Meet the press: The River Gambia Expedition story so far

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April 2013: VQR Spring 2013 opening page – Jason Florio’s latest series of images: ‘Life on the River Gambia

Florio and I were just looking back at what we’ve achieved since we got the crazy idea to over-land and then paddle up the River Gambia – from it’s trickling source (see above image, VQR) in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea, into Senegal, and then on to The Republic of the Gambia…where, after an eventful 1000km+, we staggered out of our makeshift catarmaran (the Ally Cat), where the mighty river runs into the Atlantic Ocean.

The interest, and support, in our journey has been phenomenal – particularly from the press. Here are just a few of the highlights…and we definitely know there is more to come. However, until articles are published, we have to hold off announcing what is to come. But…we just got news this morning that a highly esteemed publication, which we have been coveting – even since our ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’ 2009 expedition – has agreed to take our recent River Gambia Expedition story. To say that we are thrilled is a slight understatement…this publication takes us into the realms of ‘taken-seriously-as-expeditioners‘! (That’s not to take anything away from all the other publications who have supported us!). Ecstatic/thrilled/joyous/crikey(!) would be more fitting adjectives! Watch this space…

In the meantime, a few of the highlights from the press coverage we’ve had over the last year – including a resurgence of the our 2009 expedition - particularly, Florio’s portraits of village chiefs (Alkalos) and elders: ‘Silafando‘:

Nat Geo Weekend

March 2013: Click on image to go to Nat Geo Radio page – scroll down to listen to Jason Florio and Helen-Jones Florio’s interview with Boyd Matson – March 10, 2013: ‘Going Undercover for Elephant Ivory, Held Hostage by Hippos (that’s us!!), and More’

Outside mag2


January 2013: Trunk Magazine – broke their own record by printing an unprecedented 18 pages of Jason Florio’s chiefs and elders (‘Silafando‘) from our 2009 expedition (‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’)


May 2913: And because of the above 18 pages, Trunk Magazine were awarded the SPD silver medal for distinctive achievement in photography in the category of travel, food, and still life for “There and Back Again” Jason Florio‘s portrait series of Gambian chieftains. Trunk also followed up on our River Gambia Expedition with: ‘Gambia and Back

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April 2013: VQR (Virginia Quarterly Review), on our return, published 14 pages of Florio’s new series of images:’Life on the River Gambia‘ in their hard copy journal and on-line. Plus, we got a lovely note from the editor.


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November 2013: DPx Gear/Dangerous Magazine – ‘Down the Gambia‘ prior to leaving on the River Gambia Expedition, one of our collaborators, sponsors, instigators, and one of Florio’s assignment buddies (insert Mogadishu; undercover in Burma…kind of buddy), Robert Young Pelton‘s, Dangerous Magazine published an interview, by Will Grant, with Florio.

Dangerous Mag - The follow up

Dangerous Magazine – the follow up- Down the Gambia – image © Jason Florio: kids playing on the banks of the River Gambia, Senegal

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May 2013: Foto Care, NYC, hosted our presentation/slideshow, with Stella Kramer as moderator, to a standing-room-only packed house.



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June 2013: Tabla Rasa Gallery exhibition – group show ‘Equus’ features two of Jason Florio’s portraits of horses – from both the River Gambia Expedition and A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush

For an update on what’ happening on the River Gambia Expedition front now, please check out ‘Tales from the River Gambia – reflecting on what’s gone by and what is to come…

Thanks to everyone for supporting our madness!

The Florios (H & Flo)

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Mission accomplished! Denton Bridge (and the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean), The Gambia, West Africa. L-R: Helen Jones-Florio, Ebou Jarju, Abdou Ndong and Jason Florio

PRESS: Outside Magazine – ‘Expedition Improv: Traveling the length of the Gambia River’

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Our interview with Joe Spring in Outside mag about the River Gambia Expedition – to read the whole interview click here and to view the gallery, please click here

All images © Jason Florio – for more work, please visit his website

For more River Gambia Expedition press – please visit our ‘Meet the Press’ page

Outside Magazine: ‘What will be the toughest part (of the River Gambia Expedition)?’ A clue: ‘one of the most dangerous animals in Africa’!

‘Abdou with Rescued Croc’ Makasutu, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio


Outside Magazine – Adventure Lab: What will be the toughest part?

Jason Florio: ‘There is a 200km (124 mile) section through the Niokolo Koba, a 9,130 square km (3,525 square mile) national park in Southern Senegal, that will be the most remote and the most hippo-infested part of our journey. (There are an estimated 6,000 hippos in this small section of the park.) Back in the 1970s, UNESCO removed all the villages from the park, with the aim to protect it. But the consensus is that this has led to its demise. With just a few park rangers to protect the animals, the place is now rife with poachers. So, we’ll have to take an armed guard with us on that part of the river. There is a slight irony to this as the park is known for its array of potentially dangerous wildlife—elephants, lions, leopards, baboons, hippos, and crocodiles—yet we need a man with an AK-47 to protect us against humans.’ To read the full interview, please click here


Lake Baringo,Kenya, East Africa. Image © Jason Florio for AFAR Magazine

We’ve had information, tips, pointers, what-not-to-do’s coming in, over the last weeks, from various sources – people who have had direct experience with hippo’s:

Philip Harwood: ‘Canoeing the Congo’ left us a message the other day, via Explorers Connect with his experience on dealing with hippos: “Hippos … All the obvious stuff. The locals on the Congo always just stopped, and waited till the hippos moved. If they didn’t move, they slowly move around. Selecting campsites is always a big thing, the less cover the better, that way you wont surprise them. Rocky areas are also good to camp, hippos don’t do well on rocks. Stopping for a pee or poo I found dodgy, cos i often found myself surrounded by hippo prints as I squatted! Have a great trip, and if you dont get eaten by a hippo, let me know how you get on”

Thanks Philip – particularly on the loo issues!!


In a recent interview with Matt Smith for The Gambia Blog, the question that is always prevalent in our thoughts was asked:

The Gambia Blog: And lastly, what do you intend to do about all those hippos?!

Helen Jones-Florio: ‘Slap the canoe paddles – as rapidly and as hard as possible – on the surface of the water, whenever we you see a hippo fully submerging!’ paraphrasing Richard Grant, adventurer and author of ‘Crazy River’, who I went to hear his reading of said book in New York a couple of months back. Apparently, the vibrations scare them away. Who knew. I keep (half) joking with Florio “can’t we just attach mechanical paddles to the canoes which, at the flick of a switch, beat the bloody water hard and fast?!! Either that, or have an outboard engine attached for a quick smart getaway!”


Africa Geographic Safari Interactive Mag – some of the comments left on the blog post Safari Interactive Magazine put up for us:

Simon Espley “Don’t get between hippos and their perceived safety (deep water). Enjoy, very envious. Boated the Zambezi source to mouth years ago (albeit in ducks) – hippos provided the most ‘fun’.”

Jacqui:“Take my Pit Bull with you!!!! They don’t know she’s a big softy!!!!

Simon: “Don’t get between hippos and their perceived safety (deep water). Enjoy, very envious. Boated the Zambezi source to mouth years ago (albeit in ducks) – hippos provided the most ‘fun’”.


Anton Crone: “No advice except to say, take me with you and I’ll gladly scare off the ‘po’s. With admiration and envy.”

And we haven’t even started on the croc stories!! If anyone has any other ‘good advice’ out there, please feel free to leave your comments here at the bottom of the page.

Thanks for stopping by. More soon…

The Florios (Helen & Florio)

Jason Florio on Vimeo – talking all things expedition and fine art photography prints:

‘Why do this trip only by canoe and on foot?’ Outside Mag’s Adventure Lab interviews expedition photographer, Jason Florio

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Expedition Watch: The River Gambia, From Source to Sea

AL: Why do this trip only by canoe and on foot?

JF: ‘The idea is to go slow and soak in the environment and cultures, taking in the nuances of the micro view you get when walking and paddling. Being in a car, at any stage, would remove us from this experience. Arriving by canoe, or on foot, into a remote village, we feel, is much less threatening. When we walked around The Gambia it made it much easier to connect to people. We approached each other from the same level, literally and figuratively, and not by emerging out of a puff of cool AC from a fat Land Cruiser.’

To read the whole interview with award-winning photographer, and River Gambia Expedition 2012 co-leader, Jason Florio, please click here

Outside Magazine – Expedition Watch: ‘The River Gambia, From Source to Sea’ – Adventure Lab

Outside Magazine - River Gambia Expedition 2012

Thanks to Joe Spring at Outside Magazine’s ‘Adventure Lab’ for featuring an interview with us about our forthcoming River Gambia Expedition 2012 – 1000km source to sea African odyssey. Joe asked some great questions which, we hope, bring more clarity to the journey for our readers – for us too! Seriously though, each time we do these kind of interviews it makes what we are doing so much more tangible – its sometimes hard to see the journey ahead, whilst sitting here in our makeshift production office, over-looking the leafy Surrey countryside – canoeing and trekking through Guinea, Senegal and The Gambia, to the Atlantic Ocean. Thanks to interviews like Joe’s, though, we can almost smell the River Gambia more and more each day…’danke danke’ (Mandinka for slowy, slowy)

The River Gambia, Karantah, The Gambia, West Africa

Woman waiting for the ferry to cross the River Gambia, West Africa. Taken whilst on ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’ Image © Jason Florio, 2009

Abaraka baci (thank you, very much) to Joe Spring @ Adventure Lab and Outside Magazine. Also, to photographer, Ryan Heffernan, for hooking us up with Joe in the first place.

The Florios (H & Flo)

Please click on the image below to watch Jason Florio as he explains how you can own one of his fine art photography prints, from a series of images he will take whilst on the expedition: