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A largest lake village in Africa

A visit to Benin isn’t complete without a visit to Ganvie Lake Village, which is often dubbed ‘the Venice of Africa’. Ganvie is a unique village built on the waters of Lake Nakoue, near Cotonou. Its inhabitants, the Tofinu people (who are often called ‘the water people of Benin’), have been living on these waters for centuries.With over 20.000 residents, Ganvie is probably the largest lake village in Africa.

A little history of Ganvie Lake Village

Ganvie was created during the 16th century by the Tofinu people who lived near what is now Cotonou. They fled to Lake Nakoue when the powerful Fon tribe of Dahomey was hunting for other native tribesmen to capture them and sell them into slavery. According to the legend, the Fon tribe believed that water demons lived in the lake and so they did not attack the Tofino people once they were in water.

Today, 500 years have passed since the Tofinu people sought refuge in the lake, and Ganvie is now a fully functioning town based on fish farming. The village has its own shops, church, mosque, restaurants, hospital, hotels, etc. All of these buildings were built on stilts in the water. Only the school and the cemetery were built on solid ground. The soil needed in order to do so was brought on boats by the villagers.

Visiting Ganvie Lake Village

When I arrived at the dock where the boats leave, I hopped on one of the pirogues (local boats) that were ready to take off to the village.

It didn’t take me long to reach Ganvie and I could quickly see the floating houses from a distance. The closer I got, the more Tofinu people I could see. They were floating around in their boats, all wearing colourful clothes with beautiful straw hats. I didn’t take a lot of pictures of them because it soon became clear that they don’t like being photographed.

Tourism helps economy of Ganvie and visiting Ganvie is an authentic insight into an alternative way of living.

Restaurant and Souvenir Shop

After getting a good impression of what a village built on stilts is like, we stopped at a restaurant to have lunch. I was able to enjoy a delicious African meal together with some local drink.

Overall it was a wonderfull experience visiting Ganvie and I hope to be visiting this village soon again.