Meet our "Wild at Heart" Crew
At Wild Side we know that communication is not about the number of things you say, it is about the number of things that are understood. Our professionally trained crew are passionate about sharing their knowledge and excitement for Hawaii's marine life, and history with our guests. That is what makes our ohana of hand-picked guides the best in Hawaii -
Wild Side Specialty Tours is a small "Mom and Pop" owner-operated company. Armin and Tori Cullins have collectively sailed the Hawaiian Islands, the South Pacific and the West Coast of North America. Seeking a way to share their passion for the ocean, her wildlife, and the natural beauty and culture of the islands, in a unique, modern, fun, and relaxed cruises they opened shop in 1996.
Wild Side offers something for everyone; couples, groups, individuals, professionals and families alike. They provide to provide clean, modern vessels with a minimalist and relaxed feel. They care about the earth and its resources and operate the tours with the environment and sustainability in mind. Through operations, the boats use green and recycled products as much as possible.
Directly involved with the studies of behavior, ecology, and natural history of the whales, dolphins, turtles, coral reefs and other marine life in Hawaii, they and their crew continue to actively participate in conservation and resource management of marine habitats.
"If you live the life you love, you get the blessings from above." -Van Morrison
To keep overhead down, and because they are still just as passionate about oceanic pursuits, you will often find the owners onboard, from captaining boats to pulling in the fish.
Elizabeth Hartford: The "voice" of Wild Side, and often the voice of reason behind the operations. Elizabeth holds the fort down at the office amid the "mad scientists" and manages to do so while always maintaining a professional and outgoing manner to all, must've been all those years in the mental health field where she built and ran R.O.P.E.S. (challenge) courses!, Or maybe she just loves her job. Sometimes we let her out to come onboard, usually we can't do without her.
The man behind the scenes. Boats, fishing, and the ocean occupy most of his time. He spent two years on an incredible journey sailing the South Pacific, and recently crossed the North Pacific bringing our 50' yacht home from California. Armin enjoys sharing experiences with people from around the world, and makes sure the vessels are kept in tip top shape, while providing logistics and guidance to crewmembers and captains.
A USCG captain (who trained as crew for Polynesian Voyaging canoes), resident marine biologist, and environmental sciences grad. She has a prior background in veterinary medicine; has worked with marine mammal stranding teams; as Education and Outreach Specialist for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and has studied behaviors and documented abundance and distribution of whales and dolphins throughout Hawaii since the early 1990's.
She is currently an advisor for the Hawaii Ecotourism Association, has or is working with Oahu, Maui and Big Island Marine Voluntary Standards working groups, and is a steering committee member of the Hawaii Recreational Impact to Reefs, Local Action Strategy and a partner with
Ka Wai Ola O Waiʻanae Moku.
Kimberly (Wood) James - Crew, Photographer
University of Hawaii Marine Biology grad student, researching and exploring a sustainable relationship with animals. While recording and getting to know the dolphins of the Waianae Coast, she also hopes to gain the trust of the most curious individuals and carefully, explore ways to enrich the lives of these dolphins. Kim adds to the ongoing research that is being collected on the whales and dophins of Oahu... in the wild..
Qualifications of crew members may include SCUBA, CPR, First Aid, Emergency Responder, and Water Rescue Certification.
Volunteer Research Team from the Wild Dolphin Foundation
Those we will always hold dear...
Danielle, has graduated and is moving on to college life we're just not ready to take her off our pages yet... :(
A high school honors student (her debate team recently won the State Finals!), is equally devoted to all things aquatic, specifically whales and dolphins. In her senior year, she is out on or in the water every chance she can get. Staying focused on her goals in life keeps her well disciplined. Other crew members from Wild Side Specialty Tours and active volunteers in the Wild Dolphin Foundation are her biggest role models and helpful mentors as she follows her dreams to becoming a marine biologist. Best of luck Danielle, we'll see you again :-)
"Heart-core" animal lover, Melissa holds an undergraduate Biology degree from UP Pittsburgh, and has completed her master’s degree in Environmental Management. In her vast travels as a military wife she has held a wide array of environmental jobs including Naturalist for DNR, AmeriCorps member - focusing on eradication of invasive species, a veterinary technician, and as a wildlife rehabilitation specialist.
Kara Smolarek: Marine biologist, Veterinary Sciences MSc,specializes in marine mammals, her thesis: "Molecular Identification and Genetic Characterization of Cetacean Herpesviruses and Porpoise Morbillivirus," Kara has field experience with manatees, sea turtles, reef ecology in Australia and environmental education of the public; assisted with training sessions of dolphins and seals here at Sea Life Park, has marine mammal stranding response training, and is advance SCUBA certified. She is currently teaching Biology lab at HPU.