Venice has always been my dream city. I got to visit for the first time a few years ago when I toured some parts of Europe. I’m afraid I didn’t do the city much justice at the time and I have always longed to return. Luckily, I got the chance to do so recently. I got the chance to revisit the city of my dreams, only this time, it had an entirely different name and was in a completely different continent. This time, I returned to Ganvie – The Venice of Africa!
Ganvie is a stilt village built on the Lake Nokoué in Benin Republic. It isn’t the only one of its kind but it is the largest, being home to about 20,000 people, and the most visited on the Lake. In a lot of ways, Ganvie is very similar to Makoko – also sometimes referred to as the ‘Venice of Africa’, but I found this place to much cleaner than its Nigerian counterpart and more primeval than the city it is nicknamed after.
Life in Ganvie is conducted primarily on the water. The villagers here go about their normal businesses on boats. I suppose every household owns one. The village also contains schools, churches, restaurants and hotels where tourists can spend the night. Most choose however to visit from the cities nearby. I visited from Fidjrosse with Mark – my couchsurfing host and the drive to Ganvie took about 30 minutes.
The tour itself was pretty interesting. I don’t recall exactly how much it cost us but it was somewhere around 5,000cefa pp. I wonder how much of this actually goes back to the village and its inhabitants.
We completed our visit in about two hours which was just enough time to cruise on the lake, stop over at two places to get drinks and souvenirs before finding our way back to the mainland. Overall, my second visit to ‘Venice’ was just as interesting as the first!
Some points to note when visiting Ganvie:
- Take pictures discreetly. If you want to take pictures of people, you may want to seek their permission first. Some hold the believe that taking their picture is akin to stealing their souls.
- Plan to visit in the morning. We had the best weather and very few tourists when we visited.
Have you visited Ganvie or any other floating village? What was your experience like?