Why Exactly Are We Doing This Expedition? The whys and wherefores…

Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio with the village chief of Tuba Dabbo, The Gambia, 2009 – ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush’

The Journey – 1 river. 2 borders. 3 countries

Guinea – Senegal – The Republic of The Gambia

West Africa

When: Paddles in the water mid-November 2012– Late-January 2013

Why: To create an historical – visual /audio/written –  document of the peoples, cultures and environment along one of Africa’s last, free flowing, major rivers – The River Gambia.

Estimated journey time: 2-3 months

Modes of transport: Canoes & Trekking & ‘Moto-Taxis’!

Expedition Leaders: Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

River Gambia Expedition 2012 logo


 Mission Statement

Experienced West Africa travelers, husband and wife team – multi award-winning photographer and writer Jason Florio, and, photography and expedition producer and writer, Helen Jones-Florio – will attempt to create a modern-day account of the people, societies, and life along the length of one of Africa’s last, free-flowing, major rivers – the River Gambia. There has been talk of damming the river. This journey will also be about the impact to the communities, who daily lives rely on the river to survive, and the environmental impact of damming the river.

Gambian woman waiting for the ferry to cross the River Gambia, Karantaba, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio 2009. One of the images available in ‘An Exchange’ to donors from the 2009 expedition

The Florios will be promoting canoeing and trekking, as a means of travel – thereby maintaining a low carbon footprint and environmental impact. Travelling through the through the homelands of over seven different tribes, their journey will begin at the source of the river, where it trickles out of the Fouta Djallon highlands of Guinea, on into hippo-abundant Niokolo Koba National Park, Senegal, and finally into The Republic of the Gambia – following the same course as the early gold and slave traders had done centuries ago – to the 10km wide mouth of the river, where it opens into the Atlantic Ocean, after traversing over 1000kms.

Jason (Florio), Helen (H), and their local Gambian team members, Abdou and Ibu, will collect – through multiple medias: visual/written/audio – stories documenting the lives and cultures of the indigenous people, who live and work along the course of the River Gambia. Using traditional protocol, relevant to each country, they will approach village chiefs to ask permission to stay in his/her village. The expedition team plan to camp in the villages along the river, wherever possible. Staying with the local people will be an integral part of the journey, in order for them to understand and document the cultures and traditions of the numerous tribes they will encounter. They will also pick up local guides in Guinea and Senegal – thus making it a diverse and international team – to ensure that the correct protocol is followed in each country they travel through.

Documenting methods for 2012-13 Expedition:

Photography, video, interviews, blogging, social media, mapping GPS co-ordinates to create way-points for an interactive online map of the expedition.


The material gathered on the River Gambia Expedition will be used for a book, magazine and newspaper stories, online, TV, radio, a travelling exhibition – and for educational talks, to bring awareness about the regions they will traverse, to a wide audience. Helen will regularly up-date the expedition blog, along with all other social media outlets – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr – and, whilst on route, to enable readers to follow their progress, Jason will create an online map of the journey, using satellite technology. The team will also be field testing equipment and gear for manufactures and for product reviews, for various publications.

The Route Map

Follow the Florios on their journey:

Please ‘Like’  their new Facebook page.  – and follow them on Twitter . Plus, if you sign up for this blog (see panel on right hand side – ‘follow us…please’) – then you will receive notifications of all new posts, of which you can leave comments too. In fact, nothing would help them to feel less homesick, once they are trekking or on the river, then to receive messages from their friends, colleagues and well-wishers. So, please do sign up – and, of course, feel free to spread the River Gambia Expedition 2012 word.

As mentioned, the blog, FB, Twitter etc. will be constantly updated, from now until the Florios get into the river, and onwards, upwards, sideways – as much as one possibly can – from the middle of a West African river or deep inside the bush! However, as they have  managed to secure sponsorship for a hi-tech GPS tracking device – YB3 – (BIG thanks to Nick Farrell and the guys over at YellowBrick™!) then they’ll be more likely to be able to update you all on a regular basis.

Please see their ‘An Exchange: donations for fine art prints from the River Gambia Expedition 2012’, page – images by award-winning photographer, Jason Florio, and how you can contribute – product or funding – to help this expedition happen. Once the Florios have raised their target amount, the remainder of all donations will go to our chosen charity.

In 2009, Jason and Helen successfully completed the first ever, recorded, circumnavigation by foot, of The Gambia, West Africa: ‘A Short Walk in The Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’, which resulted in an award-winning body of work ‘Silafando’ portraits of village chiefs and elders . Previous press, awards, exhibitions

After their 2009 expedition – the Florios were invited onto BBC R4 Excess Baggage with John McCarthy: ‘Walking in Madeira, Europe and Gambia’ . ‘John McCarthy talks to the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell about his enthusiasm for hiking in Tasmania and Madeira, glaciologist Richard Sale about long distance walking routes in Europe and to photographer Jason Florio and his partner Helen Jones about travelling all around Gambia on foot.’

Here are just two of a series of Jason Florio’s fine art photography prints which were available to donors – in An Exchange – from their 2009 West Africa expedition:

Gambian women waiting for ferry boat
Gambia women wait for ferry boat to take them across the River Gambia, Kuntaur Wharf, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio – 2009. One of the images available in ‘An Exchange’ to donors from the 2009 expedition
One of Jason’s fine art photography prints, available to donors in ‘An Exchange’ from the 2009 expedition ‘Herouna and white horse’ The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

Jason talks about their forthcoming River Gambia Expedition 2012 and the exclusive limited edition, signed,  fine art photography prints – which he will take whilst on the journey in West Africa – ‘An Exchange’ – which will be available to donors to the expedition.Please click on the image below to watch Florio explain all:

Please click image to watch the video

Welcome on board! We look forward to having you all on the journey with us.

Thanks for your support,

Jason & Helen – ‘The Florios’

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 9.52.17 AM

Update – Nov 18, 2012 Youtube: Photographer, Jason Florio, and producer, Helen Jones-Florio update from West Africa. Click image to view footage

UPDATE – Jan 2013 – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! We did it!  We completed the River Gambia Expedition – 23rd November 2012 – 21st January 2013 – after 400km overland in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea-Conakry into Senegal and then putting our two canoes into the water in Kedougou – we paddled (no engine!) over 700km of the River Gambia to its end, at the Atlantic Ocean in Banjul, The Gambia.

During our travels, we bounced and rattled down the mountains of the Fouta Djallon on the back of motorcycle taxis; hung out with gold miners in Senegal; drank attayah tea with village chiefs and elders; dodged very angry hippos on the River Gambia; and, as we paddled on the increasingly widening ocean-like river, we battled the wind and waves, as we neared the Atlantic and the end of our journey.

All in all, it was a phenomenal journey! Please read on to find out all about it – or visit River Gambia Expedition

denton bridge-finish_MG_8986 copy

We did it!! Denton Bridge, Banjul, The Gambia – standing in the Atlantic Ocean! The River Gambia Expedition team. L-R: Helen Jones-Florio, Ebou Jarju, Abdou Ndong, Jason Florio

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River Gambia Expedition route map – YellowBrick Tracking Device (YB3) – click here to view our route through Guinea Conakry – Senegal – The Gambia, West Africa – over 1000km

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