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: Uganda gorillas and wildlife holiday
Activity: Our tours are designed to entertain as well as inform about wildlife issues and promote animal welfare. When we visit National Parks such as Kibale Forest, Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth National Park, we pay park fees which contribute to the protection of these parks and the myriad of unique (and sometimes endangered) species which can be found there e.g. baboons, gorillas, elephants, lions, and leopard. Local guides are also employed when we enter these reserves. This creates employment and gives clients an altogether more informative, genuine experience. We will explore the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary in the Magombe wetland, which is operated by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development. Because of the wetland's rich biodiversity, it was resolved that the tourism could bring benefits to the community and encourage conservation of this natural resource. Projects so far include building a secondary school, a wetlands boardwalk and running safe water campaigns.
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: The accommodation on this trip is a combination of hotels, lodges and permanent tented camp. The vast majority of the staff is from nearby villages and they even offer accommodation for staff staying in villages further away. This industry is a great source of employment for local people, so by staying in these hotels we are supporting steady income for local communities. In terms of meals, hotels will source local produce as much as possible and clients are encouraged to explore local restaurants and markets if convenient. Main meals are typically based on a meat or bean stew and ‘ugali’ (maize flour and water) or ‘matooke’ (boiled and mashed green banana).
Local Craft and Culture: Although this is a largely nature based trip, we incorporate as much benefit to local people as possible. One of the ways to support local people and boost the economy is to buy crafts along the roads in the smaller villages which we pass. During the optional Buhoma Community Walk, the lifestyle, culture and craftsmanship of the people living near to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is really revealed. We begin at the Community Rest Camp and progress to the Crafts Centre where we can see local women making handcrafted jewellery and woven baskets. These items are for sale and provide a significant form of alternative income. Guides are careful to explain that any souvenirs on sale over the duration of the trip which are made from animal parts, shells or local hardwoods should not be purchased.
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.