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Wasp Kicks Back With Liberty in Seychelles

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040504-03

Release Date: 5/4/2004 10:11:00 AM

By Journalist 3rd Class (SW/AW) Derrick M. Ingle', USS Wasp Public Affairs

MAHE, Seychelles (NNS) -- Two days after crossing the equator, the crew of USS Wasp (LHD 1) visited the resort island of Mahe in the Republic of Seychelles April 19-23, for a little sun and relaxation.

The four-day port calls gave more than 1,200 Sailors and Marines a chance to swim, sunbathe, fish and enjoy a taste of Creole life on the tropical island, just east of the coast of Africa.

The extra time off also allowed crew members to shop for souvenirs, help out in the community and swap cultural differences with the natives.

"Everything was quiet, calm and relaxed," said Aviation Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Esthela Ornales of Big Spring, Texas. "I expected a resort island to be more party oriented, yet the whole scene was mellow and tranquil. The people live a friendly laid-back lifestyle. I hiked in the mountains, tried new food and swam the beaches. The weather was sweltering, yet there were plenty of beaches to cool off in. I was in the ocean every day. The whole experience was a blast."

Often called "Paradise on Earth," Seychelles is an archipelago located in the southwestern part of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by sloped mountains and tropical vegetation.

The ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation department helped shipmates take advantage of the scenic areas by offering five adventurous tours. Sailors and Marines were able to enjoy the aquatic yet cultural side of the island through snorkeling, hiking, scuba-diving, deep-sea fishing and a night on the town.

"The highlight of the port visit was definitely fishing off the coast of Mahe," Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SW/AW) Michael Fisher said. "We caught 16 fish. Two were the island's local fish, the Mahe Mahe, and the other 14 were three-foot long tunas. Afterward, our tour guide filleted, seasoned and served the fish right there onboard. It was some of the best tasting food I've ever had."

While some shipmates went to catch fish, others swam beside them.

"I swam with stingrays, sea turtles and schools of fish," exclaimed Personnelman 1st Class Rony Welch, from Port Orchard, Wash. "The scuba diving tour was unbelievable. We dove down to 60 feet for about 45 minutes. Swimming down low in the Indian Ocean was an unforgettable experience."

Aside from tours and recreation, some Sailors and Marines used their free time to give to the community. Thanks to a community relations project arranged by the ship's chaplain department, 24 Wasp volunteers gave a local school a lasting new makeover, while making an even more lasting impression with its students.

"We spent a few hours painting the outside of one of Mahe's middle schools," explained Legalman 2nd Class (SW) John Coats, a native of Detroit. "It was a fulfilling personal experience. I enjoyed helping out. The children and teachers were so apreciative of us just being there. Seeing the smiles on those kids' faces was without a doubt the highlight of my liberty."

Others also agreed that much like the weather, the warmth of the people truly made Seychelles an ideal getaway.

"The Creole people were highly hospitable and seemed to really enjoy us being there," mentioned Wasp's Commanding Officer Capt. James Wise II. "We flooded the island with more than 1,000 people which was good for business and cultural exchanges. Aside from the friendly locals, I also enjoyed the spicy food, laying out at the beach and hanging with the crew. The staff and I really pushed for Seychelles because it was an opportunity to travel below the equator, and for the crew to visit a port seldom visited by Navy ships. Traveling to exotic places like this is why some of us joined the Navy."

The crew concluded that whether it was fun in the sun, exploring the seaworld down under, good food, or just the warm-hearted natives, the under-the-equator getaway was truly 96 hours of paradise on Earth.

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