Today I have a special blog coming at you from Hanne. It’s the first in my new series on the blog under ‘Travellers Stories’. Also go check out her great blog she has at placespeoplestories.com. She has a great travel blog of her own and has also featured a piece of mine over there. Without further delay, here is Hanne’s Travel Story
Before travelling to Benin, I had no idea about the hidden gem of Ganvie. Though it was a coincidence that I ended up there it is one of the most interesting places I have ever been. “Wow!” was my first thought when arriving to this floating village after a 30 minutes boat trip. I had no idea that it was possible for people to live on water. In the middle of nowhere, several miles from the nearest shoreline.
The village, have over twenty thousand citizens. Up to this day, this is the largest community in the world known to live on water. The residents of Ganvie do all of their daily activities from their small wooden canoes, also called pirogues. Shopping, working, transporting, and socializing, is all done on water.
Their houses is made of bamboo and build on high stilts over the lake. The homes are all built with different characters. Some houses have a terrace to enjoy the water. While others are courageous enough to add sand to build a little beach on the lake.
In total, Ganvie have over 3000 buildings. This include a post office, a hospital, a bank, a church, and a mosque. The school is the only building set on dry land. The village is completely sustainable, and the only time villagers go ashore is when they want to sell their fish, which is the livelihood for most if the villagers.
The floating village of Ganvie is still a pretty unknown tourist destination. This despite that in 1996 it was listed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. However, there have still not been much influence from the western culture. Therefore, most of the citizens of Genvie still live like they did hundreds of years ago. Which after my opinion made my visit to the village extra interesting.
So why building a village in the middle of a lake, you might be asking? Ganvie came into existence around 400 years ago, during the Portuguese invasion. They were looking for slaves. The Tofinu tribe built the village in an attempt to escape from being captured by the Fon tribe. The Fon people were forbidden for religious and traditional reasons to fight in water. Hence the Tofinu were safe and protected when they build their homes on water. Ganvie actually means: We survived!
Today the threat of slavery is only a distant memory, and the villagers of Ganvie could therefore have moved to solid ground a long time ago. However, they do not wish to do so due to that they have over many generations gotten accustomed to live on the water. They do not want to abandon their unique lifestyle.
For me, this village and its people is a true testimonial and prove that humans can adapt to everything. Even living on water!
Hanne Hellvik is from Norway, and has travelled to over 50 countries on five continents. Usually sustainable, staying at each place for a longer period of time. With a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Development Management, studying people, communities and their cultures, comes naturally to Hanne. Furthermore, she loves to write about it in her travel blog, Places People Stories. http://www.placespeoplestories.com/