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: South Luangwa walking safari in Zambia
Activity: On game drives and walking safaris, we realise that preservation of the environment and being able to peacefully coincide with wildlife is essential. We pay park fees which go toward the conservation of our natural surroundings but we also support a tree-planting program through which approximately 500 trees per year are planted. Clients have the option to visit tribal groups and villages to meet the people and soak up some culture. Ancient ceremonies are still observed today among the different tribal groups, and they are well known for their artistic skills using local ceramics and traditional textile designs.
Conservation: Despite being one of the most wildlife-rich areas remaining in Africa, its natural heritage is under threat from poaching and other illegal activities. To help combat these serious threats to the Luangwa’s wildlife, The Bushcamp Company is a proud supporter of three local wildlife organisations - The South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS), the Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP) and the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) - that work together on various conservation efforts to address these issues and conserve the Valley’s wildlife. We recently substantially increased our support for these organizations by providing a light aircraft for aerial anti-poaching and research activities.
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.
A Fair Deal: We employ around 150 people. Approx. 95% of all staff are recruited from the local community and receive training in a variety of tourism related occupations. We also recruit from the school leavers that we have sponsored throughout their education. We train them to be the best that they can be and encourage them to progress and develop their skills and responsibility. Our staff and their families are entitled to assistance with medical costs and we also run a programme that pays for one of their children to attend school. We also run programmes on HIV and AIDS awareness for our staff.
Community: We work closely with the community of South Luangwa and develop projects that help conserve precious resources, support education, and generate a sustainable source of income to those who live around the Park. We have been able to sponsor pupils, pay teachers’ salaries, build classrooms, dormitories and staff houses, provide access to clean water, take local school children into the Park on game drives and provide meals for 1,500 students per day. Recently, we have concentrated efforts on improving the educational opportunities for girls under the heading of ‘girl empowerment.’
Accommodation and Meals: We will spend 2 nights in a well-equipped lodge and 5 nights in a luxury bush camp. All of our accommodation is locally staffed- having a knock on positive effect on local communities .We also use solar energy wherever possible and all our organic waste is recycled through the use of a worm farm. This produces organic compost which is then used by local farmers. Food is as locally sourced as possible- expect traditional braai (BBQ), pasta dishes, porridge, freshly baked muffins and fruit. The national dish is nshima, a maize porridge-like dish that is eaten with beans or meat- so keep an eye out for it at road stop eateries en route to camp.
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.