Thursday, July 19, 2007


Africa's little Venice
Photos by Brian McMorrow

village of Ganvie, located about an hour north of Cotonou, Benin is built on the waters of Lake Nokoué. With a population of around 20,000 people, it is probably the largest lake village in Africa and as such is very popular with tourists.

Photos by Brian McMorrow

The houses stand on stilts and the inhabitants move around in small boats. The market is conducted on the boats that roam over the lake and people carry out their daily affairs by boat.
East West Home is Best
Photos by Brian McMorrow

The village was established in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries by the Tofinu people, who were fleeing the Abomey kings and their brutal rule, war and slave trade. It is not clear as to why they adopted this strategy however some sources claim that since the king’s soldiers could not swim, they built themselves a village on the water, and were thereby safe from the persecutors. Other sources depict that the Kings solders were forbidden to enter into water during warfare and thus the option of building their homesteads offered a safe haven. Some sources claim the Dan-Homey's religion forbade them from attacking over water.

Tourist shop



School building at Ganvie
Photos by Brian McMorrow

There are no dry connections between most buildings in Ganvie. The dry land in Ganvie is usually used to build on schools, churches, and for grave yards. Vodoo temples, craft houses, hotels and restaurants are also built on stilts. Originally based on farming, the village's main industries other than tourism are now fishing and fish farming.

To get to Ganvie you drive to Abomey-Calavie and take a boat from there. It is recommended to go with a guide from Cotonou, who is used to the hustling at the boat stands.

Ganvie Boat Landing

Brian McMorrow an intrepid traveller had this to say from his journey to Ganvie, Benin.

"Ganvie is a village of small huts built in the middle of the shallow lake Lac Nokoué. While quite interesting and a highlight of Benin, the unfriendly attitudes most of the inhabitants display towards tourists makes me think perhaps people should take their $£€ elsewhere."


luihamu said...

nimebaki mdomo wazi,unafanya mambo makubwa mno,blogu yako inastahili sifa kwani unaelimisha jamii.

Hongera liz.
Karibu Bongo land.

Ann said...

I truly enjoyed this post African Liz. Great pictures by Brian McMorrow!

It's so funny to see the Coca Cola signs here:D

But can you tell me what on earth are those two guys transporting in the seventh and eigthth pictures from the bottom?


@Luihamu I never knew we had a Venice in Africa. I too was mesmerized to learn about the floating village in Ganvie. However I cant help but think those houses have no business being built on stilts. Just examine their state...besides commuting from point a to b on boats and rowing all the time must be tiresome. I prefer to walk.

@Ann thanks for the compliment. I will ask Brian McMorrow if he can recall what those items are and for what purpose.


Plus the lake seems to serve the purpose of a sewer system(see toilet photo).At the same time it is the same "road" you will use to get about the village, conduct business and fish from.

luihamu said...

Kweli Afrikan Liz,what about the Loo,where do they flash the waste to,is it in the water?

Tunafahamu ya kwamba watalii ni hela,wanaleta kahauweni fulani hivi,sasa hiyo hela na wanachukuwa?kama ni hao wanakijiji basi wangeboresha zaidi Loos zao.

Pili hawa watalii wanakuja kushanga nini?kwasababu Liz lazima tuwe waangalifu kwasababu wengine watatufananisha ni kile kitabu cha Charles Darwin.

Kama ni watali washangae tu hiyo mimea lakini si ngozi nyeusi.And this might be exploitation,we exploit our fellow brothers and sisters for the sake of the greedy.

Jah Rastafarian.

Aliko said...

This girl??? where on earth do come up with your topics?unajicho fulani la kivyakovyako, everytime i pass here nabaki mdomo wazi big liz keep the good work

Benin "Mwangi" said...


I have been to Ganvie, it is one of my favorite memories. Although I don't speak French, I could feel the warmth and hospitality of the people there. I think I have some pictures from it on my google picasa page, the people of Benin are so beautiful ion of and the fact that m parents named me after the same people that the nation formerly known as Dahomey chose as there name-Benin- that made the visit even more special.

The village on the water shows the ingenuity and creative solutions to unique problems that exist in SSA.

thanks Liz!

Benin "Mwangi" said...

Aliko, I agree Liz has a unique eye and my mouth is open when I visit too!


@Aliko and Benin thanks for the compliments. It is not hard to come up with materials to cover on this blog. The problem is getting time to post them up.:)))
I am in love with Africa and curious,always sourcing for information about the continent that I am currently not aware of. I believe in doing so I am better informed about the continent and its people, and how the different societies are organized. This way I believe one is better positioned when seeking to address various issues regarding African societies and their inhabitants. Especially for those individuals who seek to give development prescriptions to Africa:)

@Luihamu I agree with your point regarding the income that is generated from the tourists that visit the village. I do not have exact figures and facts as to the number of tourists visiting the village and the amount of money generated as a result. However I do not think they generate as much money from tourism when compared to tourism destinations such as South Africa, Morocco, Tanzania, Kenya, Seychelles, Mauritius and the likes.

I have no issue with dwelling places being built on stilts or even trees or a stone for that matter. My concern solely revolves around the lifestyle and the environment within which they live in such as water hygiene, mosquitoes/malaria, population increase etc. From what I have read I gather the stilt homes were built out of necessity so as to flee from some sort of conflict many years back. I presume the population then was much smaller than it is now at Ganvie. Can the lake village accommodate the contemporary needs of the Ganvie community?

Anonymous said...

did anybody notice the hyacinth weed ? Its the same weed that is chocking most lakes in africa including lake victoria. Is it a coincidence ?