If you had asked me to take an Escorted Tour some 10 years ago, I would have most probably said “no”, quite simply because the thought of sitting on a crowded coach with 30 other travellers is not my idea of a holiday!
However, fast-forward those 10 years – and my opinion on escorted tours has most definitely changed.
Until recently, escorted holidays usually involved a busload of tourists lining up behind a tour guide with a large “follow me” sign. The itinerary was planned with military precision, meal times were a group affair, and if the tour operator didn’t manage to fill the 44-seater coach in time for the trip, your holiday would be cancelled – full stop. Thank goodness, things have changed!
The escorted tours of today are usually limited to small groups, the schedules are planned in such a way that those travelling have plenty of time to discover each destination at their leisure, and while meals are served in the same restaurant, guests have the option to sit together, dine alone, or share a table with partner/friend.
We were first introduced to escorted touring in South Africa, when we took a small group escorted tour along the Garden Route of the Western Cape. Collected from our Cape Town hotel in a luxury 7-seater mini-bus with sleek leather interior, our first impressions were good, and when we were informed that just three other guests would be joining us – we knew this was going to be a wonderful trip.
Our next stop was to collect a couple from Australia and a lovely lady from China, before heading out of Cape Town and along the famous Route 62 towards our base for the night in Oudtshoorn – the “Feather Capital of the World”.
We bonded immediately with both our guide Ananda and the other guests, and by the time we reached our lunch stop in Barrydale, the ice had been firmly broken and it was just like travelling with a group of long-lost friends.
There to ensure our escorted tour was every bit as good as we had hoped it would be, Ananda regularly asked if we would like to make photo stops and toilet breaks, and we never felt tied to a strict itinerary.
Some evenings we dined as a group, other evenings we dined at a table for two, and if we didn’t want to take part in a particular excursion or activity, we had the freedom to opt out, and do something on our own.
The beauty of a small group escorted tour is that you get to meet like-minded travellers, you have a well-planned itinerary, luxurious accommodations, insider tips in each destination, and best of all, you have a qualified tour guide and driver who takes care of everything while you sit back, relax, drink some wine, and enjoy your holiday!