Travel Preparations for Our Dream Diving Trip

If we had realized just how much work and cost was involved in a trip such as this, we probably wouldn’t have even contemplated going through with it. Although we read a couple of books before starting out, we both had a naive optimism and refused to be swayed by any advice offered by the experts. This blind enthusiasm has worked in our favor so far, although we wouldn’t advise it for everyone. Once we entered the vice-like grip of “I’ve started so I’ll finish” mentality, there was no turning back. Not that we regret it for a second. We wanted to share our adventure, some of the things we went through, the places we visited, and the things we learned. We’ve included some general thoughts and information about our trip and preparations, as well as our notes from the road.

Our Vehicle

  • Land Rover Defender 110
  • 5 liter Diesel engine (reconditioned)
  • Heavy duty suspension – coil sprung
  • Long Wheel Base
  • C Reg (1986)

Keep in mind that neither of us knew a coil from a leaf sprung vehicle or for that matter. So, yes, we were nervous but also this is meant as a reassurance that you don’t need to be a certified mechanic and tour operator to visit the best diving spots in Africa in a rugged, DIY style. We talked to our good friend, Phil. His patience and words of wisdom helped me and Mark to get to know the ins and outs of the vehicle.

Our roles during the preparation for this trip neatly divided themselves. After initial mucking in together on all jobs to do, we soon realized that the only way we would get anything down was to separate the tasks out. Mark was happy to continue on the vehicle, while I planned the routes we would take and playing accountant.


The Paperwork

What’s the big deal? OK, so we’re going to cross a few borders. We’ve got our passports; we’ve found out about the visas needed for each country. Mark has a British driver’s license. What else could you possibly need?….

Driving Documentation for Africa

Carnet de Passage

This is the most horrifying piece of paper I have ever had to get my hands on. A Carnet de Passage in its simplest form is a passport for your vehicle. The document itself costs around £70. OK, that makes sense. Why, you may ask, is that so horrifying? As a guarantee that you will not do a sneaky deal and sell your vehicle without telling the authorities, they have a refundable deposit system. But if you cannot afford to guarantee the deposit as a lump sum, there are ways around it:

Single Indemnity Insurance. This will save you paying the full deposit initially, but if your car is sold, stolen or written off, you are still liable to pay the relevant country’s duty on the car.
Double Indemnity Insurance. This covers both the deposit and the duty if anything happens to the vehicle. Further ugly but necessary details from Campbell Irvine Insurance Brokers, London, UK.

International Driving License
Not recognized in all African countries but a necessary document all the same. The application is available from Automobile Association.

International Certificate for Motor Vehicles (ICMV)
With certain documents it seems as though you may be doubling up information, however if you are crossing several borders within Africa, it is essential that you cover all possibilities.
The ICMV is issued with the Carnet although a separate payment is required.

Registration Documents/Ownership Papers
Make sure you check and double check details like chassis and engine numbers so everything tallies with information on all Driving Documents.

Other Offical Documentation

Contact the relevant Embassies for the latest entry requirements. You can also visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website for up to date travel advice etc…

Insurance Papers
Insurance certificates and emergency numbers.

Personal Documents
Valid Passports, Relevant Vaccination Records, Declaration of finances (recent bank statements to show you are financially capable of completing your trip), Inventory of equipment in your vehicle.

Make two copies of everything. Take one set with you in neat plastic folders to save them from grubby paws. Leave the second set with someone at home in case of theft or loss.

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