Mali tour, Festival on the Niger

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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: Mali tour, Festival on the Niger


This small group tour (8-12 people) is operated by a registered company from Timbuktu. This company is owned by a dynamic young man and supports his large extended family. All accommodation costs from the hotels in the towns and cities to the guest houses and camping in villages and in the desert go directly to local establishments or families.

In the Dogon country each village gets a tax for people passing through and an additional local guide is hired. All accommodation food and water costs go directly into the community. Well managed tourism in the Dogon country has helped to preserve this fascinating culture bringing in valuable income to a people living in fine balance in a difficult environment.

By supporting the Festival On The Niger you are helping to promote the quality and diversity of Malian music to an international audience.

Company Ethos:
This company aims to dispel a few culturally inherited myths about Africa and to show you a modern, vibrant, open, safe and progressing west Africa. We ensure that your trip only has a positive impact on the communities that host you.

Too often tourism in Africa centers around the amazing wildlife and stunning scenery whilst the most vibrant, colourful and fascinating aspect of Africa - its people - pass by the window of the 4x4.

I try to reverse the focus by taking you out into some of the amazing communities I have befriended over my 20 years of traveling this vast and extraordinary continent. The landscape is merely the background to the colour, music, vibrancy and hospitality of the people of west Africa.

Throughout the trip food and water is bought en route and as locally as possible. Before your trip you will be sent my Responsible Travel guidelines, and en route you will be advised about changing cultural sensitivities. This trip minimizes waste by advising clients to follow the African example and recycle everything. You will see how a system that provides no waste disposal produces very little waste. I encourage you not to bring anything that we in the west count as disposable such as razors or wet wipes etc because in Africa they are not disposable.

My company aims to minimize its environmental impact by:
- Only flying one way for my season of tours in west Africa. For my outward journey I drive to Timbuktu – and you may too!
- I do not have an office and my only paper based marketing product is a flyer. I have no brochures and do most of my mailing by email. I support two remote communities in west Africa, Aguelhoc in the Tuareg region of northern Mali and Esu in the Northwest province of Cameroon where I will put 10% of my company profits into educational projects. I am in the process of establishing sustainable scholarships for achieving children to remain in education. As an alternative to carbon offsetting I offer you the opportunity to support these projects and thereby support communities which will be most affected by climate change.


This company believes that the best way to support the local community is by trading with them. And the best way to increase trade is by ensuring that you get the best trip possible. Just by you coming along on this trip helps the country, the region and the community far more than any aid handouts. But also the best way to create sustainable support for a community is to give you the best trip possible, with the best guides, the best drivers, the best cooks.

Rather than putting you with a local operator who will employ family members rather than the best people for the job, our trips are organised and operated by the company in conjunction with guides, drivers, cooks, families and fixers taken from the community through which you will be travelling. All our employees are hand picked for their expertise in their field. We firmly believe that if you get quality you will recommend the trip to others and the community gets sustainability.

This company is involved on the ground with the countries in which it operates. We take you off the beaten track to places beyond the tourist map thus opening up regions that would otherwise not benefit from tourism.

Food and water is sourced locally en route, all accommodation is locally owned.

The company has education support projects in Cameroon and Mali.
Other than the company director, the company employs only people taken from the community.

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