River Gambia Expedition – featured in Safari254

SAFARI254 – The source of the River Gambia, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry ©Jason Florio

My wife, Helen Jones-Florio, and I co-led the first recorded source-to-sea expedition along the length of River Gambia, from its humble source in the remote highlands of Guinea-Conakry, through Senegal and into The Gambia where it widens to nearly 14km and exits into the Atlantic Ocean. We teamed up with two old Gambian friends, Abdou Ndong a fisherman and Ebou Jarju a school teacher, as our river guide and translator… Jason Florio / Safari254.com

SAFARI254 – A team punt a raft carrying a water pump that will be used to irrigate banana plantations that flank the river banks in Senegal © Jason Florio

The expedition took two months to cover the 1044km from source-to-sea…

SAFARI254 Expedition team member Abdou Ndong keeps an eye out for hippos in Senegal.© Jason Florio

The River Gambia – source to sea map ©Jason Florio

Read the full feature – see more images – at Safari254.com 

We made it! The River Gambia Expedition team reach the Atlantic Ocean (on Jason’s birthday!), The Gambia, West Africa, Jan 21st, 2013

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March-April 2019 – Currently working on

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime‘ in The Gambia, West Africa

#Portraits4PositiveChange

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#ThrowBackMonday – Behind the scenes : Jason Florio’s portrait of ‘Samba Fishing’ – River Gambia, West Africa

‘Samba Fishing’, Kuntaur, River Gambia ©Jason Florio 

 

During our time canoeing the length of the River Gambia, on our exploration of the people whose livelihoods depend on the river, we spent each night wild camping on the river bank – whether it be camping on a sandbank in the middle of the river (burning a fire all night long to deter the hippos!), on rocky outcrops miles from the nearest village and, at other times, on the edge of a village, if it was near enough to the river.

Jason Florio photographs Samba, a young fisherman, in Kuntaur, whilst on the River Gambia Expedition. Image © Helen Jones-Florio
Jason Florio photographs Samba, a young fisherman, River Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio.

 

On this particular day, we arrived mid-afternoon into the village of Kuntaur, situated on the banks of the river. We had stayed in the village before, whilst on our 2009 ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush‘. We set up our campsite in the grounds of a small riverbank lodge and, as had become the norm, our arrival instantly attracted hordes of local kids – shouting and screaming, all vying for our attention, fascinated with our tents and equipment – before the caretaker of the lodge shooed them away, “atchayah! atchayah!” (go away, get lost! A Mandinka word Gambians use to scatter mischievous kids and the scores of scavenging bush dogs alike!).

'Any chance of a bit of privacy?' Camping in a the village chiefs compound comes at a price ©Jason Florio
‘Any chance of a bit of privacy?’ Helen – Camping in the village chiefs compound comes at a price ©Jason Florio.

 

As we were about to settle down for a well-deserved cup of tea, having paddled almost 33km that day – a tough, exhausting 10km of it against the tide – we noticed a young boy, out on the river, in a local pirogue that looked far too big for him to handle on his own. We called him over and he paddled towards us with such ease and dexterity, as if he was steering a small rubber dinghy and not a heavy wooden dugout canoe, carved from a tree trunk.

His name was Samba and he said that he was ‘11 or 12 years old‘ (it’s not unusual, in this part of the world, for people not knowing exactly how old they are). He had come straight from school, to pull in his families fishing nets from the river, to see what catch they had that day…‘ Exert/words ©Helen Jones-Florio – read more at ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey

'Samba Fishing' River Gambia, fine art photography prints © Jason Florio '
‘Samba Fishing’ fine art photography prints © Jason Florio ‘

 

Jason Florio’s fine art photography prints – available from helenjonesflorio.com

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YOUTUBE: River Gambia – source-sea 1044km African Odyssey ©Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

We can’t promote this beautiful tiny West African country enough – after all the turmoil The Gambia has experienced. In particular, recently. Following, is from our extensive archive of travels and adventures, in and around the country:

We did it! We completed the River Gambia Expedition23rd November 2012 – 21st January 2013 – after almost 400km overland in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea-Conakry into Senegal and then putting our two canoes into the water in Kedougou – we paddled (no engine!) over 700km of the River Gambia to its end, at the Atlantic Ocean in Banjul, The Gambia.

During our travels, we bounced and rattled down the mountains of the Fouta Djallon on the back of motorcycle taxis; hung out with gold miners in Senegal; drank attayah tea with village chiefs and elders; dodged very angry hippos on the River Gambia; and, as we paddled on the increasingly widening ocean-like river, we battled the wind and waves, as we neared the Atlantic Ocean and the end of our journey…’ see more on the River Gambia Expedition blog

#LoveGambia

Helen Jones-Florio & Jason Florio

Co-expedition leaders/Photographers

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You may also be interested in ‘A Short Walk in the African Bush – 930km African odyssey‘. We walked around The Gambia, completely by foot – ‘bi tamala singo lah

'Silfando' Village chief, Herouna Tunkara and his horse ©Jason Florio
‘Silafando’ Village chief, Herouna Tunkara and his horse © Jason Florio

Press: ‘River Gambia’ & ‘The Quad Squad’ – Arik Air ‘Wings’ Magazine 25th Issue

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Helen is on a mission! Quad-biking in The Gambia, West Africa, for Wings Magazine (Arik Air). Check the original story out here. Image © Jason Florio

 


 

On day five of paddling, on the River Gambia, in Senegal, a bull hippo sprung from beneath the surface, about 6 metres in front of our canoes. As we careened towards him, he submerged again. Once we calmed down (after scrambling to the safety of nearby rocks) and grew quiet, our Gambian expedition teammates, Abdou and Ebou, almost in tandem, said, “Wow, that was amazing, it’s the first hippo we have ever seen!” (this is after, whilst on pre- expedition planning skype calls, they had convinced us that ‘Hippos? No problem’)!’ River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey

 

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The village chief (‘Alkalo’) of Karantaba, Gambia, fishing in the River Gambia, West Africa. Image ©Jason Florio, River Gambia Expedition with Helen Jones-Florio

 

Thanks to Wings Magazine /Arik Air – for re-featuring two of Florio’s images (pages: 50 & 78), from our West Africa adventures, in their celebratory 25th Issue.

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Visit Wings Magazine site here.