Africa tourism

“Venice of Africa”: this village in the middle of a lake has a unique story to tell

A region of Benin dubbed the “Venice of Africa” is attracting more tourists than ever.

The village of Ganvié was built in the middle of Lake Nokoué 400 years ago and its unique history begins at the time of slavery. In the 18th century, the inhabitants of the local Tofinu tribe were desperate to escape soldiers from the Fon and Dahomey kingdoms who captured people and sold them to Portuguese traders.

The ancestors of today’s inhabitants fled to the lake which was feared by soldiers who believed that a terrible demon lived beneath its surface. Knowing this, the tribe chose to build their houses on stilts in the middle of the water.

The name of the village pays homage to this story, Ganvié means “we survived” in the local language.

Despite being no longer threatened, people continued to live in their lakeside homes. Over the centuries, Ganvié has grown beyond recognition.

How is life in the “Venice of Africa”?

Today around 30,000 people live in the village – they are known as the “boatmen”.

“We live from fishing,” says resident Edmon Adissa. “We moved here to escape slavery. We earn our living by fishing.”

Even today, everything in the village is on stilts, from the beauty bar to the markets, hotels, schools, hospital, shops and churches. Narrow canoes called pirogues are the only means of transport.

But tourism has gradually replaced fishing as Ganvié’s main source of income. Around 10,000 tourists visit the lake village each year, according to the local tourist board.

Watch the video above to see the “Venice of Africa”.