Ganvie: The Venice of Africa – A Tour of Benin’s Unique Stilt Village

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Have you ever heard of Ganvie, also known as the “Venice of Africa”? A  stilt village located in southern Benin is a truly unique and fascinating destination, offering visitors the opportunity to experience a unique way of life.


Ganvie is home to over 30,000 people living on  houses built on stilts above the water of Lake Nokoué. The history of Ganvie is rooted in the 17th century, when the Tofinu people, who were being persecuted by the Dahomey Kingdom, fled to the lake for safety. 

Today, the village is a popular tourist destination, known for its beautiful setting and the vibrant culture of its inhabitants. Let’s take a tour of Ganvie, as we explore the history, culture and daily life of this unique community.

The history behind the Ganvie 

The story of the African Venice has a legendary version to its name : to protect the Tofinu people, the king of Ganvie was forced to flee his homeland . They spent a day and a night escaping on solid ground from the merchants of Dahomey, whose king was allied with the white Europeans until they reached the shores of Nokoué. Desperate, the king transformed hid himself in the waters until he found a safe place to live.

As the Tofinu could not enter the lake with all their things, the king became a huge crocodile and, on his back, took all his people from him into the Nokoué. So when the Fon reached the water’s edge, they did not find their pursuers.

The Tofinu people, also known as the Tofinou or Tofinoue, later built their homes on stilts in the lake to escape from the Dahomey Kingdom’s army and slave traders

The Way of life in Ganvie 

The people of Ganvie use the  lake as a means of transportation and for fishing, which became the main source of livelihood for them . Over time, the village has grown and developed into a unique and self-sufficient community.

Today, Ganvie is a unique blend of traditional and modern ways of life. The people of Ganvie continue to fish and farm the lake, and have also embraced tourism as a means of income.

Life is quite different from life on land. The community is tight-knit and the people rely heavily on each other for support. 

They travel by canoe and use the lake as their main source of transportation, food, and water. Despite the challenges of living in a stilt village, the people of Canvie have found ways to adapt and thrive.

The Culture and Arts of Canvie

Ganvie’s culture and art are also unique and deeply rooted in tradition. The village is known for its traditional craftsmanship, particularly in the making of canoes and fishing nets.

 The community also celebrates a number of traditional festivals and ceremonies throughout the year. Art and culture play an important role in preserving Canvie’s heritage.

Vodoo festival by the people of benin

 Taking a tour to Ganvie 

Visiting Canvie is a unique and enlightening experience. Tourists can take boat tours of the village, visit traditional craft workshops, and interact with the local people.

A tourist journey to Ganvier

 It’s important to note that visitors should respect the community’s way of life and customs, and be mindful of their impact on the environment.

 Canvie is a fascinating and unique community that offers a glimpse into a way of life that is fast disappearing. It’s a place where tradition and modernity coexist, and where culture and art are deeply intertwined with daily life.

 A visit to Canvie is an opportunity to learn about the history, culture, and way of life of an ancient community that has managed to survive and thrive for centuries. It’s a must-see destination for anyone interested in African culture and history.

Source kwame Adamtey