Every once in a while you meet a real conch; born and raised in the Florida Keys. Someone who truly appreciates the place she was born into and can’t imagine living anywhere else. This is Mandy Ibsen. She is a photographer for Dolphins Plus in Key Largo. After living in paradise a while a person can sometimes take this beautiful place for granted. I for one, have caught myself driving over the Seven Mile Bridge so caught up in where I’ve got to be and other mundane daily concerns and can completely forget to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me. This is not the case with Mandy who has a certain zest for life that will make you smile.
She is the daughter of Captain Bobby Manske who has been fishing out of Marathon for many years so she also knows her way around a boat. Recently we asked her some questions about her life here in the Keys, and this is what she had to say:
What is a typical day for you?
I am a photographer for Dolphins Plus in Key Largo. I spend my work day taking photos of customers. On any given day I get to interact with dozens of people from all over the world who come to visit us and come to Dolphins Plus to live out one of their dreams! I can’t tell you how many times I get to hear, “this has been a dream of mine since I was a child” ( to meet the dolphins) or “I just checked off something from the top of my bucket list!”.
Of course spending my days around dolphins is a definite perk of the job! Getting to help the training staff on a daily basis and playing with the dolphins makes it pretty easy to go to work everyday!
What do you love most about your job?
My favorite part of the job is the amazing people I work with, the opportunity to meet new people everyday and hanging with the dolphins makes my job my passion!
Tell us about your family:
My dad is Captain Bobby Manske, he is pretty awesome! While most kids spent their childhoods playing video games or hanging in the backyard, I got to be on the water all the time! On many occasions after school I would get off the bus and he would have the boat all ready to go snorkeling or fishing! I remember as a kid my biggest complaint being that the freezer was too full of stone crab or lobster! All I wanted was a cheeseburger! Haha!
I absolutely love my grandpa and all of my aunts uncles and cousins! Even though I’m an only child I have an amazing support system from all of my extended family!
How do you spend your free time?
I Get out on the water, whether it is fishing, lobstering, snorkeling or just going for a boat ride. If those options are not available I’m also really content just to hang out at the beach!
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
What do you love most about living in the Florida Keys:
The water and also the way I always feel at home no matter where I am. Being born and raised here, I have spent so much time in the upper, middle and lower keys that no matter where I am there are always friendly people around that make me feel at home. Plus the killer view is an added bonus!
What advice do you have for young Island Janes?
Work hard, it really does pay off. If there is something that you love and are passionate about, do not be afraid to go after it! Even if getting there takes a long time, it really is worth it! A quote I have come across a few times, and I’m
not too sure of the origin, but I really love it is this: “Do not be afraid of the time it will take to accomplish your goal, that time will pass anyway.”
What do you want your legacy to be?
I hope to be known for what I have given back to a community that has
given me so much!
What is the next thing on your bucket list?
Swimming with Manta rays!!!
Do you identify with being an Island Jane?
Yes, very much. I am a true conch who loves everything about this island chain! I am thankful that the Keys have not become overly commercialized like so many other places. There is so much history here that has been preserved and I truly enjoy sharing that with friends and family that come to visit me, as well as the guests I interact with everyday!
How long have you lived in the Keys, and where do you come from?
I was born in Key West and I grew up in Marathon. For the past three years I
have lived in Key Largo. It’s a running joke that this is as far north as I plan to go!
The best part of living in the Keys is all the secret spots. Do you have one that you would like to share?
I have a few! But unfortunately I can’t share them; they wouldn’t be a secret if I did!