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: Sri Lanka holiday including the north
Activity: We are very conscious of the environment and try to limit our impact on our surroundings as much as possible. All of our vehicles used on this tour are subject to annual eco testing and we monitor this closely in order to reduce our carbon footprint. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints, although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants and use markets to purchase traditional crafts. We also leave a positive impression by visiting important National Parks, ruins and museums- our entrance fees to which contribute to their upkeep. For example, our game drive in Wilpattu N.P. promotes animal welfare and financially contributes to conservation projects in the area.
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 and Meals: All of the hotels we stay in are dedicated to hiring local staff and using freshly sourced produce wherever possible. This helps to benefit the surrounding community by providing employment opportunities and income alternatives where they may be otherwise hard to come by. We also try to select accommodation which has strong environmental policies. Where meals are not provided, we suggest that clients spread their commerce to small local businesses and try some authentic food. The local cuisine is predominantly vegetarian, with lots of rice. You can enjoy everything from stalls selling traditional spicy curries to tasty sweets, deserts and fresh fruit. On the biking day, lunch even comes with a cooking lesson, so clients can get some hands on experience with Sri Lankan food.
Local Craft and Culture: There are plenty of opportunities to engage with local culture on the several visits to towns, villages and historically important sites. During the summer months our visit to the Temple of the Tooth may coincide with the Buddhist Kandy festival, which is a long honoured celebration of a relic thought to be found on the island. We may be able to see a performance of traditional Kandian dancing and fire walking here. There is also a Gem Museum at Kandy, where clients can learn about traditional methods of gem extraction. There are many places to buy handcrafted souvenirs along the way e.g. Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Delft Island, where locals sell palm products and homemade sweets.
Charity: We have financially co-sponsored a local Tsunami relief project, which has enabled 25 families to be rehoused and for two schools to be equipped with toilets, running water and outdoor swings. In collaboration with a German operator and the village temple, we have helped towards 10 large water tanks and an eye clinic in a remote village with a donation of 200 pairs of glasses. We also assisted a principal agent of Unicef in development of day care and education of school children of the estate sector labourers in the hill country.
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.