Why Small Group Travel With G Adventures. What is your style of travel? I often get this question. And I don’t have a good answer. Why is that? Because I don’t have a consistent style. I have stayed in a $3 room in the Mekong Delta, slept on a teenager’s pull-out coach in Transnistria, and lived it up for a week at a $1200 a night, over the water villa in the Maldives (that was awesome!). I have rented cars, hired private taxis to cross borders, and jammed myself in the back of a marshrutka. I have traveled solo for months, with friends, visited friends, with my special someone, and on also on group tours. As you may note, I am not committed to a single travel style, it is simply what makes the most amount of sense for the country I am visiting.
In June, I visited my 120th country when I visited Namibia. I traveled to Namibia and Zimbabwe on a National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures tour as part of a group trip.
Using Your Vacation For Good
Many travelers appreciate the concept of “leave the place better than you found it”. G Adventures’ tours, including National Geographic Journeys, give you multiple opportunities to contribute, learn about local projects, and interact with communities. Without calls for charity or ‘voluntourism’, they help you use your vacation for good, simply by bringing more local people into their supply chain. In this way, you can help spread money and opportunity with people who might otherwise be left out of the tourism economy. The bonus? These local entrepreneurs, artisans, cooks and hosts usually invest their profits back into their families’ and community’s health, education and development, while you have a uniquely local experience. It’s a win-win.
The founder of G Adventures, Bruce Poon Tip, also established the not-for-profit Planeterra Foundation in 2003. Its mission is “to improve people’s lives by creating and supporting social enterprises that bring under-served communities into the tourism value chain.” That means, when you travel with G Adventures, some of your funds will be directed to some great projects empowering the local community. Think of Planeterra as the kickstarter for these development initiatives, and G Adventures as the engine that makes them profitable and impactful.
During my trip to Namibia and Zimbabwe, we spent time visiting two projects.
On the outskirts of Swakopmund is the Mondesa Township in the center of Namibia. Mondesa was established in the 1950s as a neighborhood for black Africans to live. Namibia was segregated by race at this time. And today, Mondesa Township is a lively yet impoverished area. Our group spent several hours exploring the Township with one of the locals. We covered a lot of ground from the local market to a local craftsman. There were a couple of highlights for me.
We visited a young Herero woman at her home. The Herero are an ethnic group predominantly found in Namibia. The Herero were subject to near extinction during German colonialism in the early 20th century in a brutal genocide. The young Herero lady made a great impression on me with her confidence and sense of humor. She took a chair in the center of our group and gave an overview of her people and culture. My favorite fact was in regard to the headdress that Herero women wear. The Herero were traditionally a pastoral people, meaning they maintained herds of cows, which have historically sustained the Herero people. The horizontal horned (like a cow) headdress the women wear pays homage to the cow.
Another intriguing visit in the Mondesa Township was an ad hoc classroom, set up for us. During our visit, we were introduced to the Khoekhoe language that is spoken by the Nama and Damara people found in Namibia and some nearby countries. This language is known for its “clicking” sounds which I find fascinating. We were provided with a brief overview of the mechanics of this unique language. Throughout the rest of our trip, our group attempted to speak the language to each other. We were quite unsuccessful, but had a ton of fun.
What does this language sounds like? Listen to this video.
While I was more than excited to explore Victoria Falls, our group had a visit planned with a local family in the shadow of the falls. We arrived at Flatter Ncube’s home in a fenced in area with red clay soil after dark. She greeted us with a welcome drink on this humid evening. She guided us through her yard showing off her fruit and vegetables that she was growing. I even learned that a loofah is grown — not made (not sure how I didn’t know that fact). Flatter even plants hot chiles to dissuade wild elephants that occasionally roam the neighborhood from stopping at her home.
Flatter is the matriarch of a large family and was the host of our local dinner. We gathered at a large table where Flatter served us a local meal. This was a great opportunity to have a candid conversation. The group’s conversation danced from politics to gender roles to local tourism. It was great to get this crash course on Zimbabwean life.
Too Many People/ Camaraderie
No one, (well at least most people), wants to be on a bus loaded with 50 people. G Adventures’ tours are capped at 16 people. A much more manageable sized group. I enjoyed the social time with my group, all very well-traveled people. I looked forward to meals to catch up with my fellow travelers. During our ten days together we celebrated three birthdays which always added a moment of fun and levity. And at one of these impromptu birthday celebrations, I was introduced to Amarula. I have always been a fan of Baileys Irish Cream and Amarula is southern Africa’s response to this Irish treat.
This chocolatey, creamy liqueur is made from the fruit of the marula tree. So since it is made from fruit you don’t have to feel guilty for drinking this sweet liqueur. Elephants are also a big consumer of the marula fruit, so you are in fine company. Also, I must commend my group for their punctuality throughout the trip! These were seasoned travelers.
Namibia is a big country. It is three times bigger than the United Kingdom. So in other words, there is a lot of ground to cover between sights. There is no real tourist transportation infrastructure (not a lot of buses, trains or planes to get you around). The only effective options are taking a tour or renting your own car (preferably 4 wheel drive). I have rented a car many times overseas, but there is also something to be said about being chauffeured around. Especially, when the distances are long and many of the roads are not sealed tarmac. Also, there is really limited internet access throughout the country, limiting the usage of online maps or other resources when on the road. The National Geographic Journeys tour with G Adventures provided private transportation during my entire journey. Sometimes, it’s great to be hand the keys to someone else.
There is never enough time in the day, for no matter whatever you are doing. On my recent Africa trip, I visited five countries in less than four weeks. That is a lot of planning and logistics. Sometimes it is great to hand the reins over to a local expert. Being guided and catered to on my G Adventures trip was a treat.
The Journeys tours provide a higher level of hotels and lodges during their trips. We stayed at some great places during our trip to Namibia with one stand out lodge on the edge of the Namib Desert: the Sossusvlei Lodge. I could have happily stayed one week at this lodge. The lodge was built in the desert with individual lodges for each room, sort of like a glamping feel. The rooms were very modern, spacious, and comfortable. At night, you could sit on your private patio and stare into the night’s abyss. The grounds were also fantastic, with a pool that merged into the desert and a fantastic outdoor patio for dining with a great and diverse (a ton of game) buffet.
No, there was no Chief Executive Officer, but Nat Geo Journeys – like all of G Adventures’ 700+ tours – are led by expert guides they call Chief Experience Officers. Their job is to ensure that we – the travelers – have the most enjoyable, safe and memorable experience possible. My CEO was Hannelei from South Africa. The guide’s job is always challenging, balancing multiple personalities and needs. The word that came to mind when describing Hannelei was professional.
She competently guided and managed the entire group in an effective manner yet still at a relaxed and comfortable pace. Hannelei was knowledgeable about Namibia, sharing history and explaining the local culture as we traveled throughout the country. She was a great leader and resource.
As I prefaced, there are many different ways to travel. The right way of traveling is what makes you comfortable and happy. If you are looking for a higher-end group trip, with a focus on comfort, immersive experiences and giving back, I would highly recommend National Geographic Journeys tour with G Adventures.
And See The Magic of Namibia And Zimbabwe
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Why Small Group Travel With G Adventures