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: Classic Southern India vacation
Accommodation and Meals: On this trip you will spend 11 nights in a range of locally staffed hotels, and one night aboard a deluxe houseboat at Alleppey, which is a direct form of income support for local people. Several of the lodgings on this trip have strong policies regarding waste management, energy conservation and local sourcing. At Bandipur National Park, we stay in a government owned lodge, which provides employment opportunities for local communities and strengthens local businesses by using small suppliers from within the region. Where meals are not supplied, our group leaders always encourage people to try restaurants and street food vendors. They can make recommendations which will help boost small businesses and celebrate local specialties. There will even be instances where clients can see the food being made themselves e.g. chicken and veg biryani in Mysore, fresh seafood dishes in Cochin, Masala Chai, Dosa, Iddly etc.
Activity: We visit a number of palaces and temples including the rock cut caves and temples at Mahabalipuram, Ekambaresvara Temple with its Thousand Pillared Hall, Mysore Palace and Mattancherry Palace. By making donations, buying souvenirs or paying entrance fees, we financially contribute to the upkeep of these magnificent sites. Similarly, at Bandipur, the park fees we pay to enter this area go towards paying the wages of those who work there, development of park facilities, wildlife research and protection projects. We understand that it is important for us to operate with a strict ‘leave no trace policy.’ This extends to our activity in and out of game drive territory and means we are vigilant with disposing of litter properly and careful not to intimidate or harm flora and fauna.
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 & Culture We are keen to encourage guests to engage with the culture of Southern India and to purchase local crafts and services where possible. Your local guide will be able to recommend the best of the area’s colourful and vibrant markets and small businesses and through our commerce, tourist wealth is more evenly distributed. Cochin is famous for the spice shops & antique items, Ooty for different kinds of tea and coffee, Mysore is famous for silk, perfumes and incense sticks and Madurai for silk and tailor made cloths. There are locally crafted gifts and souvenirs available by most of the landmarks we visit, and your guides will be able to advise you on which to buy and which to avoid. For example, some bangles and other decorative items on sale may claim to be made of ivory - we are against the popularisation of this kind of product and make a point of including a warning in the briefing.
Charity For years we have been involved in campaigning for tiger conservation in Bandhavgarh. In late summer 2014 we teamed up with The Corbett Foundation, an Indian charity dedicated to conservation-oriented research. They have proved instrumental in enabling us to get the funds to where they are needed. Through this we have now completed the building of a community hall at Tala Village, solar pumps in the park for wildlife and staff in the dry season, bio gas plants and smart stoves for villagers and provided the salary for 2 full time teachers at the government school. Our work in India continues to be of great significance and most recently we have been able to purchase a 4 wheel drive medical vehicle and pay for outreach medical support.
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.