It's commonly believed that the Tofinu people settled here in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries and built their lake village to escape slavers who came from the Fon tribe and were not allowed to enter water for religious reasons. This made the lagoon a safe territory for other tribes. The Tofinu people built their homes on the water and in the roughly 500 years that have passed since, Ganvie has developed an intricate and prosperous culture within the constraints of life on the lake.
Most of the people rely on fishing and tourism for their income. Fisherman trap and breed fish using underwater fences made from bamboo and nets. Some villagers also rear a few domesticated land-animals that live on plots of grass that spring up from the water. There are a couple of restaurants where you can stop to eat some delicious fresh fish and rice and a few scattered shops selling tourist trinkets.