Wild Side’s Yacht Charters
Wild Side Teams with Wildlife Experts, Employs the Same
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.
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.
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.
Captain – Tori Cullins
A USCG captain (who trained as crew for Polynesian Voyaging canoes), resident marine biologist, and environmental sciences grad. Tori has been actively involved in conservation efforts, scientific research, education, and eco-tourism related to marine mammals and their habitats for 30+ years.
Mahaffy S., Baird R., Gorgone A, Cullins T., McSweeney D., Webster D. 2017 “Group dynamics of the endangered insular population of false killer whales in Hawai‘i.” Poster presented at the 22nd Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals.
Bradford, A.L., R.W. Baird, S.D. Mahaffy, A.M. Gorgone, D.J. McSweeney, T. Cullins, D.L. Webster and A.N. Zerbini. Abundance estimates for management of endangered false killer whales in the main Hawaiian Islands. Abstract submitted to the 22nd Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Halifax, Nova Scotia, October 22-27, 2017.
Baird, R.W., S.D. Mahaffy, A.M. Gorgone, K.A. Beach, T. Cullins, D.J. McSweeney, D.S. Verbeck and D.L. Webster. 2017. Updated evidence of interactions between false killer whales and fisheries around the main Hawaiian Islands: assessment of mouthline and dorsal fin injuries. Document PSRG-2017-16 submitted to the Pacific Scientific Review Group.
Baird, R.W., S.D. Mahaffy, A.M. Gorgone, T. Cullins, D.J. McSweeney, E.M. Oleson, A.L. Bradford, J. Barlow and D.L. Webster. 2014. False killer whales and fisheries interactions in Hawaiian waters: evidence for sex bias and variation among populations and social groups. Marine Mammal Science doi: 10.1111/mms.12177. Download PDF copy
Gorgone, A.M., R.W. Baird, D.L. Webster, G.S. Schorr, D.J. McSweeney and T. Cullins. 2013. Satellite-tagging and photo-ID provide further evidence of multiple island-associated populations of common bottlenose dolphins in the main Hawaiian Islands. Talk presented at the 20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Dunedin, New Zealand, 9-13 December 2013.
Mahaffy, S.D., R.W. Baird, T. Cullins, G.S. Schorr, D.L. Webster and D.J. McSweeney. 2013. A small resident social group of pygmy killer whales off the island of O‘ahu: photo-identification and satellite tagging reveal differences in social patterns of this species in the Hawaiian archipelago. Poster presented at the 20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Dunedin, New Zealand, 9-13 December 2013.
Baird, R.W., G.S. Schorr, D.L. Webster, S.D. Mahaffy, J.M. Aschettino and T. Cullins. 2011. Movements and spatial use of satellite-tagged odontocetes in the western main Hawaiian Islands: results of field work undertaken off O‘ahu in October 2010 and Kaua‘i in February 2011. Annual progress report under Grant No. N00244-10-1-0048 from the Naval Postgraduate School. Download PDF copy
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 crew members and captains.
Office Manager – Captain Sofia Dahl
Swedish Sailor Sofia has a Masters degree in Biology. She has been interested in wildlife and especially marine mammals her entire life, and is happy to be in Hawaii and out of the cold! We love her work ethic and charm. Her photography and data collecting skills are a valuable addition to the ongoing research that is being collected on the whales and dolphins of Oahu. Currently spending most of her time as Office Manager, the face of Wild Side, and often the voice of reason behind the operations. Sofia holds the fort down at the office amid the “mad scientists” and manages to do so while always maintaining a professional and outgoing manner.
Dahl, S. (2007). “Target detection in coral sand by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates).” M.Sc. thesis, Biology Department, Institute of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Linköping University, Sweden.
Captain – Downing Braley
Captain Downing – Not only is he a skilled boat captain, but he’s also a master at locating wildlife in their natural habitat for our guests. Coming from a family of male and female anglers and craw-fishers, he has inherent behavioral knowledge of marine wildlife. Years of experience, vast knowledge and friendly personality are some of the many reasons that Downing is respected as a role model and leader to all.
Elizabeth Hartford: Captain, naturalist and storyteller/historian extraordinaire. While known as the “Dolphin Whisperer”, Elizabeth excels in people skills. She can sweet-talk anyone past their anxieties, or maximize your time staying onboard. She’s our ‘go to’ person for any onboard challenges. She was our office manager for eight years, crew for three, and loves sharing the wonders of the inhabitants of her backyard with people from all over the world.
Noelle Shaughnessy, Lead Crew
Photographer. Aquaholic. Master in biological oceanography with interests in eco-tourism and natural resource management (reef-awareness and importance of non-invasive activities). Noelle has experience in coral reef ecology, turtle-ology, marine conservation and enjoys educating the public about nature above and below the waves. Guests love her fun nature, vast knowledge, and high-level experience. We love the way she makes everyone feel comfortable and safe in the water as she guides them through an experience of a lifetime. In a perfect world she would have a fin-like tail and be able to breath underwater. Noelle believes we can all do our part to ensure all creatures are safe from human harm and marine debris, with healthy habitats and ecosystems, thriving naturally.
Melanie obtained her biology degree from NY, and spent time in Turks and Caicos studying Marine Resource Management. She interviewed the local population about conservation, sustainability and future development, and presented findings to community leaders. With field studies of coral reefs and inhabitants, she is also a volunteer for the Waikiki Aquarium’s Eyes of the Reef – where she also (besides as your own naturalist) educates visitors about marine life in the Hawaiian Islands. Uncomfortable in the water? Melanie is fin-tastic! She spent three years as a Volunteer Special Olympics Coach, developing participant swimming abilities – while sharpening her adaptability and problem solving on the spot. Rescue Diver SCUBA certified, Melanie has 30+ dives over 100′!
Kelsey has a biology degree from Central Washington University, with an emphasis in ecology she spent two years as a marine biologist for Marine Applied Research and Exploration (MARE). She has worked in freshwater fisheries for several different organizations, including the Pacific Northwest National Lab, Central Washington University, and Cascade Aquatics. This work included projects studying salmonids in small mountain and urban streams, as well as in the Columbia River. Kelsey presented findings from two of these projects at local, regional, and international conferences. Her enthusiasm, professionalism, knowledge of the sea, and passion for sustainability make her loved by all who come aboard. In her spare time (always salty!) she is a recreational SCUBA diver, with extensive dive experience.
Danielle, has graduated with a degree in marketing, so we’ve put her in charge of our social media.
Danielle is equally devoted to all things aquatic, specifically whales and dolphins, and 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 have been her biggest role models and helpful mentors.
Keiki Cunningham, DVM
Keiki, born and raised in Hawaii is not only in fluent in the Hawaiian language (a native speaker), but has an inherent love for the ocean. She is a practicing veterinarian in a local clinic. While attending the University in California, she worked for San Pedro’s Marine Mammal Care Center rehabilitating sea lions, elephant, fur and harbor seals. Her passion for veterinary medicine has driven her to also volunteer for the International Bird Rescue, California Wildlife Center, Humane Society of San Bernardino Valley, CARE baboon conservation, and Chino Valley Equine Clinic. She also successfully crowdfunded veterinarian textbooks for Nepal zoo vets. She plans to practice wildlife medicine and help push towards the conservation of Hawaii’s native animals.
Qualifications of crew members may include SCUBA, CPR, First Aid, Emergency Responder, Water Rescue Certification.
Volunteer Research Team from the Wild Dolphin Foundation
Those we will always hold dear…
Holds an AS degree focusing on Marine Biology, and currently attending Hawaii Pacific University for grad work. She is very interested in the conservation of our marine mammals, a passion of hers since childhood.
Noelle graduated with a Marine Science degree from the University of Hawaii and worked with the scientific diving program documenting fish diversity and abundance on the Big Island and Kahoolawe. She was awarded for studies and Noelle Rucinskiconservation of hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles on their remote nesting beaches. Continuing to explore more of the underwater world, she worked as a scuba instructor in the Red Sea and Belize. After coming back to the islands after several years working in resource management on the Bering Sea commercial fishing fleet, she joins us as a deckhand. Feel safe out in the blue under this trained lifeguard’s watchful eye and share in her strange sense of humor and her love and knowledge of sea creatures.
“New Blood” comes onto the scene to carry on with her parents mission of marine research, advocacy and education. Finishing up her high school years with home schooling; the boat became an ocean classroom to study the ocean and its inhabitants, and to share this information while equally learning life lessons and geography from our onboard guests. Now she’s been accepted into nursing school, but who knows, maybe someday she will still take over the business!
“Heart-core” animal lover, Melissa holds an undergraduate Biology degree from UP Pittsburgh, and has completed her master’s degree in Environmental Management, her masters thesis on the subject of human-dolphin interaction. 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.
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.