“Mozambique was completely destroyed by Cyclone Dineo in February 2017”. Well – turns out not really but it was this kind of commentary that drove the Infinite Africa team to go investigate. Shortly after the mid-February tropical Cyclone that struck Inhambane Province in the South of Mozambique we hit the road to find out just what was damaged.
With so much FAKE NEWS these days it is important to be able to filter reality from sensation. This is especially true when choosing an Inbound Tour Operator. Trust is probably the single most important factor when selling African holidays to the FIT market – especially in regional countries, and even more so in Mozambique, traditionally an unknown destination.
So what did we find? Driving from Maputo to Inhambane is a wonderful experience. It takes longer than one would expect and it is always recommended to provide for some extra time when planning to drive this far in Mozambique. The main reason for this is the number of local villages based right on the highway. Each little settlement requires motorists to slow down from 100km/hr to just 60km/hr. This is just for a couple of kilometres, but it happens very frequently.
The road is currently in tip top shape with very few pot holes and no other issues. Any car could do the trip. The road is standard single lane in both directions but with a large shoulder and many passing opportunities. It is not a busy route and traffic is not a factor. The road is very well policed so make sure that you abide by the rules. We were not pulled over once during our entire drive and were often waved trough road blocks with a smile. This is in stark contrast to some sensationalist reports that often depict the Mozambique traffic system as corrupt, hostile and unbearable.
We drove straight to the heart of the damage reports. The beaches off Inhambane. It is only when one approached the beaches that damage can be noticed. The most of the damage being the cashew nut trees. Most of the informal houses also received some damage, but already seems to be largely repaired, or well on the way. The trees tell a story. The storm, not considered to be an extremely strong cyclone damaged trees that were very old. Some of these iconic trees have been around for many decades, and their total destruction tell a story of a storm that was stronger than what this area has seen in many years.
Talking to the locals, it seems that this storm took many by surprise. The area does see a major tropical storm from time to time and is nothing too serious to the people that live here. But Dineo was different. Some tell of their houses lifting completely from the ground. Luis, an Inhambane town resident, says that his grandfather claims that in all of his 70 years there has never been such a storm.
Barra Beach received major damage and there will be many months of construction and clean up work to return to normal. Tofo was spared the brunt of the storm and there is generally just light damage with repair work already well underway. Properties further afield, such as Massinga Beach Lodge and Travessia Beach Lodge in the north and Naara Eco Lodge in the south, reported minor to no damage. The establishments and local villages continue to rely on money spent by tourists and we are grateful that much of the area has generally been spared by Dineo so that tourists can still enjoy the beautiful area.