Photographer, Jason Florio – at work – Bambali, The Gambia, West Africa

Bambali fisherman © Jason Florio

A Gambian fisherman comes to check the river condition from the bank of the River Gambia at the village of Bambali, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

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Florio at work: Bambali tenda, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey

Latest new series of images from Jason Florio: River Gambia Expedition: One river, two borders, three countries

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A Gambian fisherman comes to check the river condition from the bank of the River Gambia at the village of Bambali, The Gambia © Jason Florio

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Lopiz Jarju is one of the few full-time sailors to work on the River Gambia in The Gambia. He works for the Gambia Groundnut Corporation on one of their tugboats, which pull barges with 100 tonne loads of peanuts from upcountry loading centers to a processing plant near to where the river meets the Atlantic ocean at the capital, Banjul © Jason Florio

Group-generator, River Gambia © Jason Florio

A group of men use a pontoon to ferry a generator by hand along a remote section of the River Gambia in Senegal. The generator will be used to pump water through a large pipe from the river up the very steep banks to irrigate banana plantations that flank the river. © Jason Florio

To see more of Florio’s River Gambia Expedition – a new series of images – please visit his website:

We have so many more photos and road and river stories to share, from three months of travelling in three West African countries…stick with us

The Florios (‘H’ & ‘Flo’)

Next blog post: hanging out with the gold miners in Senegal

Gold miners

Gold miners take a break near their mine shafts in South East Senegal. The mine shafts can exceed 10 meters deep and collapses and resulting deaths are frequent.© Jason Florio

More personal thanks from West Africa to those who made the River Gambia Expedition possible

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Our way of saying thanks to all those who made the River Gambia Expedition possible – with your participation in ‘An Exchange’ and the Kickstarter campaign. For that, we have been immensely humbled by your support and unprecedented generosity.

Thank you’s – all the way from West Africa!

BIG thanks – (see more here)

The Florios (H & Flo)

To those who don’t see their names on the ‘rolling page of HUGE thanks’, please bear with us as we sort through three months of images!

Camping on the roof of the village chief’s compound, Sila Kounda, Senegal, West Africa

Sunday December 16th – Sila Kounda, Senegal – 21.45km

I’m going to skip back a day or two, from our first major hippo encounter, to when we arrived at the village of Sila Kounda, paddling the canoes from our initial jump off point for the river section, in Kedougou – on our River Gambia Expedition - with a little stopping and getting out along the way.

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Young boys pose for a portrait on the banks of River Gambia in Senegal. They said they had painted their faces like skulls for their own amusement © Jason Florio

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Florio with his new friends, on the banks of the River Gambia, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio (screen grab from film footage)

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“Pass me the tapalapa, Ebou” our paddles doubled nicely as bread boards, River Gambia, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

Sila Kounda village, as with most villages we would paddle to on the journey, was situated about 1km from the riverbank. At first, we talked about camping on the bank and then walking up to the village to get supplies. However, a group of small boys playing by the river, said that they would go and fetch a donkey and cart so that we could haul our gear, including the canoes to the village.

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First up, the baggage – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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Next up, the Ally canoes, Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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The donkeys must had a day off! Yousef and Ebou take the strain – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

When we got up to the village, and introded ourselves to the chief, it was a choice between pitching our tents on the outskirts of the compound, on the village rubbish dump, or on the roof of the chief’s very large house. Where the hell do we put the tent pegs in a concrete floor? However, as you can see, we managed, with the help of a couple of Peli cases to weight down the tent.

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H: “Flo, do you think Apple might sponsor are next expedition?” Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Drying cous cous, sweetcorn, rice, and groundnuts on the roof – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

Our view from the roof was the halal slaughtering of a huge cow. Apparently, someone from the village had just returned from The Hajj and a big celebration was underway. We watched as the cow’s throat was cut and its blood let to bleed into the ground around it. It fought hard, that cow. It took over 30 minutes to die – the whole time, moaning loudly, kicking out, and writhing around on the ground. It’s expansive chest heaving up and down. When it stilled, the man who’d cut its throat, approached the animal cautiously and yanked it’s tail – hard – I thought at first he was trying to pull it off! However, he was checking to see if it was dead. The big animal bucked out its hind legs, one more time, as the man almost fell over backwards, scrambling to get out of its way. Then, the cow went still – and stayed that way.

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Preparing the cow – and the ground – Sila Kounda © Jason Florio

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Halal’d – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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Every single bit of the cow will be used – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

I knew then what would be in the family bowl that night for dinner…

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The food shot© Jason Florio

After we’d made camp, we went back to see the old chief. Ninety nine years old with an active mind – and a roguish twinkle in his eyes – of that of a much younger man. He had been village chief for over 30 years – as had his grandfather before him – and, as cow-hide trader, he had travelled all over West Africa. Florio presented him with a handful of kola nuts – the traditional greeting to chiefs in West Africa: ‘Silafando’ – a gift to you on behalf of my journey – which we had used on our Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’, in 2009.

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Florio gives ‘Sialfando’ to the chief – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio (screen grab from film footage)

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Chef de village, Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

We decided to spend a couple of days in the village because there was a gold mine, ’about 1km’ walk away, that we wanted to go and see. We set off, with the chief’s 12-year old grandson, Ibrahima, leading the way. Four kilometers and a tiny, barely-floating, dug-out canoe ride across the River Gambia later, we reached the mine…

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Ibrahima leads the way © Helen Jones-Florio

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H gets into the dug out with Yousef, River Gambia, Senegal – click here or on image to view footage

Next up: hanging out with the gold miners of Senegal.

See you soon!

The Florios

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A gold mine worker relaxes after a shift at an artisanal mine in Senegal on the banks of the River Gambia.© Jason Florio

Every picture tells a story: River Gambia Expedition – latest new images from Jason Florio

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Women working in the rice fields, Kaur, The Gambia © Jason Florio

These images were taken, by Jason Florio, whilst on the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1000km source-sea African odyssey’

From November 23rd 2012 – January 21st 2013, we travelled 1130km overland ,via motorcycles and local transport, before getting into our two canoes, onto the River Gambia – from the source of the river in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea-Conakry, on into Senegal, and then towards the the rivers end, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, Banjul, The Republic of The Gambia.

The River Gambia is one of Africa’s last major free-flowing undammed rivers…communities along its length rely on it for their very existence. With plans afoot to dam the river, we wanted to create a modern day account of the people who live and work along its banks – before construction of the dam begins and their lives are irreversibly changed.

To check out more thought-provoking images from Jason Florio, from the expedition, please visit his website

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Two hunters bath after shooting a monkey for its meat – Njeun, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Man shows off chicken he has bought, Perias Tenda, The Gambia © Jason Florio

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Men swim their horses across the River Gambia, Karantaba, The Gambia © Jason Florio

A new series of photographs from Jason Florio: ‘River Gambia Expedition -1000km source-sea African odyssey’

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A watchman relaxes on a floating jetty near the small Gambian village of Bonto. Bonto became infamous in 2009 when a two tonne cocaine stash, with a street value of $1bn, was discovered in a riverside warehouse a few hundred meters from the jetty. The street value of the haul far exceeded Gambia’s $782 million annual GDP in 2009. © Jason Florio

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Young boys pose for a portrait on the banks of River Gambia in Senegal. They said they had painted their faces like skulls for their own amusement. © Jason Florio

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Gold mining along the River Gambia as it flows through Southern Senegal draws economic migrants from all over West Africa. The gold bearing sand is filtered and then mixed with mercury to draw the gold out. © Jason Florio

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A migrant worker from Guinea poses with his shovel he uses to excavate sand from the River Gambia in Senegal. The sand will be washed and mixed with mercury to extract gold. © Jason Florio

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Migrant gold miner and his son, on the banks of the River Gambia, Senegal. © Jason Florio

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A Senegalese gold miner appears from the small shaft from where he is extracting gold bearing rocks. His two partners help haul the loaded bucket up to the surface.Mines shafts often collapse and many people are killed each year in their pursuit. © Jason Florio

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A gold mine worker relaxes after a shift at an artisanal mine in Senegal on the banks of the River Gambia. © Jason Florio

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A group of young boys pose for a portrait at an abandoned French owned hunting camp on the banks of River Gambia at the village of Kemoto, The Gambia. © Jason Florio

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Hawa Jallow a member of the Santa Yalla kaffo; a collective of ladies who work together to harvest rice near the River Gambia at Kaur. After cutting the rice she holds her knife in her mouth and uses her head and hands to carry the rice. © Jason Florio

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The son of Bakary Dabo, the Alkalo (village chief) of Diagabu Tenda, The Gambia wearing a ‘fur’ coat on a cool morning. © Jason Florio

To see more of Florio’s sublime images from our River Gambia Expedition, please visit his website:

Thanks, as always, for stopping by

The Florios (H & Flo)

Photographer-Jason Florio: brand new series of images from the River Gambia Expedition…a taster

More to come very shortly…

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Boys playing on the banks of the River Gambia, Senegal, W Africa © Jason Florio

Florio is updating his website as I write this…we’re reliving the journey, over and over, each day – looking through hundreds of images and updating this blog. Back here, in the city, it makes us both realise how much we miss living and sleeping outdoors, on the banks of the River Gambia, paddling along in our canoes each day…there is nothing really quite like West African skies. The staggeringly beautiful dawn, the fiery dusk, and so many stars vying for attention in the night skies.

Watch this space…as our River Gambia Expedition continues to reveal itself

The Florios (H & Flo)

More personal thanks – from The Florios, on the River Gambia Expedition – to all those who made the journey possible



For every single one of you who made the River Gambia Expedition possible…without your support, it would not have been possible for us to make the journey to document the lives of those who live and work along one of Africa’s last free-flowing major rivers: the River Gambia – all 1000km + of it!

And there’s more thanks here and many more to come very soon!

Big love and the utmost respect

Helen & Jason Florio x

Nuun active hydration products – in the River Gambia house!

Our Nuun products have arrived! Image © Helen Jones-Florio

‘You’re Always Active, Your Water Should be Too

Nuun is leading the way in portable hydration with three drink options to keep you refreshed all day, everyday. All three are ideal to help keep you hydrated and to make the most of the water you drink’ – Nuun

Big thanks to Sarah and all at Nuun for the package of hydration tablets and water bottles. We’re now stocked up with sugar-free, electrolyte-enhanced, tabs – in 3 tasty flovours: tri-berry, lemon & lime and lime tea – which will help to keep all the team hydrated throughout our River Gambia Expedition, whether we’re trekking in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea or canoeing up the River Gambia

Image © Nuun

Thanks again to Nuun, for their support for the River Gambia Expedition.

More photo’s from ‘on-the-ground’ very soon…we fly down to The Gambia next week (16th Oct)!

Stayed tuned!

The Florios (H & Florio)

Jason Florio talks about the River Gambia Expedition and his fine art photography prints. Please click on image to view

Wed 10th October, 2012: River Gambia Expedition Update, Jason Florio’s fine art photography prints, and dug outs v Ally folding canoes!

Random road shots: The Alkalo (village chief), Dam Sallah, and the village elders come to meet the team – Kerr Sat Maram, The Gambia, West Africa
Image © Jason Florio
A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey

As mentioned in a previous post, we now have a leaving date for the River Gambia Expedition – we fly down to The Gambia, West Africa, next week – at last (16th October – thanks to Jenny and Matt and all at The Gambia Experience for their support and much needed excess baggage allowance!)! And, this is mainly due to everyone’s support – through both ‘An Exchange’ and ‘Kickstarter’.

Alkalo Dam Sallah, Kerr Sait Maram © Jason Florio – 2009

Since we reached our Kickstarter target the other day, we’ve had a number of emails asking if this means its too late the get hold of one of Jason Florio’s limited edition fine art photography prints – which will be taken from a series of images he will take whilst we are traversing over 1000km through Guinea, Senegal and The Gambia – trekking and canoeing – in and around the River Gambia?

In a word: No.

Firstly, the Kickstarter campaign does not end until the 15th October (so, you have 4 more days to pledge for ‘rewards’. Please see our KS page for all the details). Secondly, ‘An Exchange’ - here on the blog – will carry on until at least the 31st October (when the expedition proper will start – when we reach Guinea and the Fouta Djallon Highlands, to begin the first leg and 200km of trekking through that region). ‘An Exchange’ works pretty much like KS (except you donate through Paypal instead of KS/Amazon) – but, along with the forthcoming River Gambia Expedition series, you can also choose from Florio’s fine art gallery, from his Black & White and Colour Collection, of images he has taken, on his travels, from all over the world.

‘Angkor Wat 2′ – Cambodia. Image © Jason Florio (B/W)

We’re particularly looking forward to posting about our arrival into The Gambia, when we meet up with our local Gambian team mates, old friends and experienced river men, Abdou and Ebu. From then, we’ll be last minute prepping – including introducing ‘The Twins’ (our two 811 Ally 16.5′ folding Canoes) to Abdou and Ebu.

H & one of ‘The Twins’ – the 811 Ally 16.5′ folding canoe – practicing on the Basingstoke Canal, Surrey, UK (not quite the River Gambia but, hey…a girl’s gotta practice somewhere). Image © Jason Florio 2012

It will be interesting to see what they think of these super-light craft, compared to their heavy, low-on-the-water, tradition dug out canoes (‘pirogues’). We’ve had some experience over the years, in The Gambia, paddling dug-outs on the Mandina balong, through Makasutu Culture Forest – made from a hollowed tree trunk, they can be very heavy and unwieldy indeed. To us, our Ally canoes virtually glide across the surface of the water! However, watching Abdou and Ebu paddling in their dug-out, and the ease (and many years of experience) with which they maneuver it, they make it look as if they are floating above the surface of the water!! Each to their own…

More updates as and when.

As always, thanks for stopping by…we hope that you continue to follow us on our journey (if you don’t want to miss our updates, simply add your email address in the box, in the right hand column, ‘Follow us…please’ and verify)

The Florios (‘Flo’ & ‘H’)

P.S. And, remember, you can still pledge or donate for Florio’s fine art photography prints – either through ‘Kickstarter’ or ‘An Exchange’

Click on image – Deadline 15th Oct. 2012