The growing popularity of tours aimed at marine animals has led to questionable practices by some inexperienced operators. The industry is divided over whether the solution is voluntary guidelines or more regulations and enforcement.
Feb. 2013 Jean of All Trades "Meeting Spinner Dolphins in Hawaii" "I chose Wild Side Hawaii because they focus on conservation and ecologically sound business practices. The tours are small and put the animals first. Like me, they don’t condone captive swim-with-dolphin programs or marine parks that emphasize “entertainment.” Dolphins don’t belong in chlorinated cement tanks.
A few years ago these guys made a reality show about a big store where people all over Sweden go to buy cheap stuff. Mostly lower-middle income, average people (a bit crazy sometimes). There were some "interesting" characters that worked there...like these two guys. Someone thought it would be fun to take them, who really are not that experienced/smart/normal(?), on trips around the world. Since they don't really react to things the same way most people do, some find it fun to watch...
The part onboard with us is about 1/2 way through the video. They are at first worried about getting seasick...and apparently one of them even had to throw up.....but then they are talking about how amazing it is to see the whales. They wonder what it would feel like to get hit by a whale when swimming. And what it means that it is called "killer whale" (they didn't get the "false"). One of the last things they say when looking at the humpies is: They are really big fish....
Dec. 2012 Wall Street Journal, Take Monday Off: Honolulu "DAY FOUR - Swimming with spinner dolphins and snorkeling to a colony of green turtles could be the highlight of your vacation, particularly if you see breaching whales or a rare, endangered Hawaiian monk seal along the way."
Nov. 2012 ApSense Hawaii holidays, dolphins, whales and turtles "Joining a small group will optimize the experience for both tourist and the marine life. It is a worthy note that swimming with dolphins in the wild is much safer than in a captive setting."
Sept. 2012 Peanut Butter Fingers Wild Side Specialty Tours "The Waianae coast of Oahu is gorgeous and the beautiful beaches are nearly deserted since most tourists tend to hang out in Waikiki or the North Shore of Oahu. It felt like we were discovering a hidden secret! " Srcoll down for great comments...
Sept. 2012 Sunday Star TImes (New Zealand) Oh Oahu (pdf)
March 2012, FINE Homes and Living Magazine, PhilanthroTravel Rising "for the holistic marine mammal excursions of a lifetime Wild Side makes good use of volunteers who love to ‘vacation with a purpose’ and who love nature as well."
May 2011 Honolulu Weekly Green Travel 2011 "Hop aboard Nautilus, a 50-foot yacht, and spend your days snorkeling, cruising through the island and learning about the different types of whales and dolphins that live in the Pacific waters."
Feb 16, 2011 Calgary Sun O-Wahoo Fun in Hawaii "Capt. Jon Sylvester is an enthusiastic and entertaining presence at the helm who had, for the first time in his life, seen a whale shark just the previous day and couldn't stop talking about it."
Oct. 2010 SHAPEStaying Fit on Oahu (pdf) "Don't worry if you;ve never snorkeled before, the experienced guides will make sure that you are comfortable."
October 2010 USA TODAY / The Vacation GalsSwimming with Wild Dolphins in Oahu, Hawaii "Dolphin protection is of utmost importance to the crew, and there is a discussion regarding how to minimize the disturbance to the marine wildlife we encounter. I was impressed with the crew’s commitment to the well being of the spinner dolphins. This is no party boat. In fact, it’s based on the Not-Just-for-Profit business model of environmental best practices. Wild Side Specialty Tours is a company that can be trusted to focus on the purpose of the travel experience — to get us swimming with wild dolphins in Oahu, Hawaii."
Sept. 2010 MSNBC.com / Taking the KidsBeyond Waikiki Beach No, not a spa named after turtles---a spa FOR sea turtles."The best was my son tugging my foot and I turn around and there is a HUGE sea turtle three feet from me,”
August 2010 Eclectic TripsSwimming with the Dolphins in Makaha "When itís time to go back to the boat I am filled with quiet joy. It is an honor to swim with these amazing creatures, and I feel very lucky having experienced it."
August 2010 Untamed ScienceSpinner Dolphins in Hawaii "Lead by marine biologist and spinner dolphin expert, Alexa Olsen, Suze and Dan swam headlong into the offshore waters of western Oahu to videotape these extraordinary marine mammals during their interactions... all part of exploring the world of dolphins while investigating the science behind myoglobin."
May 2010 Honolulu AdvertiserLocal boys on voyage of a lifetime "In an unusual move, Wild Side Specialty Tours owner Armin Cullins decided to conduct the delivery of the Pacifica 50 Yacht, Nautilus, from California to Hawaii "on its own bottom" - actually driving the boat by sea instead of shipping it on a Honolulu-bound barge..."
May 2010 Five Great Ways to Enjoy Your Oahu Vacation Take a dip with the sealife. Swim and snorkel among the sea turtles, dolphins, and marine life close to ancient coral reefs on Oahu’s Westside next to the Ko Olina resorts. Wild Side Specialty Tours offers dolphin encounters, whale watching (including giant humpback whales), protected sea turtle experiences, and more.
March 2010 Hawaii vacations: Top whale-watching tours | Orbitz Blog Hawaii’s marine scene gets a little more crowded each winter, as thousands of North Pacific humpback whales migrate 3,500 miles from Alaska to the warm South Pacific waters. "For a small-craft whale-watching experience on your Hawaii vacation, locals recommend Wild Side Specialty Tours. There’s an educational element to the excursions, which are typically led and narrated by marine biologists. Observation easily intensifies into actual conservation research if that’s something that interests you. Excursions head out to Oahu’s west coast, particularly off Kaena Point."
Oct. 2009 The Carey AdventuresMy First Time Swimming with Dolphins, "My most vivid memories in life are at those moments when I am fully present and my mind stops thinking long enough to simply take in the majesty of life in front of me. This is how I know I was present when the dolphins pulled even with me. I didn’t lock eyes with any of them or exchange knowing winks from one air loving mammal to another. But for those few moments I experienced a better understanding and appreciation for these amazing swimmers than any stack of text books or hours of video could ever hope to accomplish."
Oct. 2009 KHNL's "Dash and Diane" - and evening broadcasts, "Wild Side - Wild Dolphin Swims, "Dolphins can tell when you're pregnant?" (Video)
Fall 2009 Sherman's Travels, HAWAII 101, Oahu: Over on the noncommercial west (Leeward) side of the island, Wild Side Specialty Tours leads intimate expeditions out of Waianae Harbor to swim with wild dolphins.
Aug 2009 "Clean Breaks: 500 Ways To See the World" offers vacation options that are socially responsible and environmentally friendly - we are one of the specially recommended companies, highlighted as one of the authors’ favorites!
June 2009 U.S. Commerce Association, Wild Side Specialty Tours Receives 2009 Best of Waianae Award
April 2009 Out & About with Kids, Endless Summer (pdf), pg. 94 "Dolphins and Turtles"
March 2009 Family Circle, An Oahu Family Vacation With ‘Tweens and Teens "When an endangered monk seal unexpectedly popped his head out of the water, our guide’s excitement was contagious, and she launched into an impromptu lesson about how to protect these adorable animals."
November 2008Regina Leader-PostTwo Weeks in Paradise, The ultimate 14-day itinerary "The engines were cut, and the catamaran slowed. The dolphins moved toward us in what could only be described as an act of recognition and welcome. And then, one dolphin gave us the ultimate thrill. With slow and graceful movements, she approached the boat and circled in front of it, revealing something at her side. After a sweeping turn, she swam slowly past the boat again, this time presenting her small calf for all 12 of us to see."
October 2008The Daily Express UK, Ten Must Do Things in Hawaii #1 "A fin appeared closely followed by another and another. There were dolphins everywhere."
September 2008Honolulu AdvertiserHang out with sea turtles in Wai'anae "Natural 'cleaning station' offers amazing snorkeling experience." Author Chris Oliver was onboard (and snorkeling with turtles) with Wild Side in Aug. 2008
August 200850 in the 50th, "All of a sudden, there were dolphin everywhere, on either side and below us. Mom's and babies just slowly (for them) swimming along passing us like we were slow cars on a highway. You could hear them calling to each other."
July 2008Forbes - World's Top Ten Snorkeling Spots“I took to the water to satisfy the nature disconnect I was feeling. Reefs are more diverse than rainforests, and what land animal can compete with the beauty, intelligence and evolutionary success of dolphins and whales?” Tori Cullins, co-owner
July 2008Living the Surf Life :: Sunburnt Smiles :: Sean Davey caught a ride on the Best of the West Dolphin tour with Sail Hawaii on the west side. He got some interesting images of the spinning Dolphins who have been spotted all around the island in top form this year.
July 2008 The Border Mail (Australia), Hawaiian Dreams "This time [the dolphins] swim right past me on the surface jumping and leaping around and it is one of the most exiting moments I have experienced."
June 2008 PDXposed Goes Hawaii show #1 - we're about 1/2 way through the program @ 14:20
Sept. 2007 Chicago Tribune Face to Face with a Hawaiian Monk Seal "He appeared suddenly, and paused to look. Our eyes locked. Powerfully built and several times my size, he must have sensed my fear. Or perhaps he heard me bleat through my snorkel. The next instant, the rare Hawaiian monk seal disappeared, back into his underwater cave. I'd just been stared down by one of the rarest marine creatures in the world."
Sept. 2007 TravelLady Magazine An Exploration to the BabyMoonThe TravelLady joins Wild Side on her "babymoon" – that one last romantic trip taken by expectant couples prior to the arrival of their baby .
September 2007 Midweek Honolulu The Wild Side of Dolphins"It’s worth it to wake up before dawn if you know you’ll have a chance to swim with dolphins and sea turtles - not to mention take in the natural beauty of the Waianae Coast."
August 29, 2007 CheapFlights.com What to See and Do in Honolulu "Forget about those crowded tourist boat tours. Ply the waters on a more private and leisurely cruise, which can include whale watching, snorkeling and swimming with the dolphins or turtles. The experienced and creative crew of Wild Side Specialty Tours offers scheduled and custom adventures."
August 26, 2007 Philadelphia Inquirer, Hip Trip | Take in Hawaii on land and sea, "He appeared suddenly and paused to look. Our eyes locked. Powerfully built and several times my size, he must have sensed my fear. Or perhaps he heard me bleat through my snorkel. The next instant, the rare Hawaiian monk seal disappeared back into his underwater cave. I'd just been stared down by one of the rarest marine creatures in the world."
Trip Advisor, Beyond the Guide Books on Oahu, #2 "Best of"; "Swim with dolphins in the wild. Skip the artificial hotel dolphin experiences and go where the dolphins are able to roam free. "
About: Hawaii, "Exciting Happenings on Oahu for 2007" "In order to truly appreciate the beauty of Oahu, you need to get away from Honolulu and Waikiki .There's no better way than to drive out to leeward or west Oahu and take a trip on the Wild Side."
Featured in 2007 edition of Lonely Planet Honolulu, Waikiki & Oahu, who are noted for "telling it like it is" and "being relentless in finding the special, the unique and the different for travelers wherever they are."
2007 - Top Five Dates on Oahu, Follow the Whales, "Its absolutely mind-boggling to see animals this smart and this big swim this fast and jump completely out of the water. "
March 2007 Jetstar Magazine, "Happy Days", The Ultimate Marine Fantasy - Wild Side Specialty Tours.
Fodors' 2007Oahu Dolphin Encounters, "Marine biologists conduct the tours, adding a depth of knowledge not found with boat captains and dive masters."
Dec. 2006 Inflight Magazine of ATA Airlines » WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARENice little write-up with some bad facts though, ie, no personal guide will meet you in Waikiki, you have to find your way to us...
July 2006 "Hawaii in the Fall, your Ultimate Dream Vacation" "Wild Side Specialty Tours allow visitors to get wet and wild in the Pacific Ocean for an encounter of a lifetime. This is very different from the training pool dolphin swim you might be thinking of. It's an opportunity to observe these wild animals glide and frolic unrestrained in the deep blue ocean. It's enough to leave you speechless. This is the real deal."
June 2006 - Courier Mail, Land and the Sea (pdf) "Sitting on the deck listening to other guests speak, leaves you in no doubt that this is something everyone should do before they die. It is something you will never forget"
Jan. 2006 Washington Post, "Should you swim with the dolphins?" The clicks, the splashes and the smiles make dolphins adorable to almost everyone. But does that mean that humans should interact with the mammals in their natural environment?
Dec. 2005 Coast, Adventures in Aloha, "A young dolphin seems intrigued by the clicking and winding of my underwater camera so I do some stupid human tricks and twirl about for him, doing my best "dolphin." Perhaps he is amused, perhaps he isn't, all I know is that I am in paradise."
March 2005Upscale "Island Spirit" "Once underwater I see large shapes; and without warning, I'm surrounded by friendly dolphins..."
Feb. 2005 Modern Bride, Top 10 Hawaiian Head Rushes #4 Swim with wild dolphins. Wild being the operative word. Head out early slip into your flippers and commune with a pod of spinner dolphins in the calm waters off the coast of Oahu.
Oct. 2004SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, "Fresh Notes From Oahu" "Recommended by locals: Unique dolphin swim experience where you actually swim with wild dolphins, a far more natural experience than the more typical dolphin swim offered in resort pools. One person who took this tour recently estimated she swam with about 40 dolphins."
"...It was simply a magical experience to go out on your boat and to see the spinners and turtles in just one glorious morning. Thank you so much for your help with our programme "Tiger Shark Attack, Beyond Fear"... I think the story of changing opinions on sharks in Hawaii is fascinating and it was a very interesting, and challenging film to make. Many thanks again for your help! John Ruthven, Producer"
May 2004 San Diego Magazine, Rediscovering Oahu A reformed traveler turns over new stones on the most popular Hawaiian island.
July 2004Condé Nast Traveler, "...everything we do is geared to not changing the dolphins" behavior"
June 2004 Coast Magazine, "Adventures in Aloha" "After being in the water for what seems like hours, I become waterlogged and my tired legs tell me it is time to get back on board the boat. Swimming with the dolphins and having the rest of the world fall away leaves me feeling that there's nothing to equal the experience of becoming a (temporary) member of the pod."
Featured on About.com's Travel with Kidssite as one of the "Top 10 Things to do in Oahu Hawaii" "Wild Side Specialty Tours are the best kind of nature-tour operators, with a rich fund of knowledge plus deep respect for marine animals in their natural habitat."
Today Show, MSNBC.com Jan. 21; Volunteer Vacations helping wildlife, Organizations offer volunteers the opportunity to get up close and personal with animals, while learning about the world around them.
Oct. 2003: Filming for Disney Channel Australia's "Studio D"
Check out (and compare!) our review featured on Dolphin Swims Worldwide - including Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii (that's us, starting at day four) and the Bahamas. "Amazing as the turtles were, my thoughts went back to the spinner dolphins, just the way they leap into the air and their behavior is very different to any other dolphin I have seen."
August 2003 - Featured in AAA Go Magazine "OAHU: HAWAIIAN ADVENTURES IN THE MOST BEAUTIFUL OF SETTINGS" "And what an experience it is. In the silent world under the ocean, the first indication swimmers have that a dolphin group is checking them out is the hauntingly melodic sound of the animals communicating with one another."
Jan. 2003Honolulu Star Bulletin "Surfari's get you Close to Marine Life" "Leeward Oahu is one of the only places in the world where oceanic dolphins come into near-shore habitats on a daily basis, Sailing into their world, we're reminded about our own journey through life."
Dec. 2002 The Washington Times;Swim with the dolphins, sky dive, bungee jump, climb mountains. Oahu visit alive with adventure "The dolphin encounter, experienced in near total silence, is surreal. Time stands still. Has it been one minute or 20? Suddenly, in a flash, they're gone, leaving me wondering if they really were there at all."
Nov. 2002Ladies Home Journal Nov. 2002, SHAPE Tropical Island Fitness- acrobat reader required (we were #1!, "Swimming with dolphins is the ultimate butt workout...")
Nov. 2002Hawaii Magazine
July 2002KZLA Radio's mid-day on air personality, Shawn Parr, (announcer for Academy, Golden Globe, Family Viewing, Country Western and numerous other Award ceremonies) for True Hawaiian Experiences to be aired each evening on KZLA during his stay.
July 2002 Interview on 6:00 news with KHNL on impact of LFAS testing in Hawaiian Waters
July 2002Frommers travel message boardRecommended as a role model company for respectfully swimming with wild dolphins July 4th 2002 Annual Night Sail Fund Raising Charter for Wild Dolphin Foundation
July 2002 Hiro Kono, website moderator of Japans About.com for Hawaiian Travel , Travel writer on assignment for fall publication of latest book Health and Wellness Travel in Hawaii.
June 2002Modern Bride "Communing with Dolphins"June 2002 Honolulu Magazine, "The Kokua Calendar," Registry of Charitable Events in Hawaii
May 2002Travel and Leisure; "Island Escapes: Indulge And Rejuvenate" "During the Mind, Body and Spirit cruise of Wild Side Specialty Tours, the 42-foot sailing catamaran Island Spirit is transformed into your private spa."
Jan. 2002Continental Airlines In-flight Video showcasing off-beat activities in Hawaii, all international and domestic flights
2002 Winter IssueAloha Street Magazine, "Sailing with Hawaii's Whales"
Feb. 2002Westworld; "Oahu Wet and Wild"Fall 2001 Reiselust - German TV Travel Series "Voyages, Voyages"
Jan. 2001National Geographic Adventurer - "The Adrenaline Almanac"Spring 2001 ARRIVALS Netherlands Travel Show, "Caring for Hawaii's Dolphins" Host FLORIE (above and to the right)
REEL PRODUCTIONS Supplied whale footage for "Incredible Creatures"Japan Overseas Obtained whale song and dolphin vocalizations for audio CD.Suzuki's NatureQuest Nature Series aired on Discovery Channel and Canada's "Y" TV.
Live Radio Broadcast for WJJZ , Philadelphia's Smooth Jazz Japanese Radio Station FM PortLive radio interview on coral spawning event" Making Healthy Choices " with "first lady of nutrition " Maureen Kennedy Salaman Healthy Hawaiian Lifestyles live onboard broadcast
David Rosengarten -Chef and host of Taste and In Food Today , while in Hawaii filming show with Sam Choy , chartered boat with his two daughters for awesome dolphin swim.
Numerous Media Trips over the years for Stryker Weiner & Yokota Public Relations, Inc. and Oahu Visitor's Bureau. Including but not limited to travel writers for Cosmopolitan, Self, Modern Bride, Spa, Ladies' Home Journal, Sport Illustrated, Fitness, Outside, etc.
West Side Specialty Dolphin and Snorkel Tours
Waianae Boat Harbor
Near Ko Olina and Disney Aulani, Oahu