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Diving into summer

During their 14-day trip to Palau, Nancy and Ryan Berg went scuba diving twice a day for a total of eight days.

Editor's note: This is part of an occasional series on teachers' unique summer plans.

Every summer East Ridge High School science teacher Nancy Berg can be seen jet-setting around the world with her husband Ryan.

The Bergs have made a habit out of using summer vacations to go globe trotting. What started out roughly 30 years ago as a bit of a pipe dream has led to 104 countries and counting.

However, this summer's trip to the island of Palau had been 25 years in the making.

"For 25 years Palau has been the No. 1 thing on my bucket list to do," Nancy Berg said. "Now my bucket list is empty because this was the best trip ever -- I just keep replaying it in my head."

The Bergs traveled to Palau July 10 to July 24.

Palau is an island nation located 500 miles off the coast of the Philippines. The country includes 250 islands -- six of which are occupied -- and is famous for its scuba diving.

"Palau is the number one premier dive site in the world," Nancy Berg said. "If you are a scuba diver, you know about Palau -- it's like a dream place to go."

Nancy and Ryan Berg became certified scuba divers roughly 25 years ago and Palau was always in the back of their mind as the place they wanted to go, Nancy Berg said.

"We've dove all over the world, but we'd always wanted to go to Palau," she said. "But, it's real expensive and real difficult to get to."

This year everything changed. The Bergs had racked up enough frequent flyer miles for three first-class tickets for themselves and their daughter Hallie. This year also marked the first time Delta Airlines flew to the isolated country. Previously only Continental Airlines flew there.

The Blue Corner

The Bergs spent a total of eight days scuba diving, which included two dive trips each day.

Since scuba diving in Palau is very technical diving, Nancy Berg said, divers there must be advanced.

The majority of their dives ranged between 60 and 80 feet, however the Bergs did reach 120 feet a couple of times.

Nancy Berg said one of the most amazing scuba trips they took was to Blue Corner, which is one of the most famed dive destinations in the world.

Blue Corner is a coral outcropping wall that runs horizontal rather than vertical, which causes the current to run horizontal rather than vertical as well.

Because of the currents, a lot of nutrients are drawn to the site, which in turn draws a lot of schools of fish and sharks.

Since the current was so strong, the Bergs had to be tethered to the coral.

"The whole thing was freaking amazing," Nancy Berg said. "You're just flying around hooked onto the reef and there's sharks every where.

"The sharks are very well fed so you don't have to worry about any attacks, but they're very curious, so they're coming right up to you."

Another world

In addition to diving at the Blue Corner, the Bergs also dove at many other famed scuba spots.

During their dives, the Bergs saw a wide variety of sea life including: lion fish, turtles, grey reef sharks, white-tip sharks, black-tip sharks, clown fish, anemones, 10-foot sea fans, 8,000-year-old soft coral and even a 25-foot manta ray.

Palau is the only place in the world where soft coral can be found.

"I took 4,000 pictures," Nancy Berg said. "It was like another world, it's so surreal.

In addition to scuba diving off of the islands, the Bergs also took a day trip, twice, to Jellyfish Lake.

Jellyfish Lake is a saltwater lake that houses between 20 and 30 million jellyfish. Even more exciting is that the jellyfish don't sting, Nancy Berg said.

The jellyfish housed in Jellyfish Lake have lost their ability to sting due to an evolutionary process since they produce their food through algae that lives in their bodies.

"(Jellyfish Lake) was just like another world, it was just bizarre," Nancy Berg said. "You can pick the jellyfish up and they're just pulsating -- they're soft, very squishy."

Now that Palau has come to an end, the Bergs are already trying to figure out when they can go back.

"If my bank account allowed it I'd go back every year," Nancy Berg said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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