Staff of Fishguyz Scuba & Charter can’t wait to get back in the water after the CNMI’s first positive COVID-19 case pretty much shuttered tourism-related businesses last March.
Manager Lisa Phair said COVID-19 kept the dive shop closed for three months and they’re thrilled the government finally allowed them to resume operations soon after the islands’ Vulnerability Level was downgraded to “Blue.”
“[Closure] is a huge hit to any business, especially a small business that is otherwise unable to bring in an income. …We are so thrilled that the COVID-19 Task Force listened to the community’s request to open scuba diving,” she said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Fishguyz Scuba & Charter was doing fairly well as far as customers were concerned, Phair said, although far from what the dive shop experienced during its banner years.
“We did see a decline in tours last year, which I would say correlated to the decline in tourism as a whole, but we have always had a tremendous local customer base, as well as a busy charter schedule, with contracts from television networks, private corporations, universities, the military, and more,” she said.
Phair said Fishguyz Scuba & Charter will first concentrate on the local market before priming up to accept tourists again when the Commonwealth finally welcomes them back on July 15.
“Current plans are to get out with our local customers and enjoy this unique opportunity of diving Saipan and Tinian’s beautiful waters without the cluster of tourists we typically have. We feel almost a little greedy to have the waters just to ourselves as residents and have already taken advantage of some north dive sites that are only accessible during summer months,” she said.
While the dive shop looks forward to tourists returning next week, Phair said she can’t help but remain cautious and will take special measures to ensure they operate with the highest degree of safety, both in the water and out of the water.
“We welcome tourism as a much-needed boost to our economy, and we love showing off our beautiful island. It’s easy to take for granted what we have, but when people come here and are blown away by the beauty of it and the experience of scuba diving, that makes us happy and incredibly grateful,” she said.
Fishguyz Scuba & Charter and its sister shop, CMLC Artha, has an undisputedly solid safety record. Both dive shops take great care in ensuring that safety is always their top priority.
“We won’t go out if the water is not suitable. We limit certain dive sites to divers with higher skill levels and we never take divers to advanced sites without having been diving with them before. We also spend a lot of time helping our divers with buoyancy control so they aren’t over-weighted on the weight belts like we often see; this lets them dive longer and with much greater ease,” said Phair.
The biggest thing that sets Fishguyz Scuba & Charter apart from other dive shops on island is and has always been shop owner Sydney Takahashi. He established Fishguyz Scuba & Charter as Minimax Scuba back in 2015 and has been diving in the CNMI for nearly 30 years for various shops before opening his own dive shop.
“He’s the ‘bread-and-butter,’ so to speak. Syd is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer and a U.S. Coast Guard captain, which in itself is fairly unique. However, his incredibly natural skill for the sport, his precision and understanding as an instructor, his fish identification skills, and local hospitality far outweighs what most customers are accustomed to,” said Phair, who herself is a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor.
Fishguyz Scuba & Charter is currently operating out of a residence in Dandan. For more information or to book a tour, call Takahashi at 989-7703 or Phair at 989-5888.