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, traveling 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 vacation, 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 travelers’ 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 vacation 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?
Travelers 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 vacation.
Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travelers
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 travelers 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 travelers!”
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 travelers 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: Simien mountains trekking vacation in Ethiopia
Accommodation and Meals: We will spend 9 nights in wild camping and 4 nights in standard hotels. Accommodation will be locally staffed as per law in Ethiopia, which is a benefit to local communities. Spending part of the trip in environmentally friendly, low energy consuming accommodation also reduces our carbon footprint. Hotels provide plentiful, locally sourced breakfasts and where meals are not provided, your local guide will be able to recommend the best restaurants and cafes wherever you are. This is a wonderful opportunity to support businesses in the area and to explore Ethiopia’s delicious cuisine. At the marketplace Addis Ababa clients can buy fresh produce and even see the local specialty ‘enjera’ being made. This is sour dough made from a grain called ‘teff’ and is used as a scoop to eat from warm, and often spicy, casserole dishes known as ‘wat.’
Activity: Few vacations have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a trekking trip. We operate on a strict ‘leave no trace’ policy and local guides enforce this through responsible tourism briefings. These should help clients better understand the living situation for many and the environmental issues in the area. We pay park fees when we enter Simien National Park, which are contributed to funding conservation initiatives and community projects. The park is home to some very rare animals such as the Gelada baboon, the Simien fox and the Walia ibex, which is unique to this location.
Water: Water is a really important issue with trekking trips in high temperatures and whilst we must stay hydrated, it is also vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. Lack of recycling is already a problem in Ethiopia, so we suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle. Boiled water will be provided and clients can use this supply before going on trek. We also recommed that people bring water purifying tablets with them in case they run out of clean water between camps.
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.
Local Craft and Culture: There is plenty of culture to discover in Ethiopia and we include several cultural and historical sites on this itinerary. We start at Addis Ababa and visit the National Museum, Menelik’s Mausoleum and Holy Trinity Church- Ethiopia’s main cathedral. We also visit 17th and 18th century castles and Debre Birhan Selassie church in Gondar. Our entry fees contribute to the preservation of many of these important places, whilst we can also support locals by purchasing souvenirs in and around these monuments. There are handmade religious crafts such as traditional paintings, icons and wooden crosses on our trip to Gondar. Handmade scarves, jewellery and coffee are also popular.
Charity: Since 2013, plans have been in place to support a remote village school in Debre Chiwa in the Simien Mountains. Over the past couple of years, we have supplied financial donations and manpower which has allowed 2 new, furnished classes to be built. Because of these improvements, the number of pupils and teachers has doubled and the school now receives some state funding. Arriving in Gondar we will also stop by at the Kindu Trust, a local organisation which works with disadvantaged children, their families and communities. We receive a briefing on their projects and are shown their small handicrafts shop where clients can purchase souvenirs including baskets, textiles, prayer beads and jewellery. These are all made by the beneficiaries of the Trust and profits fund their activities. Occasionally we stop at villages or schools where clients can also leave behind much needed educational supplies such as pens and notebooks.
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.