Ganvie is home to a fishing community of about 30.000 people, who all live in wooden huts on stilts in the lagoon waters of Lake Nokoue. The village, far away from the mainland, was founded by the Tofino people back in 17th century, when Dahomean worriers raided their countryside for captives to sell to the European slave traders. The Tofino word for gan means we are save and the word vie means community.
Naturally the Tofino people are fishermen, but in addition to casting their nets from their canoes, they use traps: rows of palm leaves neatly stuck into the shallow water. Sometimes nets are arranged in a similar way.
Most people still paddle the long stretch to the mainland in their small canoes, though also boats with engine shuttle the people back and forth. Electricity have those who can afford solar panels or generators. A few solid building have gone up, among them three churches (all unfinished), a mosque and a primary school. No hospital though. I guess there gotta be some priorities.
Another one is the auberge run by Mdn Matinata, an illiterate but every enterprising lady. She offers simple rooms and food, where overambitious tourists can stay overnight to see the activities in the village around the clock. What makes her place a must stop is the location, right across the village water pump. Canoes, mostly pushed along with long poles by small children, line up to get drinking water. From a big hose it gushes right into large black plastic vats that each canoe carries. Originally these buckets carried pirated gasoline from Nigeria. The commotion around the pump is photographer’s paradise. Unfortunately, locals are not eagers to have their photos taken, so bring a tele, if possible.
My travel guide said the place has become very touristy. I visited during the busy X-mas season I maybe encountered 10 other tourists.