A ‘unique amphibious tour’ of Saipan

The new DUKW vehicle of Island Turtle Tours is shown parked at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan. The vessel is the only original DUKW remaining for commercial operations and should be expected to receive customers as early as Jan. 2. (Michael T. Santos)

The new DUKW vehicle of Island Turtle Tours is shown parked at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan. The vessel is the only original DUKW remaining for commercial operations and should be expected to receive customers as early as Jan. 2. (Michael T. Santos)

Saipan’s tourism industry has a new player named Island Turtle Tours, an amphibious vehicle that transports its passengers around Saipan and Managaha while giving historical information of landmarks along their path.

Island Turtle Tours operates under an exclusive sales agreement with Century Tours/Saipan Adventures. Their vessel, called Woody, is one of the very few original DUKW vehicles that are used for commercial operations. ITT chief operating officer Michael Dilley bought the vehicle from a vendor in Chicago that specializes in them. The DUKW vehicles were used during World War II to transport soldiers and cargo to and from the frontlines.

“There are no others of these original DUKWs in the region and only a very few left operating commercially or in the world for that matter,” said Ed Arriola Jr., Century Tours marketing manager. “It’s a great addition to the image of the CNMI as well as for the new products that Century Tours currently has such as Let’s Go Tours and the soon to be re-opened Seatouch at the Fiesta Resort and Spa.”

Turtle Tours was founded by Oliver “Pete” Shilling, Ivan Ilmov, and Michael Dilley.

Inspiration came from riding a DUKW during a simple family trip to Guam by the Dilley family.

“We’re very proud. We still have a lot of work to do and we’ve come a long way with our vessel, Woody. It’s like we have a new baby and he/she is finally coming of age to the world and it gives us a lot of pride,” said Dilley.

ITT operates the only authentic 1945 un-modified military DUKW in the whole of the Pacific region.

“You don’t only get to see the history but physically feel and experience it the way the military did back in 1943 and 1945 here on the island,” said Dilley.

Life jackets and fire extinguishers are always available within the entire duration of the trip, along with pumps to release 300 gallons of water per minute in case of any leakage.

Turtle Tours expects to start operating by Jan. 2. A year was spent refurbishing the vehicle as well as training its staff.

“We just want to do everything right,” Dilley said. “From the facility environment to the equipment, we spared no expense in the making of our business.”

There is another company that operates a similar type of amphibious land/water product, but Dilley wishea to remind the public they are nothing alike.

“The two vehicles are completely different in their construction and operation. The competitors’ operation is based on “Ride the Duck’s style of operations. We are just two different types of operations completely,” he said.

Steven Connor, office manager, said, “This is just one additional thing tourists can do on island that offers a very unique experience they can’t find anywhere else.”

Tickets start at $45 per person. Duration of the tour is about one hour and children under 2 years old are free, 2-11 costs $30, and all those over the age of 11 go for $35. One can call 235-3716 or email moi.cnmi@gmail.com to make a reservation. To inquire about the product, visit the Saipan Adventures office at either Kanoa Resort in Chalan Kanoa or Fiesta Resort & Spa in the heart of Garapan.

Michael T. Santos | Reporter

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