Overseas Adventure Travel

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Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.), a leader in small groups on the road less traveled, is a branded division of the Grand Circle Corporation, which also includes Grand Circle Travel and Grand Circle Cruise Line. O.A.T. specializes in small group adventures by land and by sea for active American adults aged 50 and over. Groups are limited to 10-16 travelers on Land Adventures, and 16-25 aboard Small Ship Adventures.

With headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, and 36 offices around the world, the company creates and operates its own unique itineraries bringing travelers on and off the beaten path by land, or aboard the company’s fleet of privately owned or exclusively chartered small ships. O.A.T. currently visits more than 80 countries outside the U.S., across all seven continents. For 2017 and 2018, the company has added several new destinations to its lineup, including western and eastern Italy, Malaysia, Inner Mongolia, South Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and more.[1]

O.A.T. journeys are “active adventures” designed for older adults who are curious, active, and healthy enough to experience exotic places in a hands-on manner, but who also demand comfort and quality service. Each adventure is led by a dedicated, local Trip Leader from the region, who provides firsthand knowledge, shares controversial topics, provides recommendations on things to do in free time, and brings traditions, history, and culture alive. Cultural engagement is a key component for all O.A.T. journeys, and many trips include the company’s signature A Day in the Life experience, a fully immersive encounter where guests spend a day in a local community to interact with families in their homes, schools, farms, factories, small businesses, and houses of worship.[2]

In 2016, Grand Circle Corporation’s annual sales totaled $500 million, and more than 88% of O.A.T.’s Sir Edmund Hillary Club (loyalty program for travelers who have joined O.A.T. three or more times) travelers rated their experiences with O.A.T. as excellent.


Safari vehicle with tourists observing lion

A 28-year-old high school teacher named Judi Wineland established Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) in 1978. After journeying to Africa, Wineland was inspired to develop a safari experience that was more adventurous, culturally authentic, and affordable than the typical packaged tour. She began her enterprise in unspoiled Tanzania, and her fledgling company became the first U.S. tour operator to offer tented safaris there. Based on this success, O.A.T. went on to offer small group adventures to less-traveled destinations such as Peru, Nepal, India, and Turkey.

In 1993, O.A.T. was acquired by Alan and Harriet Lewis, founders of the Grand Circle Corporation, parent company for Grand Circle Travel. Grand Circle’s leadership in the travel industry had been established in 1958, when it was formed exclusively to serve members of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The acquisition of O.A.T. represented a seed change for the Grand Circle organization and for the Lewises themselves, whose vision was to deliver experiential learning to the mature traveler, in places where Americans normally did not go. With O.A.T.’s far-flung repertoire and more active itineraries, the Lewises had an ideal base upon which to further refine their “active adventures” for Americans aged 50 and older.[3]

Small Group Size and Age Minimums[edit]

All Overseas Adventure Travel trips intentionally restrict group to just 10-16 travelers for land adventures and 16-25 travelers for Small Ship Adventures. This provides guests with several key advantages. Small groups enjoy a degree of cultural access and authenticity that is lost (or impossible) in big tour groups. O.A.T. guests can enjoy smaller lodgings that reflect the local character,[4] and can experience unique modes of transportation such as rickshaws and dugout canoes. Small groups lend more flexibility and ease to all logistical aspects of the trip, such as hotel check-ins, ship deployments, and overland transfers. This maximizes exploring time and makes the entire journey more carefree. Finally, the intimate group size promotes strong bonds among members as they share memorable experiences. Many O.A.T. travelers make lifelong friends during their trips. While O.A.T caters specifically to travelers aged 50 or older, younger guests frequently join their trips though some age restrictions may apply.

Cultural Engagement[edit]

A hallmark of all O.A.T. journeys is a pronounced focus on learning and discovery. Every adventure typically includes at least one visit to a local family’s home, where travelers may enjoy a meal prepared by their hosts. Many adventures include the company’s signature “Day in the Life,” an immersive experience that combines a home-hosted event with a visit to a local school (many of which receive support from Grand Circle Foundation), and calls at local farms, markets, factories, small businesses, places of worship—in short, all the places where local people actually live, work, and play.[5] Trip leaders are English-speaking residents of the country who further enhance travelers’ understanding with in-depth insider knowledge on local history, culture, language, and nature.

Solo-Friendly Travel[edit]

O.A.T. is a leader in solo-friendly travel and about 40% of its travelers join trips as solo travelers. These guests may be single, divorced, widowed, or married but traveling without their partner. Whether they are traveling alone or with friends, requesting their own room or looking to share, O.A.T.’s solo travelers enjoy affordable travel through free or reduced single supplements, roommate matching programs, and other savings opportunities. The guidance of O.A.T.’s Trip Leaders and group camaraderie are other benefits for solo travelers. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance named O.A.T. the Best in Travel for Solo Packaged Tours in its 2016 “Best List;” Travel + Leisure magazine named the company as one of the “Best Companies for Traveling Solo";[6] and the Travel Channel named O.A.T the Top Tour for Budget-Conscious Travelers.[7]

Small Ship Adventures[edit]

O.A.T. offers Small Ship Adventures and expeditions aboard an award-winning fleet of 24 to 98 passenger small ships. Known for exceptional value and high-quality experiences, these Small Ship Adventures visit Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and Antarctica.[8] The company’s three 50-passenger ships were ranked among the “Top 100 Cruise Ships in the World” by readers of Conde Nast Traveler in 2014, including the M/V Artemis, which was ranked as the #1 best small ship, and its sister ships the M/V Arethusa and M/V Athena, which were also included among the Top 5 Small Ships in the World.[9] Other small ships include the M/V Corinthian; M/V Clio, and one privately chartered ship; M/S Discovery, a 24-passenger catamaran serving O.A.T.’s Panama Canal itineraries.


O.A.T. offers adventures to destinations in Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Central America and South America, Europe, the Middle East, the South Pacific and Cuba. New itineraries for 2017 include destinations in western and eastern Italy, the Adriatic, Thailand and Malaysia, Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi Province, South Korea and Japan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Chile’s Atacama Desert, and more.[10]


O.A.T offers several different land adventures in Africa, including five comprehensive safaris throughout Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, and Tanzania. These include stays at deluxe safari lodges and in Tanzania, a stay at O.A.T.’s private tented safari camp in the Serengeti. All safaris feature game-viewing in national parks and preserves, as well as immersive cultural experiences in tribal settlements and villages. Optional activities may range from helicopter rides to sunrise balloon safaris and dance performances.[11] O.A.T. also offers a popular Morocco adventure that features a tented camp experience in the Sahara, plus visits to Imperial Cities and villages in the High Atlas Mountains and along the famous Routes des Casbahs.


O.A.T. offers two Antarctic voyages aboard its own ocean-cruising expedition vessel, the M/V Corinthian. Equipped with the latest navigational, communications, and safety equipment, the ship is ice-strengthened to safely ply the waters of Antarctica’s Drake Passage. Antarctica’s White Wilderness begins in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and visits Tierra del Fuego before a sea crossing of the Drake Passage, followed by exploration of the South Shetlands and Antarctic Peninsula. Offered on only two limited departures, O.A.T.’s new Antarctic Circle Expedition takes intrepid explorers even deeper into the White Continent to achieve a travel milestone: a dip below the Antarctic Circle at Detaille Island. Each of the four small groups aboard ship (no more than 25 travelers per group) is served by a dedicated Trip Leader plus an expedition crew that includes expert naturalists. Zodiac craft are used to make landfall throughout the cruise.


O.A.T.'s Asian destinations include China, Tibet, Mongolia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, South Korea, and Japan. These are land-based adventures, with the exception of Imperial China, Tibet & the Yangtze, which include a three-night cruise along the Yangtze River from Chongquing to Yichang, featuring the famous Three Gorges.[12] Optional pre- and post-trip extensions take travelers through the Gobi Desert, the heart of Cambodia, Hiroshima, and other regions. In 2017, O.A.T is offering a 17-day journey to southern India which visits Chennai, Madurai, Cochin, among other sites, and also includes an overnight cruise through the Kerala backwaters aboard a traditional houseboat.[13]

Central and South America[edit]

Central and South America programs include land, sea, and river exploration from the Andes to the Amazon, Patagonia to the Galapagos, and beyond. Countries visited include Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and more. Popular sites include the Amazon Rain Forest, Machu Picchu, the Galápagos Islands, Patagonia, and a small ship cruise through the Straight of Magellan and Cape Horn.[14] Chile: From the Atacama Desert to the Patagonian Fjords is new for 2017, and includes hiking in Torres del Paine National Park and a three-night cruise expedition through the Chilean fjords.


O.A.T’s Europe trips[15] invite travelers to experience the continent in a different way, visiting iconic sites, but also going beyond them to discover less-touristed locales where they can explore the great outdoors and also be immersed in local culture through unique activities. These might include hikes, guided walks, farm and vineyard visits, boating excursions, cooking classes and more. Popular destinations include Italy, Iceland, Eastern Europe, the British Isles, and Iberia. O.A.T.’s newest European offerings are Small Ship Adventures calling at various ports in Italy, Sicily, Malta, Slovenia, Croatia, Iberia, and the Aegean, and a new land-based adventure in northern Spain and Portugal.

South Pacific[edit]

O.A.T offers four adventures in the South Pacific[16] that explore Australia and New Zealand, either separately or in combination. These include popular destinations such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland, as well as exploration off-the-beaten path. Travelers enjoy cultural interaction when they meet with members of Aboriginal and Maori communities, and also celebrate the great outdoors in locations such as the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Tasmania, Abel Tasman National Park, Milford Sound, and the adventure capital of Queenstown.[17]

Cuba People-to-People Program[edit]

O.A.T and the Grand Circle Foundation are fully licensed for people-to-people travel in Cuba and have jointly been offering its Cuba: A Bridge Between Cultures journey since 2011. This 12-day journey takes travelers through Havana, Cienfuegos, and historic Trinidad (all three of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and is built around interactions with Cubans from all walks of life—artists, dancers, musicians, community leaders, children, and seniors. A second Cuba people-to-people itinerary, Cuba Revealed: Cultural Pathways from Camaguey to Havana, features stops at Camaguey, Remedios, Matanzas, and Havana. Topical, diverse, and very much in demand, these journeys are limited to 12-20 participants.


O.A.T has been the recipient of many awards, and was named one of the world’s best tour operators and safari outfitters by Travel + Leisure readers,[18] while the magazine has twice awarded O.A.T. a Global Vision Award for philanthropy, including a leadership award in 2013.[19] Recently, O.A.T has been recognized for its industry leadership and philanthropic contributions by several countries, including South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Laos, Turkey, Nepal, Mongolia, and Bhutan. The company was also named one of the Best in Travel for Solo Packaged Tours in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance 2016 “Best List.”[20]


  1. ^ "NEW 2017 Adventures | Overseas Adventure Travel". www.oattravel.com. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  2. ^ "The Leader in Small Group Adventure Travel | Overseas Adventure Travel". www.oattravel.com. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  3. ^ "The History of Overseas Adventure Travel | O.A.T.". www.oattravel.com. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  4. ^ "The Leader in Small Group Adventure Travel | Overseas Adventure Travel". www.oattravel.com. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  5. ^ "Adventure Travel-The Path of Dreams | Overseas Adventure Travel". www.oattravel.com. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  6. ^ "Best Companies for Traveling Solo". Travel + Leisure. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  7. ^ "Best Companies for Traveling Solo". Travel + Leisure. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  8. ^ "Find Your Adventure". www.oattravel.com. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  9. ^ "Small Ship Awards". 
  10. ^ "All OAT Adventures". 
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  12. ^ "Yangtze River Cruise | Imperial China, Tibet & the Yangtze River | Overseas Adventure Travel". www.oattravel.com. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  13. ^ "South India Tour | 16-day Adventure | Overseas Adventure Travel". www.oattravel.com. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
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  15. ^ "Europe Travel | Small Group Travel | Overseas Adventure Travel". www.oattravel.com. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  16. ^ "South Pacific Travel Adventures". 
  17. ^ "New Zealand Tour | New Zealand Wonders | Overseas Adventure Travel". www.oattravel.com. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  18. ^ "World's Best 2001: Top Tour Operators". Travel + Leisure. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  19. ^ "Global Vision Awards 2013". Travel + Leisure. Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  20. ^ "The Best Package Tours for Your Money, 2016". www.kiplinger.com. Retrieved 2016-12-14.