Field Notes

What is the Difference Between a Public Safari and a Private Safari

by Monica RobinsonApr 22, 2024

When booking a wildlife safari with us, you will have the option of selecting either a public or a private tour. Both are excellent options that cater to different needs and desires.

There are many similarities: both tours take time to search for the local charismatic wildlife, visit the popular highlights of the parks, are led by extremely passionate, professional, experienced guides, and provide essentials such as a delicious lunch, snacks, water, and high-quality binoculars and spotting scopes.

So what’s the difference?

Public Tours

Public tours allow for more than one group on a single tour. Our vehicles are small passenger vans which keeps total group size limited, so you will still receive personal attention. This is a great option for either couples or small families looking for an economical way to tour the national parks.

What makes public tours a fun option is that you have the opportunity to meet other visitors and share the experience with them. Visiting our national parks is an occasion for fun and high spirits, so it’s a wonderful setting to join other couples or families and discover unforgettable natural wonders together. And who knows? You might just walk away with new friendships that go beyond your visit to Jackson Hole!

There is nothing that you will miss by taking a public tour; our guides have a rough itinerary that they follow to ensure that you see the best that the parks have to offer. Keep in mind that the minimum age for children is 8 years old on a public tour to ensure the enjoyment of all guests on board. While guides strive to tailor each tour to guests’ interests, a public tour caters to the wishes of the whole group and not only individuals. If you have specific wants or desires, or wish to skip a big highlight because you’ve seen it before, the guide cannot accommodate major changes that won’t benefit the entire tour.

A Bighorn Sheep Lays Down For A Brief Rest On A Sparse Hillside In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
A Red Fox Stares At The Photographer On Safari In Jackson Hole

Private Tours

If you seek a more personalized experience and wish to have more control over some of the sights or animals you want to see, or just want a more private adventure in general, a private tour is for you.

If you’ve visited the national parks before and wish to bypass some major highlights to see something new, a private tour allows you to call the shots on your itinerary. Similarly, if there are areas of the park or wildlife of interest that you want to spend more time with, you can choose to do so on your own timeframe. You have the guide’s attention all to yourself so you can ask for suggestions based on your interests, or spend as long as you like discussing particular topics.

Families with small children benefit greatly from booking a private tour. You can make as many stops as you need or adjust the schedule based on your family’s needs. You can choose to have more time outside of the vehicle to let little ones run around in nature more. Yellowstone is a very large park and is at least a full day endeavor from Jackson with many miles of travel and time in the vehicle, which can be difficult for young children. This is why the minimum age on public safaris is 8 years old, in case unforeseen needs have to be attended to and adjustments can be made.

Additionally, private tours with small children can have a more child-friendly focus; information can be relayed in a way that kids can understand and appreciate, they can have unlimited space for all of the questions they wish to ask, and they can even pursue the junior rangers program!

A Group Of American White Pelicans Travel Together Along A Waterway In The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Tours with Both Public and Private Options

Grand Teton Tours

Both the half-day Grand Teton and full-day Grand Teton tours are offered as public and private tours. These tours do not enter Yellowstone and focus more on finding wildlife within the Jackson Hole area. These tours are an excellent way to get an introduction to the region at the start of your vacation and learn how to spot the local wildlife while learning about the ecology and history. You can see what the park is like, and decide what things you want to focus on later during the rest of your stay. It’s also a great way to meet other people who are visiting Jackson Hole!

Booking the private option for Grand Teton can allow you to focus on particular interests whether it be finding scenic landscape views, searching for a particular animal, or just spending more time outside of the vehicle and enjoying your surroundings.

Yellowstone Tours

Yellowstone day tours have the same idea- there are several amazing highlights to see along the southern loop of the park that public trips aim to cover every time. Some customization to the main itinerary is possible if the group is in agreement with each other on wants and desires.

Private tours allow for far more personal tailoring which means you can focus more on one area of the park, or potentially skip others that you’ve seen before or aren’t interested in. For wildlife safaris with kids, some families opt to have an abbreviated tour and make it a shorter day where possible.

A Grizzly Bear Walking Through Field In Golden Light
Bison Roam the Hayden Valley In Yellowstone National Park

Private Only Tours

Some options are only offered as private tours because they are not trips that regularly go out daily. They are more involved or specialized, which means they can focus more closely on your goal for the tour without other groups present.

Photography Tours

Both half day and full day photography tours are private tours. These trips focus on providing very personalized attention, and every trip will be different based on a guest’s interests and photography experience. With so much variation to focus on in the park, your preferences on landscape or wildlife photography will determine the pace and route of the trip.

Grand Teton Track and Sign Tour

Our recently introduced track and sign tours spend more time out of the vehicle and on foot examining clues in the world around you. This kind of activity benefits from private groups to ensure the standard of personal interpretation and interaction is excellent. At times you’ll find yourselves gathered around some scat or a well preserved track in the snow or mud to decipher who left it there, and other times you’ll be studying marks on a tree that perhaps a bear made. Small groups with a particular focus enriches the experience of this tour and has the advantage of more guide interaction.

Whether you are booking a public or a private tour, you are in for the trip of a lifetime in one of the most beautiful regions in the world with an extremely knowledgeable, passionate, and fun guide! If you are searching for any tours from Jackson Hole, we will have one that will suit your needs and fit your itinerary. Be sure to plan ahead and book in advance!

Monica Robinson
Our Expert

Monica Robinson

Writer / Naturalist Guide
See Bio