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: Oman walking vacation
Accommodation and Meals: We spend two nights in locally owned hotels and six nights camping in the wild. As staff members are mostly local people, our support helps to provide alternative employment opportunities and to boost local economy. Most of our trip is spent camping, which means a huge reduction in our carbon footprint. All of the firewood we use for cooking is waste firewood, found in the desert, rather than wood which has been growing in the desert. Meals will be made using locally sourced produce as much as possible- this might be grilled chicken or fish with rice and fresh salads. Although most meals are provided, clients are also encouraged to explore local restaurants, cafes and markets for a genuine taste of Oman.
Activity: Few vacations have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a walking trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints, although this tour does encourage clients to have a positive effect by engaging with locals, using cafes and restaurants, and investing in traditional gifts and local produce. By visiting a number of places of interest and offering additional optional excursions, we support those who run these trips and the upkeep of historically important sites.
Water: Water is a really important issue with walking trips 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 growing problem in Oman, so we suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle. Water is collected and carried in large 20gallon containers and dispensed into the client’s bottles. Although Oman is an arid country, clean, drinkable water is not hard to find so we can easily fill up as often as needed.
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: On this trip we spend four full days and three half days trekking through small villages in order to gain greater insight into the culture. Many Omani communities live an agricultural, rural or semi-nomadic lifestyle which is very different from our clients. Our itinerary also includes many cultural and historical places of interest, like the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Nakhal Fort and Nizwa- which is famous for its fort and small museum. All money spent at these places goes towards their maintenance and protection. There are some opportunities to purchase handmade crafts and souvenirs and local produce. The market in Nizwa and the Old Muttrah souk, for example, are great places to pick up handicrafts, jewellery and locally produced oils whilst also getting a taste for Omani life.
A Fair Deal: Where it is possible staff members are sourced locally; our local operators try to use as many locals from the area in which the trip will be focusing on as they can. This gives the feeling of a real connection with the areas visited and allows people to have a much closer look into how lives are led in Oman. Local guides, leaders and other members of staff are paid fairly and given constant training and support to facilitate their career progression. As with the accommodation staff, this has a knock on effect on employment levels and economy in the area.
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.