If there’s one thing that can be said for humankind, it’s that we’re bloody good at adapting. Now, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 50 years, you probably know that sea levels are rising. You’ll also have heard that a combination of extreme weather events, soil degradation and deforestation are causing devastating floods all over the world.

In 2022, for example, Brazil, Pakistan, and Australia (yes, that famously dry nation) all experienced once-in-a-generation flooding. In Pakistan, nonstop rain in the nation’s most populous region caused the deaths of nearly 700 people and the displacement of over 1.5 million others.

As the world becomes more volatile and sea levels continue to rise, many are wondering if amphibious “floating” villages hold the key. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve relied upon such methods for our survival. For hundreds of years, humans have been inventing ways to live on the water without having to grow gills.

So, what can we learn from these pre-existing amphibious settlements? Below you’ll find five floating villages established out of pure necessity using materials close to hand. From Hungary to Benin, this is our floating world.

Floating settlements from around the world:

Bokod, Hungary

If you find yourself in Budapest, get on a train and head 50 miles west to Oroszlány. From there, you’ll find directions to the village of Bokod. This tranquil settlement, comprised of over two linear miles of stilted cabins, floats above Lake Bokodi, an artificial reservoir created in 1961 by the Oroszlány Thermal Power Company.

To create the lake, a low-lying meadow was flooded, allowing the nearby plant access to cold water for the operation of its boilers. The warm water is then returned to the lake. The lake’s temperate water made it a sought-after spot for local fishermen and anglers, who were overjoyed by the notion of not having to cut through the ice to get to their fish.

Hungary’s best-kept secret for decades, Bokod has seen increased levels of tourism since 2014, when a photograph of its glinting waters sparked worldwide wanderlust. The thermal plant has since closed down, prompting local fishermen to look elsewhere for tranquil winter spots. Connected by a system of winding wooden pathways, Bokod exists in a world of its own.

Ko Panyi, Thailand

Established at the tail end of the 18th century by two Malay seafaring families, Ko Panyi is a small village of around 200 floating houses.

At that time, only Thai nationals were allowed to own land, forcing Malay Muslims to build their homes on the stilts within the island’s shallow bay. This allowed fishermen easy access to the fertile waters beyond. Indeed, despite a recent tourism boom, most people in Ko Panyi still earn their living through fishing.

One of the other ways locals make money, however, is by organising boat tours for backpackers hoping to explore the surrounding area. The island itself is home to a food market, a mosque, a school and even a floating football pitch crafted by local children inspired by the 1986 Fifa World Cup, thus giving birth to Panyee FC, perhaps the most unique youth soccer club in the whole of Thailand.

Uros, Peru

Made entirely from totora reeds, the floating village of Uros on Lake Titicaca is home to the Uros people, who have been living on the lake for hundreds of years. Lake Titicaca was once a busy swirl of tribes warring and trading with one another. As a small and generally peace-loving Andean tribe, it wasn’t long before the powerful Incas invaded the Uros.

With nowhere to go but the open water, the Uros built a village out of totora reeds, using the same material to craft speedy fishing vessels sporting animal heads on their prows. These reeds also form the island’s foundation and must be replaced once they disintegrate, with islanders adding more to the soft surface on a regular basis.

The biggest island has its own reed watchtower and solar-powered radio station. You can reach it from either side of Lake Titicaca, but your best bet is travelling to Puno, Peru, and taking a boat from there.

Fadiouth, Senegal

The Saloum Delta is like nowhere else in Senegal. It’s home to Fadiouth, for one thing, an island only reachable by boat or via the footbridge from Joal. Those visiting the island are greeted by the sound of something crunching underfoot. That crunch is the sound of clam shells, the very foundation of Fadiouth.

In fact, everything on Fadiouth is made from shells, even its pearlescent cemetery, which is watched over by a towering baobab tree. For over a hundred years, the island’s inhabitants have harvested molluscs for both food and decoration, using the empty shells to form layer upon layer of bedrock. Over the years, the roots of mangroves and baobabs have intermingled with the seashells, binding them.

Fadiouth prides itself on its tolerance of other religions. While most of the islanders are Christian, Senegal has a large Islamic population, and the cemetery has become a symbol of the close ties between the two faiths, boasting simple graves decorated with the same milkwhite shells.

Ganvié, Benin

Established by a small band of Tofinu people, the stilted village of Ganvié in the centre of Lake Nokoue, Benin, has been a refuge for over 500 years.

In the latter half of the 16th century, a company of men, women and children from just outside modern-day Cotonou separated themselves from the powerful West African Fon tribe, who were at that time capturing other native people and selling them on to Portuguese slave traders. In the knowledge that the Fon’s religious practices forbade them from raiding water-dwelling peoples, the Tofinu founded the lake village of Ganvie.

Boasting a rich and intricate culture, the village is now home to around 20,000 inhabitants. Although Ganvié has limited access to domesticated animals, those that do reside on the island live off the small meadows that sprout from the water. Of course, most people dine on fish, different varieties of which are farmed using underwater fencing. If you’re hoping to visit Ganvié, be warned that it’s a four-hour journey from Porto Novo.

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