South India small group tour

“With an eclectic menu of hiking, heritage, hill stations and houseboats in the states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, no wonder this trip is 21 days long instead of usual 14.”

Highlights

Cochin | Hiking in Nilgiri Hills | Mudumalai National Park | Blue Mountain Railway in Niligiri Hills | Mudumalai National Park | Bandipur National Park | Mysore | Sacred city of Sravanabelago | Chennai | Mahabalipuram beach | Coromandal coast, Tamil Nadu | Pondicherry | Madurai | Periyar National Park | Houseboat on Kerala backwaters

Travel Team

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28 Dec 2019
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Our top tip:
Go for the optional day trip to Kanyakumari, on India’s southern tip – the place where three oceans meet.
Trip type:
Small group with max. 16 people. Minimum age 16
Solos:
Solo travelers welcome. Surcharge for single rooms.
Accomm:
Mostly standard privately owned hotels, with one night on houseboat.
Included:
Flight, all accommodation, breakfasts, lunch and dinner on one day only.
Meals:
Breakfasts included. Allow £15/day for other meals.
Vouchers
Accepted

Responsible tourism

South India small group tour

Carbon reduction

Your vacation will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this vacation and how to reduce them.

Environment

Accommodation & Meals
This trip sees you spend most nights in hotels and one night on a houseboat. You will notice that our hotels employ locally and use local produce from markets in the area wherever possible. The hotels are waste and energy conscious and have their own policies like asking guests to turn off the power when leaving a room in order to save electricity. Where meals are not supplied, our group leaders always encourage people to try local 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.

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

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 and Periyar are 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.

5 Reviews of South India small group tour

3 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 19 Feb 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


too many to list

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Pack lightly, most things can be got there if needed.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes to some extent.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Pretty wonderful

Reviewed on 13 Feb 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Mysore Palace, Port hill country Kovalam beaches, Madurai temples, Kerala backwaters

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Some days a very long, not getting the hotel until evening and then off before 8.00am the next morning.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Local guides used, frequent bus tour bus breakdowns meant local bus companies benefited.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Like the curates egg very good in parts, but persistent travel disruptions detracted from the overall enjoyment. Could be made better with some fine tuning.

Reviewed on 24 Mar 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The most memorable were - Staying on the houseboat on the Kerala backwaters, the rickshaw ride through Madurai, dipping my feet in the Indian Ocean at the southern most tip of India, eating curry with my fingers off a banana leaf and the cookery lesson at Peryar. The most exciting was getting separated from the rest of the group on the hike through the tea plantations at Munnar!! Luckily our
leader found us!!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Go on all the optional trips that are provided

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The vacation must have benefitted local people as a large population must be dependant upon tourism - we had several bird watching boat trips!

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent - our Leader organised the tour brilliantly & explained the local culture - he booked restaurants, optional trips & money changing etc which reduced any stress we might have had deciding where to go.
The only slight criticism I would have was that we were taken as a group into various shops where we were hounded by the shop assistants to buy things which had the opposite effect on most of us!!

Reviewed on 22 Feb 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Mysore, Madurai, Chennai Government Museum, Mahabalipuram, Kerala Backwaters (houseboat trip), Pondicherry Market (we went there by ourselves), Martial Arts at Kumily

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared to spend a high proportion of your vacation in the coach and take little exercise. Time to yourself is rather limited, eg time to interact with the locals. We had a group of 16, which meant that everything took longer, eg service at meal times.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


It's hard to say that such vast coach traveling is environmentally friendly. Rubbish was tippped by our boatmen onto banks and into the water on our boat trip. On the other hand our own guide and driver behaved impeccably, and we provided employment for a large number of people.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


It would have been excellent with less coach travel and fewer people in the group than 16.

Reviewed on 05 May 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


It was to see at last places that were high on my bucket list. My trip was South India Explored.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Do not expect to feel immersed in India. You will stay at tourist hotels and be driven from one tourist site to the next in a very large tourist bus. You will not stay in Fort Cochin, nor see the architectural gems of Chennai. The houseboats at Alleppey are too large to explore the smaller canals. In fact we were moored for the night on a deserted spit of land on which it was impossible to walk. Do not expect a beach hotel in Kovalam;ours was set well above the beach with a lot of steps to climb up and down in sweat-inducing temperatures.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


I most certainly did not. I was ashamed to be part of a tour that travelled in such a huge bus, and stayed in large impersonal commercial hotels, often part of chains. There was absolutely no attempt to reduce environmental impact or support conservation.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I was extremely disappointed. I had expected a tour that would compare with a tour in Peru that I had appreciated very much, and previous Indian tours with another oeprator. I expected the tour leader and local guides to have extensive knowledge of local culture and be able to answer my questions. This was not the case at all.

Read the operator's response here:

Please accept our delayed response your feedback but I have been waiting to speak to the leader and also gather some information on all the hotels we use on this trip. I have to say that 11 of the 14 nights are in privately owned properties and whilst 3 nights are in chain hotels they are the only ones we deem suitable in those locations and of a standard that meets our requirements on Both health and safety grounds and compliance with local regulations. I have personally stayed in some of them including the one in Kovalam which is a 5 minute walk from the beach , we have used this property for a while and people have highlighted how they prefer being away from the noise of the beach in the evening. You have raised a number of other aspects which we have investigated. India always evokes many different responses and people wish to see it in so many different ways. We have changed this itinerary based on feedback in the past , we removed the full day in Chennai as clients did not enjoy it but some want longer and indeed this trip has a very high review score of over 4 but does highlight a lot of time is spent traveling just due to the nature of southern India and getting between the major sites with limited infrastructure.

Local leaders play a vital role in our business and I am sorry to hear that yours did not meet your expectations which I have relayed to our Leader manager in the UK and we will be monitoring further feedback on his performance but also ascertain how we can assist him and improve his knowledge and communication with clients.

The vehicle you used was clearly very large but sadly the only one available at the time to accommodate your group but we do use 16 seater vehicles on this trip.

Whilst I appreciate that this trip disappointed you I hope that you have some fond memories of Southern India and rest assured we strive to improve our services globally and value your input and feedback.

Andrew Appleyard

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