One of Benin’s most visited attractions is the stilted-village of Ganvie. It really is a bit of a tourist trap in some respects I guess, it’s on the Lake of Nokoue, and that is a short ride from Benin’s main (but not capital) city of Cotonou.
If you are visiting this West African nation, well, this is likely to be something on your itinerary. It’s worth the time, probably best explored in a group though. If you’ve been to Inle Lake in Myanmar there are similar villages there, however Myanmar sees a whole lot more tourists than Benin does. Especially these days.
For me, it was a bittersweet experience, and a travel day I have never forgotten. Not because anything bad happened to me, but because I was a very crappy visitor that day. I woke in a pretty shitty mood, and well, despite a pleasant day, it didn’t improve that much.
I took a taxi out to the lake. There is a sort of inlet where the boats leave from, not just touristy boats (actually most boats on the lake are called pirogue – long, thin wooden boats) but also the locals and supplies move from the same area.
I arrived at the ‘port’ and was directed to a shack which is the office for tickets to take a tourist boat. There was a big guy in there collecting the money, and then he directs you to your boat, which has (or had in my case) a crew of two. Some boats might have a cushion, or if not like mine your bum is sitting on a wooden plank. Which believe me, after a short while seems hurt your bum more and more. Which really was the worst thing (and let’s be honest, it’s not very bad is it?) that happened to me all.
The ride out there seemed to take a long time, but you get to see all the lake activity and boats, fishermen, deliveries going from land to stilted shops, people being ferried back and forth. It’s really relaxing and not an unattractive spot at all.
Then you get to the village, and well, you might feel a little underwhelmed. You climb up and the houses and other buildings are a couple of metres from the water. There are shops there, basically I was taken to convenience stores and stores with supplies.
And after a little exploration, you go back to the port. And when your kind crew ask for a tip, do give them something. I didn’t. I was in a rubbish mood, and I’d felt the trip was too expensive in the first place. All in all I was a selfish prick. And I got the major guilts in the evening and wrote pages in my diary about what a crap person I was. Because the crew probably saw next to none of the money I’d paid to the guy in the shack. And being sorry doesn’t make up for it.
When you’re in a country when tipping someone who’s done a good service for you could really make a difference for that person, TIP for goodness sake. It’s the bloody least you can do!
Anyways, thanks for reading today. Take care – and May the Journey Never End!