HONOLULU -- Tori Cullins grew up riding horses in El Cerrito in
Southern California -- "cowboy country," as she calls it.
Today, she rides the waves in a 42-foot catamaran with guests
from all over the world, on commissionable aquatic "surfaris"
through her backyard -- the waters of Oahu's pristine leeward
A marine biologist, Cullins founded Wild Side Specialty Tours
with her husband, Armin, a licensed captain and certified dive
master, in 1996.
"Being on the water pretty much every day nurtures a deep love
and respect for marine life," said Cullins.
"There is nothing more grounding than to be on the water
communing with amazing oceanic companions," she said. The variety
includes tropical fish, spotted eagle rays, green sea turtles,
spinner dolphins and, during the winter months, humpback
Night excursions showcase such sights as the moon, the
constellations and meteor showers. The lack of air pollution in
rural leeward Oahu guarantees clear skies, making the tableau of
heavenly bodies even more brilliant.
Wild Side's charters, which are commissionable at 20%, are
limited to four to 15 people, ensuring an optimal personal
"By keeping the groups small, it's safer, and we can give
everyone one-on-one attention," said Cullins. "There's plenty of
room in the boat to lie down and sunbathe. It's like sailing with
friends rather than being on a crowded tourist activity."
Tour participants are invited to interact with, photograph, swim
and snorkel among a fascinating array of marine life. No tour is
exactly the same, said Cullins.
"We are democratic about the experience our guests want to
have," she added. "We are part of a large network of friends and
crew members of other boats who tell us where animals have been
seen. We pass this on to our passengers so they can make informed
decisions about how they want to spend their charter time. Every
day is a new adventure."
What remains the same is the way participants feel by the end of
their journey, according to Cullins: "joyful, rejuvenated and more
aware of the fragility of Hawaii's marine environment."
"We do not seek volume on our tours," she said. "We aim only to
provide a quality, thought-provoking and potentially life-changing
experience. Our charters are for anyone who hears the call of the
For more information, call (808) 306-7273, e-mail: [email protected] or visit www.sailhawaii.com.
Book it: Wild Side Specialty Tours
Tour: Wild Side's tours aboard the Island Spirit's
42-foot catamaran include dolphin encounters; stargazing; full
moon, sunset and meteor shower sails; kayaking and snorkeling
excursions; and whale-watching cruises (from mid-December through
mid-April). Private kayaking and sailing trips, including wedding
charters, also may be arranged. Most tours last four hours.
Time: Morning trips depart at 7 a.m.; sunset and
evening cruises leave about one hour before sunset. Meteor shower
tours can leave anytime at night, including 2 a.m. Passengers meet
at Waianae Boat Harbor, Pier A, for all tours.
Price: The cost is $95 per person, including a
continental breakfast and snacks on the morning tours, and dinner
on the sunset and evening tours.