manuel menendez

Manuel Menendez Hunting for Dinner by Felix Leander

If I were stuck on a deserted island there is only one person I would want to be with in terms of survival and having "food on the table".  When I was approached by a friend who was tasked by AJ+ (part of the Al Jazeera) to do a segment on "Hunting for Dinner" - I knew Manuel Menendez would be the person to feature.

Manuel is a Miami native who has been diving the South Florida waters for over 30 years.  He knows where to find fish and how to catch them (pole spear, spear gun, hands, whatever it takes) while freediving.  You go out with Manuel and you are pretty much guaranteed to have a delicious dinner and a better understanding of the SOFL wildlife.  

We have been friends for over 5 years now and it is always a pleasure to explore the ocean with him - solid guy who will be there when you need it.

Below is the video that was featured on AJ+

Crystal River by Felix Leander

Three Sisters - Manatees and Noodlers. Image by Manuel Menendez

Just 4.5 hours north of Miami, Crystal River becomes the home to hundreds of manatees during the Florida winters.  Last weekend a group of us ventured up for a quick getaway and interactions with the sea cows.  Raul Boesel Jr., Manuel Menendez and I packed our better halves, children, dogs, and of course equipment to capture what we thought would only be manatees.

There are two ways to dive in Crystal River - guided tours (with a bunch of "noodlers" - people that have never been in the water that use pool noodles to float) or renting your own boat / pontoon, of course we went with the latter.  There are several locations worth visiting - the most popular being Three Sisters.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife has a strong presence there to ensure the manatees are not molested by the noodlers + control the access to the spring.  We were lucky enough that access to the springs was granted as it has been closed for most of the season since there has been such a large gathering of manatees.

Each of us had an idea of what we wanted to capture:

  • Raul testing rear sync flash set-up motion blur (more on that soon)
  • Manuel to get aerial pics with his drone
  • Me - video of manatees / other

And while we did capture what we wanted to - we also found subject matters what we never expected to see such as a school of hundreds of Snook, mangrove snappers, and morning fog.  The results of the trip are below...

Mangrove snappers.  Image by Raul Boesel Jr

Video of Manatees, Snapper, and Snook while freediving in Crystal River, FL using a GoPro.  Video by Felix Leander

Manatee and Lala.  Image by Manuel Menendez

It is definitely worth a trip up and expect great southern hospitality when you go out to eat.