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.
Accommodation & Meals: The majority of the trip is spent sleeping on a first class, small schooner boat with only three nights of the trip spent in a hotel. The Cachalote is an environmentally aware vessel with a smart voyager certification from the Rainforest Alliance organisation. There are tight regulations in place to prevent ecological damage such as: restricting use of electrical products, use of biodegradable products (like shampoo, detergent, soap), recycling of contaminants (oil and fuel) which are sent back to the mainland for disposal and water treatment. Staff are also employed locally both in Quito and the Galapagos, therefore providing benefit to the community.
Conservation: We visit the Charles Darwin Research Centre on Santa Cruz Island after driving to the highlands to look for wild tortoises. This centre is dedicated to protecting and conserving the ecology of the islands and carries out educational projects in support of conservation of the Galapagos Islands. Our entry fees help contribute to all the work going on here by improving demand, facilities and creating employment opportunities for scientists. We are also careful to adhere to National Park guidelines, which, amongst other things, ask that we keep a safe distance from wildlife at all times.
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.
Community: The Galapagos is renowned for its incredibly unique wildlife and conservation efforts. We try to make as little negative impact on the environment and wildlife as possible, but also to leave a positive impact in terms of community and local economy. We hire guides and drivers from the area, meaning that the state of local employment and economy benefits. Although much of this tour is spent on board the boat or in nature, wherever the opportunity arises clients are encouraged to use local businesses and to engage with people they meet in order to promote positive cultural exchange.
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.
Reviews of Galapagos 2 week cruise, Ecuador
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.
I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 27 Mar 2012 by Margaret Dolan
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
The fantastic wildlife. The friendly crew. The very knowlable guide.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
If traveling alone - pay the extra for your own cabin. Take as little as possible - you can always rinse things out & dry them! A couple of pairs of shorts or trousers & a couple of t-shirts, GOOD soled shoes & sandles. 60+ Sun block, Deet. AND CAMERA(s) Don't spend money on new clothes before you go!
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
The locals certainly appeared to make the most of the tourist trade!!!!!! But taxis are quite cheap!
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?