Real-life floating villages and lava lakes

Header image: Siem Reap, Cambodia, by Gilda Martinez

  • A reed-based floating village on Lake Titicaca

    The Uro people build rafts of totora reeds and construct their houses on the rafts. Each raft is about 50 X 50 feet. As in the fictional floating community of Mermaid's Hands in Pen Pal, the houses are connected by cables.

    Smithsonian reports, "The islands require constant upkeep: Villagers are constantly cutting new reeds and adding them on top. But even so, the floating structures can’t last forever. Every 30 years, locals have to build a new island from scratch." Read more at Michele Lent Hirsch, "Visit These Floating Peruvian Islands Constructed from Plants," Smithsonian, August 13, 2015.

    Photo by Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters/Corbis
  • Badjao people, Sulu and Celebes Sea

    The Badjaos are a fishing people of the Philippines, living in boats or villages on stilts on coral reefs. The photographer James Morgan has a photo essay and article about the Badjao people here.

    Photo by Tawi-Tawi, discovered at the Wikipilipinas page on the Badjao people.
  • Kompong Khleang, Cambodia

    Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia has several villages out in the water. Most are houses built on stilts, but in Kompong Khleang, the houses themselves float, and as in Mermaid's Hands, whose houses rest on the mud when the tide is out, the houses of Kompong Kleang rest on the Tonle Sap lake bed during the dry season.

    Photo courtesy of Alexandra Baackes.
  • The Moken, Andaman Sea

    The Moken sea nomads travel the Andaman Sea, by Thailand. In the past, they spent much of their lives on their boats. They are famous for their free diving ability and for being able to focus their eyes to see underwater. This article in the Guardian describes their lives in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, whose coming their knowledge of the sea allowed them to predict.

    Image: Moken in boat, by Nicolas Reynard.
  • Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria

    Four of Makoko's six communities float on Lagos Lagoon. Founded in the nineteenth century as a fishing village, Makoko's population today swells with incomers to Lagos. Some see it as a slum in need of renewal; others as an example of ingenuity and naturally evolving community. Its floating school, designed by the architect Kunlé Adeyemi, has been nominated for design awards. Read more here.

    Photo by Andrew Esiebo, from the linked story in the Guardian.
  • Belén, Iquitos, Peru

    Belén is along the Itaya River, a tributary of the Amazon. There are houses here that are tethered to poles, rising and falling with river levels.

    Image taken from the video "The Belen Market," by YouTube user farhad4art (video here)
  • Lava Lakes

    Lava lakes are bodies of molten lava, visible on the earth's surface, often in a volcanic crater or vent. The biggest present-day persistent lava lake is in Mt. Nyiragongo, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a small detail of which is shown at the left. Another stable lava lake is in Erta Ale, Ethiopia: a photo of that lava lake graces this website's page on the Lotus on the Ruby Lake. Wikipedia's entry on lava lakes includes a beautiful image of lava fountains in one of the lava lakes in Kilauea, Hawaii.

    Image from a detail of Mt. Nyiragongo's lava lake.