UNSEEN BENIN

The place to Explore Benin and its Culture

Ganvié – The Venice of Africa

Imagine taking your current lifestyle living on lands and moving on water to conduct your day-to-day lifestyle. This is what Ganvié is all about; a town on a stilt lake.

Aerial view of Ganvié

Aerial view of Ganvié

Ganvié is located on the lower Southern part of Benin and is built on the Lake Nokoué.  The name “Ganvié” comes from the Fon language and it means literally “We’ve survived”. It has about 20,000 habitants in  approximately 3,000 homes that all built on a stilt water. Ganvié came into existence during the Portuguese invasion looking for slaves.  Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 8.41.34 PM

at-ganvieThose living in a town which is now called Cotonou fled and took refuge far away from land and  built the  now called Ganvié. In the Fon religious beliefs, it was forbidden for any raiders to approach anyone living near water (or perhaps couldn’t swim), therefore making it a perfect escape and refuge for this group of Beninese people to create a safe community on water.

Woman selling oranges in Ganvie

Woman selling oranges in Ganvie

Daily Life In CotonouThe community is self sustainable, survives on fishing (eating and selling) and various other means such as tourism, restaurants and souvenir shops. They go on land to purchase goods that can be cultivated on water and then resell it during market days.

Expotel  - Chef Raphael - Hotel, Restaurant and Gift Shop in Ganvie

Expotel – Chez Raphael – Hotel, Restaurant and Gift Shop in Ganvie

Although there is a hotel on the lake, most visitors tend to come for a one day excursion or rather stay at hotels nearby and on land right next to the boarding boats. It is not because the hotels on the water aren’t accommodating. Rather, it is because many don’t find it pleasurable to adapt living on the lake. The amenities offered aren’t for everyone

A man makes his way across the lagoon on his boat in Ganvie on January 6, 2012 in Cotonou, Benin. Often called the Venice of Africa, Ganvie is a huge stilted fishing village on Lake Nokoue, near Cotonou in Benin, the largest such village in Africa, and home to approximately 20,000 residents.

A man makes his way across the lagoon on his boat in Ganvie on January 6, 2012 in Cotonou, Benin. Often called the Venice of Africa, Ganvie is a huge stilted fishing village on Lake Nokoue, near Cotonou in Benin, the largest such village in Africa, and home to approximately 20,000 residents.

Visiting Ganvié is an experience out of the ordinary. Up to this day, this is the largest community known to live on water. Everything is conducted on the lake. Upon arrival, you will rent a boat that will take you around the lake and show you how life is lived in this community. There are lots of boats hand carved from wood trunks.

A young girl navigates their way through Ganvie in her boat

A young girl navigates their way through Ganvie in her boat

Anyone, from young children, women and groups of individuals are moving around with grace in their boats. It’s remarkable to see how they all get along in an environment that might seem to most uncomfortable; everything is on the water (supermarket included) but the schools which are right off the land. A few residents keep plots for their domesticated animals. A cemetery is also being built on land as well. benin-cotonou-girl

home gThe homes are built with different characters. Some homes have a terrace to enjoy the serene, shallow water; others were courageous and creative enough to take on a challenge by adding sands to build a beach on a lake. One can only imagine how many boat trips have been made to finalize such a project.

It is very peaceful, magical, mystical and enjoyable to experience that will take your breath away. During your visit, a thought that will keep crossing your mind, is wondering how are they able to live on water and be so content.  This is a testimonial that as humans, we can adapt into any environment if necessary.

Long boat or "Pirogue"

Long boat or “Pirogue”

Mosque on water

Mosque on water

Those living in Ganvié are content with their lifestyle and are not showing interest to abandon their lifestyles to move on solid ground. There is a sense of proudness that’s exuberated as you see them navigate the water. It will only leave you wondering what other unseen wonders are left in the world that are undiscovered.

 A girl laughs while unloading her boat of produce at a market in Ganvie

A girl laughs while unloading her boat of produce at a market in Ganvie

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3 comments on “Ganvié – The Venice of Africa

  1. Pingback: Visit Benin – Best Traveling Tips | Unseen Benin

  2. Pingback: Visit Benin – Best Travel Tips | Unseen Benin

  3. Pingback: Unseen Benin Through The Eyes of Visionary Mayeul Akpovi. | UNSEEN BENIN

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