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.
"If you live the life you love, you get the blessings from above." -Van Morrison
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 maine mammals and their habitat for 20 years..
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.
Captain - Downing Braley
Captain Downng Braley began fishing at an early age and coming from a family of male and female anglers, has lots of behavioral knowledge. He has had firsthand experience and exposure from mauka (mountain) - to makai (ocean) with native inhabitants, culture and natural history.To Captain Downing, being on the ocean is not only recreational but mental therapy, relieving the mind of all tension and stress. It also opens the gateway to a deep nature connection, and respect for all ocean wildlife.
Capt. 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... in the wild. Currently spending most of her time as office mgr, the "voice" 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
Elizabeth Hartford: Elizabeth Hartford: Head naturalist and local storyteller extraordinaire, while known as the "Dolphin Whisperer" to all, Elizabeth excels in people skills (read her TripAdvisor reviews!) as well. 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 also office manager for eight years (and lived here all her life), now you can join her in her favorite element.
Kim Clouse: "Bio-Acoustics Analyst. Eco-Tour Guide. Aquaholic in Hawaii" Graduating with a master’s in biological oceanography in July 2015 with interests in eco-tourism and natural resource management (reef-awareness and importance of non-invasive activities). Kim is PADI scuba certified for Open water, Advanced, Rescue and Nitrox, CPR and small-boat certified for eco-tours. She has experience in coral reef ecology, ichthyology and marine conservation and enjoys educating the public about nature above and below the waves.
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.
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...
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 conservation 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.
Keiki (pictured to the left below) born and raised in Hawaii not only in fluent in the Hawaiian language ( a native speaker), but has an inherent love for the ocean. She holds a degree in Biology, Pre-Med and has recently applied to veterinary schools across the nation. 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 hopes to return to Hawaii after veterinary school to practice wildlife medicine and help push towards the conservation of Hawaii’s native animals.
Brianne - "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.
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.