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: Mt Kenya climbing vacation, Kenya
Activity: As this is a walking / camping trip our carbon footprint is comparatively small. We promote community and environmental issues and aim to give clients a good understanding of local life and nature with briefings throughout the tour. We operate on a strict ‘leave no trace’ basis and are aware of erosion on popular paths so try to use other routes to minimise this. For example, this trip ascents the mountain on the little used Burguret route rather than the main trail.
Water: Water is a really important issue with trekking 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. We suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle. Water purifier is used to treat all water for drinking and cooking and clients are encouraged to bring their own to reduce waste.
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: We will spend one night in a basic lodge and whilst on the mountain four nights camping with full service from the trekking crew. All accommodation used is locally staffed and locally owned, which helps to keep money within the community and to provide employment opportunities. Buying our fruit, meat and vegetables fresh from local markets, stalls or farms wherever possible is another way to support smaller businesses. We are even careful to ensure that cooking oil, tea and sugar is produced in Kenya. Expect nutritious meals cooked by a local chef, like vegetable stew with rice, fish fillets with buttered potatoes, oat porridge and fruit.
Charity: We use the earnings from our Bantu Mountain Lodge to sponsor academically capable, but impoverished children to continue with their education in the local area. Currently at Oloorganayio in Masai Mara, with the help of tourist volunteers, we have built 3 classrooms and lavatories for Maasai children in a primary school. If clients want to get involved with donations for local school children, we can help to arrange a sponsorship for school fees, or there is the possibility to substitute the forest walk on the first day with building a classroom in the local neighbourhood. In terms of environmental charity, we also make contributions to Mount Kenya Conservation Forum, which creates awareness about conserving the water catchment and forest.
A Fair Deal: We work closely with our local operator and ensure that the vast majority of our guides are local and that in exchange for their expertise they are paid and treated well. All of our guides, cooks and porters belong to the Burguret Youth for Conservation- an association dedicated to encouraging young people in the area to find work and conserve the Mount Kenya forest. These leaders are trained to give briefings on responsible tourism issues which can help reduce your environmental impact and maximise benefits to the local community.
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.