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 – and the hardest working.
Wild Side Specialty Tours is a woman owned and operated company sharing passion for the ocean and wildlife, and the natural beauty and culture of the islands, in a unique, modern, fun, and relaxed cruises shop opened 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, we 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 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. Throughout operations, the boats use green and recycled products as much as possible.
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/Owner – Tori Cullins
Trained on 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. Rehabs horses in her ‘spare’ time (OK pretty much full time – she happily spends more time covered in fur, mud, dust or manure than in salt spray anymore), specializing in joint disease and equine metabolic syndrome. She is also behind the scenes in the International Dolphin & Whale Stranding Network
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
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.
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.
Captain – Jed Haag
Jed is our resident “Expert of the West Side”. Because of the extensive experience he has gained from years of scuba diving this island (he has thousands of dives logged over his diving career), he has a vast knowledge of the marine life that resides in the waters off of Oahu. This knowledge makes it very easy for him to give you the wildlife tour of a lifetime!
Not only is Jed a USCG Certified Captain, he is also a PADI Scuba Instructor and Master Scuba Diver Trainer. After obtaining his scuba certification in St. Augustine, FL. in 2003, Jed moved to Manzanillo, Mexico where he specialized in dive charters and submarine tourism. In 2012, Jed relocated to Oahu, where he became a licensed Scuba Instructor and opened his own Scuba Diving Certification and Tour business. In 2017, Jed obtained his USCG Captain’s license, and has been driving our boats ever since!
When Jed isn’t working one of our charters, you can typically find him underwater. His enthusiasm and passion for the ocean and its inhabitants is what separates him from the rest. If you happen to be lucky enough to be booked on a charter where he is your Captain, he definitely will not disappoint!
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, “Always Salty” Melanie has 30+ dives over 100′! Her enthusiasm, professionalism, knowledge of the sea, and passion for sustainability make her loved by all who come aboard.
April holds a degree in Marine Biology from Troy University. She moved to Hawaii from Alabama seeking to gain more knowledge about what all the ocean is home to. She previously worked as a science instructor at Newfound Harbor Marine Institute (NHMI) in Big Pine Key, FL. Here she taught students from everywhere about the ocean and conservation through hands on experience. The best part was getting to share her love of being in the water and teaching kids to snorkel at coral reefs. Each day in or on the water brings more joy to her either with seeing the spark in a person’s eye when learning something new or just seeing the creatures she loves. When she is not working you can find her with a camera in hand outdoors, enjoying nature to its fullest.
Kims’ essence is in 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..
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.