This paper analyzes discourses and practices of flood response and adaptation to climate change in Mozambique. It builds on recent publications on climate change adaptation that suggest that the successes and failures of adaptation highly depend on the cultural and political realms of societal perceptions and the sensitivity of institutions. To capture this, the paper adopted a multi-sited ethnographic approach. Acknowledging that there is no central locus of representation that can unveil the working of disaster response in Mozambique, the paper brings together five vignettes of research in different ‘sites’ of concern to the rise in floods in Mozambique. These are the politics of climate change adaptation at the national institutional level, societal responses to increased flooding, local people's responses to floods, the evacuation and resettlement programme following the 2007 flood. The paper finds how adaptation to climate change becomes part of everyday politics, how actors aim to incorporate responses into the continuation of their normal behavior and how elites are better positioned to take advantage of adaptation programmes than the vulnerable people that were targeted. It argues that climate change adaptation must be made consonant with historically grown and ongoing social and institutional processes. It concludes with lessons that the analysis and methodology of the research can provide for the practice of climate change adaptation.