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.

Yousef with net_MG_4945 copy

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’)


About River Gambia Expedition 2012

Jason Florio, FRGS: award-winning photojournalist. Helen Jones-Florio: expedition & photography producer. 2009: The couple co-led the West Africa expedition 'A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush - a 930km African odyssey' - the first circumnavigation of the small West African country, by foot, with two donkeys and a cart. Resulting in the award-winning series of portraits of Gambian village chiefs (Alkalo's) www.floriophoto.com (under 'Projects') http://930kmafricanodyssey.tumblr.com/ 2012-13: The couple co-led their second West Africa expedition - 'River Gambia Expedition - 1000km source-sea Africa odyssey' over-landing for 400km and canoeing the River Gambia for 720km https://rivergambiaexpedition2012.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Adventure, Carbon footprint, Culture, Documentary, Environmental, Expedition, Fundraising, photography, Photojournalism, River Gambia, tradition, Travel, West Africa and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. Pingback: Hippo stand-off: lessons in ‘hippo etiquette’ – on the River Gambia, Senegal, for the first time with ‘The Twins’/Ally 811 canoe |

  2. Pingback: Podcast: Photographer, Jason Florio – and River Gambia Expedition co-leader – talks to the One Hour Photo Show |

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