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…

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

Heard but not seen: The hippo beneath the canoe…our first hippo encounter on the River Gambia Expedition, Senegal, West Africa

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H talks to Florio about the hippo under the canoe – River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa. Please click here or on the image to view footage

December 15th 2012 – River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa

Despite not having seen the hippo in this instance – a mere taster of what we would face, literally, whilst on the River Gambia Expedition- it was enough to shake us up…and wonder why the hell we didn’t have canoes with engines! During his many years on the river, Yousef, our Malian fisherman/guide, had been attacked twice by hippos – and, tragically, a friend of his had been killed by one – hence, he knew a thing or two about the colossal beasts. It was one of the main reasons we hired him in the first place, to take us through the first 100km of the River Gambia – unwittingly, giving us a crash course on ‘hippo etiquette‘ (as Florio likes to call it) in the process.

We were in a very narrow section of the river, taking in the serenely idyllic, shady, surroundings as we paddled along, when Yousef suddenly started paddling furiously, whilst shouting to us in his local language, Bambara, “natah, natah, natah!!” (go, go, go! – not that we knew what the word meant, right at that moment, but we learned to use it, pretty damn quickly and often after that) to us and our team mates, Abdou and Ebou, in their canoe behind us.

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Yousef – River Gambia, Mako, Senegal, W Africa © Jason Florio

Once we got a little further up the river, Yousef announced ‘donding, donding’ (‘slowly, slowly’ – we got used to that one too, especially when trying to sneak past hippos!), he explained, as Ebou translated, that he had ‘heard’ a hippo under our canoe. “What does a hippo sound like?” Florio and I asked. Yousef laughed out loud at this – he did a lot of that, at the oddest times (i.e. our next encounter with a hippo!) – and refused to tell us. “he cannot make the noise” Ebou said “he said it might attract a hippo”. Ermm…right…ok.

Aside from the laughing-out-loud-bit, Yousef had a very unique way of dealing with the hippos…but, we’ll expand on this in the next post.

Next up: the hippo stand off!!

The Florios (H & ‘Flo’)