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: Senegal holiday, cruise and tour
Senegal is a great example of modern vibrant, open and progressing west Africa. Tourism on Senegal's coast has helped fuel their boom but, as with its neighbour The Gambia, the positive returns have not been felt so much out in the country and the community as this type of tourism gives very little cultural interaction.
This trip gives you modern vibrant Senegal in Dakar, with its fancy restaurants, excellent live music and bustling markets, historic Senegal in Saint Louis, the former capital of French West Africa and then takes you through some of Senegal's most fragile, beautiful and culturally diverse natural environments to show you the country in just a week at its very best. Governments and international bodies are encouraged to protect and preserve the natural environment when they see the value the outside world puts on that environment.
Carbon emissions are obviously low as we are using a boat to travel most of the time and any emissions footprint is counter balanced by the benfits of your presence and the essential service and income to some remote communities that the cruiser provides.
The most important environmental benefit of this trip is your support in the protection of the world’s third most important breeding grounds for migrating birds in the Parc National Des Oiseaux du Djoudj.
The cruiser has been making the journey from Saint Louis on the Atlantic coast to Podor on the fringes of the Sahara and back for over 50 years. In the last decade it was fully refurbished and is now back in action providing an important and much loved communication link along this stretch of the Senegal river.
You are taken into the different communities who live along the river. The company running the cruiser has long established links with the communities visited on the cruise. Hotels used in Dakar and Saint Louis are locally owned.
In the long run though, it is simply your presence on this trip that provides the best support for the communities visited. Your journey can only open your eyes, and your reflection in the Senegal peoples' eyes shows them the value of what they have.