Where is Ganvie?:
Ganvie in Benin (West Africa
) is a unique village built on Lake Nokoué, just an hour north of the administrative capital and Benin's largest city, Cotonou
. About 20,000 people live in Ganvie. It's commonly believed that the Tofinu people settled here around 400 years ago and built their lake village to escape slavers who came from the Fon tribe and were not allowed to fight in water for traditional reasons (or perhaps could not swim). Hence the Tofinu were safe to build their homes on the water. Ganvie is marketed as the "Venice of Africa", but that may be raising expectations a little high.
Why Should I Visit Ganvie?:
While it's generally agreed that the population of Ganvie isn't too friendly towards tourists, it's worth a visit just to see a town built entirely on stilts. All of Ganvie's houses, shops and restaurants are built on wooden stilts several feet above the water. Spend the day watching people shop, go to school, sell their wares -- all on boats.
Ganvie is not situated near any dry land, it really is a village in the middle of a lagoon.
Plan a trip in the morning as it gets hot and humid out on the lagoon by early afternoon. Also, take care to ask before you take photos of people.
What Goes on in Ganvie?:
Most of the people rely on fishing and tourism for their income. Fisherman trap and breed fish using underwater fences made from bamboo and nets. There are a couple of restaurants where you can stop to eat some delicious fresh fish and rice and a few scattered shops selling tourist trinkets. Most of the visit (it shouldn't take more than half a day from Contonou) will be spent floating around taking photos and watching daily life.
How do I get to Ganvie?:
To get to Ganvie, take a taxi to the western side of the lagoon in Abomey-Calavi to the pirogue (canoe) moorings. There's an official counter and you can opt for a motorized boat (1.5 hours there and back) or a pirogue. The pirogue takes a little longer (2.5 hours there and back) but is more serene and will interfere less with sound if you're taking video.
The Hotel du Lac in Cotonou runs trips all the way up the Oueme river and then across the lagoon in a motorized boat. This is a more expensive option, but if you get some people together, it'll help bring the cost down.
Can I Stay in Ganvie?:
There are a few basic hotels in Ganvie (also on stilts and made of bamboo) but most people just take a day trip from Cotonou. Tripadvisor lists 6 hotels
along with reviews in Cotonou.
More Information About Ganvie: