Every child’s dream home is a reality in the African town of Ganvie. While probably not exactly the tree house you have in mind, these homes, churches, restaurants, and markets are built on bamboo stilts above Lake Nokouéin Africa. Just north of the largest city, Cotonou in the state of Benin. With a sizeable population of 30,000 people, every home in this community sits on bamboo stilts above water. Dubbed the “Venice of Africa,” Ganvie is one of the greenest towns around.
Whether heading to the store, a restaurant, or your neighbor’s place, your only option is to climb into a boat carved from a huge tree trunk and paddle your way to your destination. The town school is the only building that resides on dry land, while all else rises above the lagoon on bamboo stilts.
The Tofinu people settled Ganvie, which means, “we survived,” over 400 years ago. Sources state that the Tofinu tribe believed that their main enemy, the Dom-Homey tribe, was afraid of the water demon that lived in the lake, and their warriors dared not enter. It is also believed that the Tofinu tribe settled here to escape slavers from the Fon tribe who were unable to fight in water. Nowadays, it’s simply a sustainable town full of people who have an amazing ability to adapt to their surroundings.
The main sources of income for the townspeople are tourism and seafood. They generally do not venture to dry land except to sell the fish they’ve caught, which is one of their main sources of revenue. Ganvie is the only human settlement of its kind in the world. Though the original threats are no longer imminent, the people of Ganvie seem to have no interest in moving to dry land. Since the community is completely sustainable, they are reluctant to change their current lifestyle, and who could blame them?
If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Africa, Ganvie is a town you don’t want to miss. In addition to several bars and restaurants, you will find a hotel, market, and even a souvenir shop. While it may not be the epic resort vacation that most tourist traps have created, this unique little town is certainly a sight to behold.
While it is still a relatively unknown tourist spot, it is definitely a beautiful destination, and non-traditional trip. There’s nothing quite like a lake shack that actually resides ON the lake, so it is certainly an experience to remember.