Update: We dodged the angry hippo and made it to Mako – and it’s time to say ‘fonyato domanding’ to our hippo expert

‘Fonyato domanding’ – a West Africa mandinka phrase – roughly translates as: ‘see you next time

Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 10.13.43 AM

Hippo encounter, of the very close up kind, en route to Mako. Film footage © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio. Click the image or here to view

Friday 21st December 2012 – Bantaco – Mako. Total paddling distance to-date: 105.73km  River Gambia Expedition

We left the main gold mines behind this morning and headed towards the small ‘urban’ town of Mako, centered around an arterial road, on one of the main highways in Senegal – the Trans Gambia Highway. We’d stopped in Mako, for a cold drink, on our way to Labé, just under a month ago – which, at times, often feels much more like two months, considering what we’ve squeezed into our journey so far.


Gold mines – Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio

Whilst paddling, on route to Mako, we had a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a rather mammoth mammal – and a very pissed-off one at that: a hippo. After waiting on the rocks for over an hour – for the hippo to let us pass – and then hugging the river bank, paddling ‘donding, donding’ (slowly, slowly), we made it to Mako – and the safety of hippo-free terra firma. For the time being, at least.

Mako_arrival_MG_4118 copy

H and the team: arrival at Mako – River Gambia, Senegal, West Africa © Jason Florio

After scouting around, a local man kindly offered us the ground just outside his compound, to make our campsite for the night. It was right near to the riverbank, with an epically tantalizing view of Niokolo Koba National Park - frustratingly, after months of trying, we still hadn’t been given the go-ahead by the park director to paddle our canoes through the park. So, tomorrow morning, after packing our two Ally 811 canoes into their backpacks, we would be taking local transport for 134km’s to Wassadou – where we planned to spend Christmas and a couple of days of much-needed rest.

Mako_market are_DSF2248 copy

Mako – market (lumo) area, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

H-packing canoes_mako_MG_4888 copy

A woman’s work is never done. H packs the Ally 811 canoes, Mako © Jason Florio

Flo at work_Yousef _DSF2120 copy

Florio interviews Yousef – banks of the River Gambia, Mako, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio


Yousef with his fishing net – River Gambia, Mako, Senegal © Jason Florio


Yousef – Mako, Senegal © Jason Florio

Ebou and Florio - Mako, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio

Ebou and Florio – Mako, Senegal, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio



Dusk – The view of Niokolo Koba National Park, River Gambia, Mako © Jason Florio


Saturday 22nd December 2012 – preparing to leave Mako

H_dawn_mako_niokolo_MG_5001 copy

Dawn – The River Gambia, Mako, Senegal © Jason Florio

First things first – get the Kelly Kettle on!

H, Abdou_kelly Kettle_Mako_MG_5027 copy

Abdou and H – watching water boil, Mako, Senegal © Jason Florio

Flo-packing taxi-mako_DSF2203 copy

Florio oversee’s the packing of the Sept Place - Mako © Helen Jones-Florio

DPx Gear_mako_MG_5043 copy

A nod to DPx Gear and Come Back Alive – one of our sponsors © Helen Jones-Florio

Taxi-mako_DSF2231 copy

© Helen Jones-Florio

Team shot with Yousef_mako_MG_5035 copy

Team photo! L-R: Abdou, Florio, Yousef, Ebou (behind) and H – River Gambia, Mako, Senegal

Today we sadly and reluctantly say ‘fonyato’  – or au revoir – to Yousef. As much as we tried to persuade him to carry onto Banjul, The Gambia, with us he needed to get back to his wife and family in Kedougou. Yousef has not only caught fish for us along the way but he’s given us all a crash course in how to deal with hippos – catapults and posturing aside! – which, had we not happened open him a week ago in Kedougou (another of the many serendipitous moments we have had and will continue to have on this journey), we feel sure we may have quite possibly ended up in the River Gambia, manically swimming for shore and for our lives, after being rammed and capsized by a pissed off hippo! However, even he took a chance or two along the way, all in the name of saving a water container

Yousef_water container_mako_MG_5045 copy

Yousef and his ‘rescued’ water container, Mako © Jason Florio

Boy Catapult boy-Mako_MG_5041 copy

Catapult boy – he must be a friend of Yousef’s -  Mako © Jason Florio

And, it’s goodbye to the River Gambia, for the next few days. We’ll miss you -but not the hippos!

Stillness_river gambia_MG_4065 copy

River Gambia – not a hippo in sight © Jason Florio

Flo filming_DSF2263 copy

Florio – Mako © Helen Jones-Florio

Yousef & H Mako_taxi

H & Yousef – Mako – screen grab from film footage © Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio

Yousef-goodbye_mako_MG_5046 copy

Fonyato domanding, Yousef! © Jason Florio

Yousef-taxi-mako_MG_5049 copy

Yousef gets his transport home – Mako © Jason Florio

Taxi - mako_DSF2254 copy

We’re on our way to Wassadou – Leaving Mako © Helen Jones-Florio

And so, we move onto the next stage of our journey. This time, we head up the road towards Wassadou. Most of the route is through the Niokolo Koba National Park – so at least we get to see it – just not, unfortunately, from our canoes. The plan is to spend Christmas in Wassadou – there is a lodge there that we read about – however, best laid plans and all…

More on that coming soon.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by. We hope you are enjoying the journey – as much as we are, reliving it.

The Florios (H & Flo)

Next up: Merry *&%$##* Christmas!!


Hunters – washing in the River Gambia, Senegal © Jason Florio

To see more of Jason Florio’s series of images – ‘River Gambia’ – from the expedition, please visit floriophoto.com