HomeNews & LifestyleThe Floating City Of Ganvie Sits On The Largest Lake In Africa

The Floating City Of Ganvie Sits On The Largest Lake In Africa

theyThe City Of Ganvie Sits On Stilts Atop The Largest Lake In Africa

On the northern shore of Lake Nokoue sits the unique and beautiful floating city of Ganvie. A far cry from the chaotic markets and busy traffic of Cotonou, this quiet floating city is Africa’s largest town on stilts.

The idea of a town on stilts alone is unnerving, yet this city, known as “the Venice of Africa” is thriving. The tourists who visit here have helped, but until tourism picked up, this quaint village was doing just fine on its own.

The “Venice Of Africa” Has Some Serious History

floating city of ganvie
Image: @kevin.ontrip on Instagram

Ganvie is the biggest lake village in all of Africa. Founded in the 16th century, the French-speaking country in West Africa has all its bars and bungalows built on water.

Easily accessible for travellers, the city is popular in part because of its rich history. The name “Ganvie” translates to “we are saved”. The first inhabitants of this little town were known as the Tofinu people. They were confronted by other tribes back when the region formed different sections of the now-obsolete Kindgom of Dahomey. Back then, the kingdom was in place between 1600 and 1894. At that point, the French colonial empire dissolved it.

If you look up local stories, you’ll find a rich story of how the Tofinu people were being hunted by the Fon warriors. Because of this, they sought refuge by the lake so they were not captured and sold on the European slave market. The lake protected them from the attacks, because the Fon religious practices forbid them from attacking people living on the water surface.

Because of this, Ganvie became a sanctuary for people and a refuge away from a life of slavery.

How Was The City Constructed?

floating city of ganvie
Image: @chachooliciouss on Instagram

The floating city of Ganvie has roughly 20,000 people and stands on stilts in the middle of Lake Nokoue. In the roughly 500 years since the escape from the Fon warriors, Ganvie has become a prosperous area with an intricate structure.

Ganvie was first founded by members of the Tofinu tribe. They created a new home and lifestyle for themselves by building their homes on stilts. Builders create the structure of these stilt houses using red ebony wood, which is resistant to the decay from the water. They build the walls mostly with palm fronds. What was once thatched roofing carpenters and owners have now replaced with corrugated metal sheets.

Bamboo is another common building material; it helps the houses to stand for 15-20 years. However, if the owners are diligent with replacing rotten stilts and up-keeping the maintenance, the houses can last much longer.

Today, It Is The Countries Most Popular Tourist Destination (For Better And For Worse)

floating city of ganvie
Image: @chachooliciouss on Instagram

There’s both a benefit and a drawback from the influx of tourists that have taken to visiting the floating city of Ganvie.

The price of fish has fallen in recent years, which put a financial strain on the city, and forced them to rely more on tourism. However, the increase in tourists means an increase in interruption of daily life for the people of Ganvie.

Over-eager westerners tend to be intrusive with their cameras, which is annoying. Further, the lake has degraded much more since the influx of tourists.

In addition, the city has sewage issues, because they dump all household waste into the water under the city every day. This, sadly, also means flushing toilet waste directly into the lake that is these people’s home.

In conclusion, while people of Ganvie are grateful for the income that tourism provides. However, it’s also contributing to challenging conditions for them.

Visiting The Floating City Of Ganvie

floating city of ganvie
Image: @travelafrique on Instagram

If you must visit the floating city of Ganvie, most people do it on a 2-hour boat trip from nearby Abomey-Calavie. It’s a very popular day trip, and you can also spend the night.

You can check out places to stay here, and there are plenty of ways to get there, as the nearby cities get much of their revenues from tourists visiting this beautiful floating city.

Related: The Nanxi River City is the narrowest city in the entire world! 

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