Meet the press : aCurator, Geographical Magazine, VQR, Trunk Mag, Flak Photo, Dangerous Magazine, BBC, Stella Zine, National Geographic, GUP Mag, Outside, Life Force Mag, Travel Africa…

Thanks for the press!

We are just updating our ‘Meet the Press’ page, here on the ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey‘ blog, with the latest from Geographical Magazine – we got the cover, with one of Florio’s last images of our long journey, from his ‘River Gambia‘ series. And we were was astounded at the considerable amount of great international press we’ve garnered over the last couple of years, leading up to, during, and post both expeditions – our first one being in 2009 : ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey’, which produced an award-winning body of work ‘Silafando‘ – Florio’s formal portraits of Gambian village chiefs and elders, who we stayed with, and which he took at the end of each day of our walk.

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Geographical Magazine - Cover shot © Jason Florio

With huge gratitude from both of us, all of the following and more have helped to share our journeys worldwide : aCurator, Geographical Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, Trunk Magazine, Flak Photo, BBC News in Pictures, National Geographic, Outside Magazine, GUP Magazine, Life Force Magazine, Dangerous Magazine, Stella Zine, Africa Geographic, Arik Airlines, Foto Care Blog, The War Diaries, Travel Africa Magazine, G-Layer Magazine, The Gambia Blog, Gothamist… . Read more about press, awards, and exhibitions here

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aCurator ‘River Gambia’ © Jason Florio

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VQR - Life on the River Gambia. Images © Jason Florio

We’re now looking forward to seeing what the near future brings and we hope that we’ll garner as much interest for our next venture(s) – which includes holding our first Gambian photography workshop, teaching young students, in December this year.

However, more on that shortly.

Onwards, upwards – and sometimes a little sideways…

The Florios (H & ‘Flo’)

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H & Florio - on top of the world – Mali Ville, Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea-Conakry, West Africa



‘River Gambia’ presented by VQR at Photoville, Brooklyn, NY, 2013 – exclusive film footage

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Dawn – Florio, River Gambia, The Gambia, West Africa – clip from footage by Helen Jones-Florio


Hippo sighting! Helen and the River Gambia Expedition team, Senegal, West Africa – clip from footage by Jason Florio

Monday 1st September 2013

It’s Labor Day and we are working – hard!

Not in any particular order: wonder, amazement, joy, laughter, love, elation, peace, fear (that’ll be the multiple hippo encounters!), frustration, patience, helplessness, sorrow… pretty much sums up our state of mind, moods, and emotions that we relive – wading through hours of video footage that both Florio and I shot, whilst on our recent ‘River Gambia Expedition – 1044km source-sea African odyssey‘.

We’re putting together an exclusive piece – to accompany Florio’s ‘River Gambia‘ series of images which we’ll be exhibiting (thanks to VQR for their support!) – for this years Photoville, in Brooklyn, New York.

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We hope that you can make it to Photoville – held over two long weekends – 19-29 September.

More updates coming soon!

The Florios (H & Flo)

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VQR – ‘Life on the River Gambia’. To view some of the images we’ll be exhibiting at Photoville, please click here: Jason Florio

‘Great Things Come In The Mail’ – photo editor and creative consultant, Stella Kramer

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Great to read that Stella Kramer is enjoying her Florio prints, which she wrote about in her recent blog post: ‘Photographer Jason Florio has been a favorite of mine for many years, and I am always so grateful when he offers me a print. These two are from his newest work, from the last expedition to the Gambia when Jason and his wife, Helen Jones-Florio, canoed down the Gambian River from end to end. The spirit of adventure lives, and I am so glad to see that. Jason‘s connection to the people he photographs is incredible, and what his subjects give back of themselves is really wonderful. A great example of connecting with your subjects.’

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 4.54.17 PMThanks, Stella, for always being such a huge support of Florio’s work and what we’ve been up to over the last few years; with our recent River Gambia Expedition and our 2009 expedition – ‘ A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey

For and update on where we’re at as of today, 30th July 2013, please check out this link

Looking back: The weight of waiting…Kedougou, Senegal, West Africa

Wednesday November 28th 2012

Internet Cafe, Kedougou, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio 2012

Hurry up and wait…this should be the title of our book about the River Gambia Expedition so far.

The journey began on our departure from Gatwick Airport, UK on the 16th October. However, since we arrived in West Africa, all we seem to have done is wait, wait, and wait some more – whether it be for a box of expedition gear to arrive by boat in The Gambia (which we still don’t have a definite date for it’s arrival into Banjul Port), or waiting for the public transport that we need to take to get us to Labé, high up in the Fouta Djallon Highlands, Guinea, to fill up with enough passengers to depart Kedougou, Senegal. The next Land Cruiser in line to leave the bus station needs seventeen people before the driver will leave and head towards the capital of the Fouta Djallon. At the moment, ten people have paid to join the vehicle (including our team of four). So far, it has taken three days to fill those ten seats.

Helen – Breakfast in Kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio 2012

After much debate amongst the team, and our time to complete the expedition running extremely short – we haven’t actually even started it yet (we don’t truly start it until we reach the source of the River Gambia, located somewhere in the Fouta Djallon Highlands)! So, we have decided to swallow the expense and buy up the extra seats in the Land Cruiser so that we can get moving. It will make a big dent in our already very tight budget – travel in West Africa can be extraordinarily expensive, often due to extortionately high gas prices in certain parts of the continent (this ride will cost us a staggering $250) – but we are now almost eight weeks behind schedule…due to…waiting.

Waiting…for the ferry to cross the River Gambia, Kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio

Despite the waiting game, we’ve really enjoyed our time in Kedougou. With great gratitude and respect, we’ve been staying in the peaceful, spacious, compound of Peter Stirling – a Canadian we met on line whilst researching our trip – run by the trés belle Bébé (who also happens to be a great cook!) and her husband, Kali (who, unfortunately, we won’t get to meet this time around, as he is working out in the bush on a chimpanzee rehabilitation project). Visited by scavenging chickens and cockerels in the morning, thirsty donkeys mid-afternoon (to drink water from the well  in the compound), goats chomping the sparse grass late afternoon, and the odd dog cocking it’s leg around the place – the compound is alive. At night, we have lizards and god know what else scuttling around in the eves of our hut. We’ve also been discovering the sprawling, vibrant, dusty town of Kedougou and the nearby River Gambia – from whose banks we’ll be setting off from, once we return from paying homage to the source of the river, in the Fouta Djallon.

Farmers – the banks of the River Gambia, kedougou, Senegal © Jason Florio 2012

“Insh’Allah’ – It is in the hands of God” Ebu tells us, as he hangs up from the umpteenth phone call to the driver at the bus station, to see how many seats have been sold so far. How far is Labé, we ask? “A day and a night” – in local terms, is the answer…and the roads are ‘very bad’. I have a suspicion that might be a slight understatement. But, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

We hope to be in Labé by Friday morning…’Insh’Allah’.

More updates whenever possible so please stick with us.

The Florios (H & Flo), Abdou and Ebu

The River Gambia Expedition Team

Follow our trail on YellowBrick Tracking

To find out how we eventually got the Labé, please check out ‘The long and winding road…Kedougou, Senegal-Labé, Guinea-Conarkry-and back again

A sad au revoir to our Malian fisherman/guide/hippo expert – how the hell will we deal with the hippo’s without him?!

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Leaving Yousef at Mako, Senegal © Jason Florio

Coming up shortly: December 22nd, 2012 – Mako, Senegal, West Africa

With sadness, and more than a little trepidation, we bid farewell – ‘fonyato’ – to Yousef, our Malian fisherman/guide/hippo expert, who has been with us for the last week on the River Gambia Expedition  – giving the team a crash-course on how to deal with hippo’s, here on the River Gambia. That is, Yousef’s rather quirky way of dealing with the mammoth mammals.

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Angry hippos and crazy Malian fishermen! River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa. Click on the image or here to view the footage

What will we do without him? More to come on that very soon…

Gold mining village, Senegal, West Africa

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Arrival at another camp site for the night, River Gambia © Jason Florio

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First things first ‘get the (kelly) kettle on Florio!’ © Helen Jones-Florio

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West Africans like their tea too: Attayah tea in the pot, gold mines, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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Chicken for dinner? Gold mining village, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Girls stop and chat. Gold mining village, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Gold miner takes a rest (clutching his nugget in his right hand), Senegal © Jason Florio

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Gold miner and family, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Coffee break – Senegalese style, gold mining village, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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Gold miner shows off his rock, with specks of gold embedded in it, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Another gold miner with his rock, embedded with gold, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Helen makes friends with the gold miner,Senegal © Jason Florio

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Washing the crushed rock granules, looking for gold, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Next morning – getting ready to head out to the gold mines for the day, Senegal © Jason Florio

To see more of Jason Florio’s new series of images from the River Gambia Expedition, please visit his website:

Photographer, Jason Florio – hanging with the gold miners of Senegal, West Africa

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© Jason Florio

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© Jason Florio

Sunday December 16th – Sila Kounda, Senegal

Starting from where we left in our last blog post about the River Gambia Expedition…we decided to spend a couple of days in the village, because there was a gold mine, Laminia, which we wanted to go and see – ’about 1km’ walk away. We set off, with the chief’s 12-year old grandson, Ibrahima, leading the way. Four kilometers later, and a paddle across the River Gambia in a model-sized dugout – looking as if it could barely float, and which Yousef had to bail water out of each time he came back across the river to take us over, one by one – we reached the gold mines.

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Our Malian fisherman/guide comes back over the River Gambia to take the team, one by one, to the opposite bank © Helen Jones-Florio

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Our Malian fisherman/guide comes back over the River Gambia to take the team, one by one, to the opposite bank © Jason Florio

With both freshly dug and discarded mining holes everywhere you stepped, we gingerly edged our way along the narrow pathways between the holes . All around us, disembodied voices came out of the ground – from the narrow 20-30ft deep deep holes – shouting for the boys waiting at the top to haul up the plastic buckets; many of which are adapted from the ubiquitous 5 gallon plastic water containers. The rocks are taken to be smashed down into dust, washed and then shifted for a precious speck of gold – if they are the lucky ones.

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No safety harnesses here! Ebou hangs onto Florio – that hole is deep! Laminia gold mine, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

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Gold miner coming up for his hourly break – the girls bring food and hang around the holes. Some of them work on the mine face too © Jason Florio

The men, young boys and quite a few women, many with their babies crawling around in the dust beside them – often precariously close to the holes – are from all over West Africa: Guinea-Conakry, The Gambia, Mali, Gunea-Bisseau, Ghana, Senegal…all hoping to strike gold. Only then, do many of those we spoke to feel they can go back to their homelands – with something to show for, on average, of between 6-12 months spent in an environment of breathing, eating and sleeping in the dust. Some of the men we spoke to had been at the mine for years. Villages spring up around the mines, to cater for the continuous influx of hopeful people. We would see many of these places – Wild West-esque, ramshackle villages, throughout our travels along the River Gambia in Senegal.

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A gold miner rests, Laminia mines, Senegal © Jason Florio

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Gold miner at work, Laminia, Senegal © Jason Florio

We had read, previously when researching the gold mines of Senegal, that we either shouldn’t visit them or be very cautious if we did: because there is such a diverse cross section of people from all over West Africa – some of whom are so desperate that they would have no qualms about doing you serious harm, to take from you what they want. And, I have to say, I was more than a little nervous – being the only toubab woman in our group too – when we went to the first mine.


Mining holes snake their way through the mining area – Laminia, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

However, we didn’t encounter any hostility from anyone we met – and we visited a number of mines along the river. Yes, there were a few people who were very vocal about not pointing cameras in their direction and we respected that. And, I’m not saying that some of these miners wouldn’t rob you of your belongings if the opportunity arose. But, then again, that can happen anywhere. At each mine, we spent a couple of hours walking around (whilst trying not to fall into holes!), talking with the miners, and, on the whole, we were made to feel very welcome. Besides, most of the miners seemed just as curious about us as we were about them and were more than happy to share there stories.

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H, Ebou and Ibrahim – Laminia gold mines, Senegal © Jason Florio

And, someone may just hit the jackpot…

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Gold! Senegal © Jason Florio

After a couple of hours at the mine, we made the long walk back (let me tell you, 4km is a long way in 100degree heat!), across the river, to the village of Sila Kounda to get ready to leave the next morning.


Larking around – Yousef carrying Florio, with Abdou’s help, from the dug out to the river bank ‘he cannot get his nice shoes wet’! Sila Kounda, Senegal © Helen Jones-Florio

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Everything is fascinating…to the kids – Sila Kounda, Senegal © helen jones-Florio

Monday December 17th – leaving Sila Kounda

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I wonder if we will see the old chief again – Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

After thanking him for him and his family for the hospitality, and bidding farewell to the old chief, we load ‘The Twins’ up and head back out onto the River Gambia, for the next village along the way – Djinji – which is about 22km from Sila Kounda. I wonder what we will encounter on the river today…

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‘The Twins’ -packed and ready to go. Leaving the mines and Sila Kounda, River Gambia – heading to Djinji © Jason Florio click here or on image to view footage

As always, thanks for stopping by…more soon

Helen & Florio

Coming next…the fight for my paddle!

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H : “this is MY paddle!” Sila Kounda, Senegal © Jason Florio

Today’s shout out goes to ©Kelly Kettle – thanks for your support on the River Gambia Expedition!

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Helen – ‘we LOVE our Kelly Kettle!’ – Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio


‘River Gambia Expedition 2012 – 1000km source to sea Africa odyssey’ team thanks all our product sponsors, backers and collaborators for all their unprecedented support and product donations. We are extremely grateful and thankful.

Today’s shout out goes to Kelly Kettle – this little beauty was a life saver…we Brits love our tea! Also, because you can burn any old bits of dry twigs and grass to boil the water it meant that this time, we didn’t have to use kembo (charcoal – from trees which more all too often purposely chopped down for burning) – used all the time in West Africa to make fires.

In the future, our expedition gear check list will not be complete without a Kelly Kettle!

Check these guys out – Kelly Kettle

Kelly Kettle

‘Kelly Kettle® essential Camping equipment for the Outdoors. [for Scouts, Fishing, Picnics, Disaster Kits, etc. Order yours now!] Kelly Kettle … and West Africa adventures too! Thanks Patrick and Seamus Kelly for all your support for the River Gambia Expedition - we’re not quite sure what we would have done without our tea!

More ‘shout outs’ to come, for everyone else who backed us with product. Such as…

Mega thanks!

The Florios

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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

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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

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)