Ganvie Village, Benin, December 14, 2007

Trip Start Sep 19, 2007
Trip End Jan 05, 2008

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Friday, December 14, 2007

As the largest stilt-village in Africa and home to about 30,000 Tofinu tribe members, all of whom live in dwellings built about two meters above Lake Nokoue, Ganvie is one of Benin's leading tourist magnets.  The tribe allegedly came to this fishing-based lifestyle on the lake in the 1600s when the people fled there to escape the slave-hunting Dahomey tribe whose religious customs banned them from venturing into the water. 
For us Ganvie was a short drive north from Cotonou and a stop for several hours for a pirogue ride from shore to the stilt village, a boat trip on which we saw plenty of fishermen and hundreds of small boats carrying people back and forth between the village and the mainland, most human-powered.  The term "stilt village" conjured up certain images in my mind from previous travels, specifically those of a stilt village I visited in Phan Nga Bay in Thailand in 1996, images that naively led me to ask Dave before we got to Ganvie, "Will we have a chance to get out and walk around in the stilt village?"  I soon discovered the answer was "No".  Whereas in Thailand I visited a very large densely-populated village where homes and businesses were all connected above the water by virtual wooden streets, in Ganvie the individual houses were widely separated, no more than a few dwellings per cluster, and boats the only means of transport between the clusters.  We made a few stops at shops where healthy doses of tourist tack were made available for our shopping convenience, but this being West Africa even the most touristy of sights was far from overrun by commercialism, making for a very pleasant afternoon excursion.

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