Timber construction on remote Mozambique island

The original lodge at Cova de Tubarao, built with South African timber on Mozambique’s Macaneta Island.Cova de Tubarao, a lodge on Macaneta Island off the Mozambique coast, demonstrates the attributes of treated timber in construction.

The island is just 15km wide and 70 km long and the environment is characterised by wetlands and dunes. Care has been taken in the construction of the lodge – and in further development currently under way – to protect the fragile ecology of the island.

Developer, entrepreneur and investor Roelie Jacobs originally acquired rights on the island in 2007 for the development of a lodge. He acquired further rights this year to build a second lodge as well as a camping site and chalets. Interestingly, the land continues to belong to the Mozambique government while construction above the ground belongs to the owners of the lodge.

Visitors attracted by the island’s isolation and ambience have been drawn from far and wide and the lodge has brought tourism income and job creation to the local inhabitants and the tiny island economy.

The island presents significant challenges to construction. The bulk of the timber used has been brought in from Graskop in Mpumalanga, supplied by Roelie’s Houtkraal timber treatment plant. Other timbers such as decking, cladding and plywood come from various suppliers in South Africa, while the thatching reed and grass comes from the island itself.

Roelie trucks in the timber himself. At a ferry point on the coast the materials are off-loaded by hand, transferred to the island, reloaded onto a tractor and trailer, transported to site and off-loaded by hand once more. 

The timber is fully treated before being transported. Taking account of the soil, weather and other conditions on the island, Tanalith (CCA) supplied by Arch Wood Protection has been used. The existing structures have stood up well to weathering and insect attack in the coastal climate over the past three years, demonstrating the effectiveness of the Tanalith C wood preservative treatment up to H4 (in-ground contact).

Roelie has a long-standing relationship with Arch Wood through his Graskop timber treatment plant, which also supplies treated poles to Houtkraal distribution depots in Gauteng and as far afield as Kimberley.

As the owner and developer of Cova de Tubarao, he has also handled the design and construction of the lodge and is involved similarly in the new buildings now taking form.

The Cova projects are challenging, given the distances and local conditions and the need to preserve the local ecology, but work is continuing and Roelie is clearly committed to this island venture.

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