Love a Duck!

Date Posted: 20/01/2012

Graham Yandell took a trip on the London Duck Tour and found it a fun experience with a difference.

Often, when taking a group to a city or larger town, group travel organisers will go for the open bus tour or perhaps the river tour if available, to get things moving along. And why not – it’s probably the best way for visitors to get a flavour of the location and some of its sights and history. A good guide on these tours is essential however and we all hope for someone who is fresh and enthusiastic; which is not always easy if you are a guide and do the same thing every single day.

I took a Duck tour as part of a recent group trip to London, a city that never fails to excite, and found the combination of touring on both land and water in the same craft both compelling and different.

Duck tours originally started in Boston, USA and can be found these days in several major cities. In fact, there are few vehicles in history that have been as successful or enduring as the DUKW; or as we all affectionately call them, Ducks. The DUKW was the product of two very impressive parents, the General Motors Corporation (GMC - which provided the automotive components) and the celebrated New York City yacht designers Sparkman & Stephens, who gave the new vehicle its sea-going capabilities.

During the early days of World War Two, the Allies were faced with a tough tactical problem: how could they unload cargo and men from their ships in places where the dock facilities had been destroyed, simply did not exist, or to coastlines that were heavily guarded? The answer was to unload cargo directly onto the beach. The question was; how to achieve this objective? An amphibious vehicle, that was half boat and half truck that could run on land and water was invented: a DUKW.

The DUKW’s used these days for the various tours available have been brought right up to meet modern safety standards and refitted to carry seated passengers. They always stand out from the crowd with their bright yellow livery too.

I went on board with a small group of eight people and to sample a Sunday morning tour, which lasted around one hour, 15 minutes. It’s amazing how many major sites we took in on land; and then of course you get to splash down into the river Thames and see many again from a completely different perspective, as well as others not seen before.

There was real excitement as the Duck splashed into the water and a really different experience for me – I have no hesitation in recommending it. What was also refreshing was the professionalism of our guide who was brilliant. He had a great turn of wit and was very spontaneous and very funny. More than that, he was full of knowledge about the sights and history, and brought the visit alive with interesting information which was never boring.

Apart from the standard tour there are often special London group tours, such as the James Bond Tour or Pirate Treasure Hunt, and there is also the option of private hire. A visit to the website will give more details.

For me, the London Duck Tour combined the best of land and river-based touring and makes a terrific and unusual addition to any London trip for your group. It’s great fun too.

You can see Graham with a ‘Duck’ and all the other Scrapbook photos, following what the Group Leisure team gets up to, by going to our Facebook page.

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