the environment. It was awesome staying in Ger camps. Our driver, Ot, was awsome.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be flexible. Know that your guide and driver are very experienced. It's typical for a car to break down but the driver's are skilled in getting them started again. It's just part of the experience. Not everything always goes as scheduled because it's an adventure trip with no paved roads, etc. That's what makes it an adventure. There were some scary moments but just know you're in capable hands.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes I do. That is why I contacted you. The oeprator is run by Mongolians.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

I'd give it an A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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