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: Highlights of Madagascar vacation
Activity: Our tours are designed to entertain as well as inform about wildlife issues and promote animal welfare. When we visit National Parks such as Ranomafana , Perinet and Tsimanampetsotsa N.P, we pay park fees which contribute to the upkeep of these parks and the myriad of unique (and sometimes endangered) species which can be found there e.g. ring-tailed lemur, baoab trees, flamingos, sifaka. In Mandraka, we also visit the Peyeiras centre, which houses a large and colourful selection of butterflies, chameleons and frogs. Local guides are employed when we enter these reserves. This creates employment and gives clients an altogether more informative, genuine experience.
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 spend the duration of the trip in standard hotels. The vast majority of the staff is from nearby villages and they even offer accommodation for staff staying in villages further away. This industry is a great source of employment for local people, so by staying in these hotels we are providing a steady source of income for local communities. You will also find that some of the hotels have solar panels -meaning a smaller carbon footprint- whereas many work on their own electricity generators but switch them off from around 22:00 to 07:00. In terms of meals, hotels will source local produce as much as possible and clients are encouraged to explore local restaurants and markets if convenient. The cuisine has been strongly influenced by the French and the seafood is particularly fresh.
Local Craft and Culture: Although this is a largely nature based trip, we incorporate as much benefit to local people as possible. One of the ways to support local people and boost the economy is to buy crafts along the roads in the smaller villages which we pass. There is some very creative Zafimaniry craftsmanship in Madagascar using recycled materials to create toys, decorate items and jewellery. For example, in Ambostria, they use recuperated wood to create souvenirs, ornaments and furniture. The Zafimaniry people are renowned for intricate woodcarvings and this can be observed even in the decoration of village houses. Guides are careful to explain that anything made from animal parts and shells should not be purchased as this trade is detrimental to many of the wonderful species we find here.
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.