If there is one thing in Cotonou that you must visit, it is the Ganvie stilt Village. It is a beautiful lake village that lies in Lake Nokoué in southern Benin (the lake is 11 km long and 20 km wide) and the lake is frequently visited by plenty of birds. Being the largest lake village of Africa, it is one of the best-loved and darling tourist’s spot that is visited by multitudes of people who grab flights to Cotonou. The time seems to have stood still in this extra ordinary establishment and it casts a spell on hundreds of visitors that come here. Ganvie means “We survived” and it is a reminder of all those old and ancient events due to which this village came into existence.
The history dates back to the 17th century when a war was planned by the Kingdom of Abome. The Chief desired to provide shelter to the people, right in the center of the lake so that the slavers and enemies could not harm them and capture them. With canoes and rafts, a village system was established on the water and that area included clinics, churches, restaurants, schools and markets. Although centuries have passes and memories have become the part of past but still these people do not have any intention to return to the land.
More than 30,000 people are residing in this village and majority of them are fisherman. The culture is very much unique and amazing; you may not have encountered that in this civilized world. The village is self sustainable and you will be amazed to see that the central market is always filled with the boats carved from tree trunks “pirogues “. Each one of them sells a different and unique product like vegetables, fish and fruits.
Even if anyone wants to visit the neighborhood, he has to use the boat as there is no virtual connection between these stilts. The houses are made up of the bamboo trees that stand above the shallow waters. You will enjoy your ride in the dugout canoes and the local people are very much friendly generous. The work is actually divided between men and women, the man catch fish and take them while it’s the women responsibility to sell them in the market and feed their husband and children.
The branches and the barricades of trees that encircle the village are used for the breeding and cultivation of the fish. It almost takes 2 hours for a complete excursion and the motorized boat stops over at various refreshment stands and souvenir shops. Early morning is the best time to travel around the complete village as the weather is pleasant at that time and the scorching heat is not a trouble.
There are plenty of accommodations and hotels that are located near this village so this time just plan up a trip for Cotonou and enjoy a thrilling boat ride to the Venice of Africa.