The following entry and photographs are taken from the new book KENYA, by Michael Poliza & Friends now available from teNeues publishing.
As a child, I dreamed of traveling to Africa. When I pictured this distant continent in my mind's eye, I saw rolling hills and lonely Acacia trees. In fact, I think this savanna scenery is what most of us envision when we think of Africa. The classical example would be the Masai Mara National Game Reserve in southwestern Kenya. In my youth, I dreamed of crossing such magnificent, untouched plains in a battered old Land Rover, savoring the panorama of beautiful, empty landscape.
I did eventually travel to Kenya in my early twenties and have fond memories of that time. However, when I returned on a photography assignment in 2005, I was disillusioned. The Masai Mara was jammed with Toyota minibuses disgorging bikini-clad tourists on day trips from the beaches of Mombasa.
You see, living in Cape Town as I did then, I was used to southern Africa's sustainable, small-scale tourism. I had been spoiled by destinations such as Botswana where the tourist industry was young (especially compared to East Africa), with the number of tourists carefully controlled, and the lodges and camps small. What a shock in the Masai Mara to find 20 or more vehicles all clustered around just one lion! I was convinced Kenya couldn't offer a genuine wilderness experience.
I was so wrong!
A year later, when I finally decided to go back, I tried to keep an open mind. I'm glad I did.... After a few days, I realized that if you know where to go, Kenya offers an abundance of breathtaking unspoiled wilderness. I'd say more than 90-95% of visitors visit less than 5-10% of the country. If you stay away from the crowds -- possible even in the famous Masai Mara -- you will experience some of the most unique areas in the world.
Kenya's diversity is clearly breathtaking: the plains of the Mara, beaches on the Indian Ocean, rainforest in the highlands, snow on Mount Kenya, huge waterfalls, vast deserts, volcanoes, picturesque dunes, fantasy rock formations, deep swamps, etc. -- hard to imagine, but it's all here! I now visit at least three or four times a year, often with friends. I have become something of an expert in finding the most beautiful and untamed places.
My personal favorite is clearly the North. Lake Turkana, Suguta Valley, Lake Logipi, Aruba Rock, and Chalbi Desert are areas that are hard to reach and still totally unspoiled -- and stunning. I have spent much time in these areas. My new book reflects my love for this part of the world. Let's hope any future development in these untouched areas will be on a responsible and sustainable scale.