Ganvie, a fishing village of 25,000 is built entirely on stilts on Lake Nokwe. It is a self-contained place with its own shops, schools, hospital and places of worship. Ganvie has an interesting founding myth. In the early 19th century, King Gezo of Dahomey, an expansionist kingdom, waged war on many of the surrounding communities on his quest to build an empire. The vanquished would be sold as slaves to the European powers on the coast. Realizing that Gezo had his sights on them, the inhabitants of a small kingdom decided to flee to avoid defeat and captivity at the hands of Gezo’s army.
They reached the shores of Lake Nokwe and there, their powerful fetishist (voodoo priest) turned into a crocodile and carried the villagers on his back to an island in the middle of the lake. Gezo’s army, protected by charms and gris gris which could not come into contact with water had to abandon their pursuit of the villagers. The descendants of those villagers still live around the island today, in houses built on stilts.