It is very rare to have a river with three different names. However that is just the case with the second longest river in Kenya which covers a total length of 390 kilometers. From its source, it is popularly known as River Athi. As it meanders into its mid stages it acquires a new name to become River Galana before it meanders its last leg of its long journey into the Indian Ocean about 10 kilometers north of Malindi town where it is called the River Sabaki.
Athi River flows across the Kapote and Athi plains, through the Athi River town, takes a northeast direction and is met by the Nairobi River. Near Thika town it forms the Fourteen Falls and turns south-east under the wooded slopes of the Yatta ridge, which shuts in its basin on the east. Apart from the numerous small feeders of the upper river, almost the only tributary is the Tsavo River, from the east side of Kilimanjaro, which enters in about 3° S.
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As it continues with its long journey, it turns east, and in its lower course, known as the Sabaki (or Galana), traverses the sterile quartz-land of the outer plateau. The valley is in parts low and flat, covered with forest and scrub, and containing small lakes and backwaters connected with the river in the rains.
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The river flows through the Tsavo East National Park making it very important to the wildlife, and attracts diverse wildlife, including hippopotamus and crocodiles. Though these wildlife are rarely seen at the Sabaki area.
River Sabaki cuts the Malindi-Lamu main road at a place near the Marafa junction. From the main road to the charismatic, unique estuary is about one kilometer.
The hidden destination only frequented by a few birdwatchers marks where a river pours its water into an ocean; yet the sea has rejected the water for years.
This is where visitors witness water fighting. It is at this point where sea water mix with the river water. It is very interesting during high tides when sea water tends to rush out and clash with the reddish in coming river water. It is scenery that leaves most visitors asking to be back the next time they visit the area.
When lucky, you may see large hippopotamus basking in the sun on the river banks. The River is also infested with crocodiles.
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North of the estuary are sand dumes and Mambrui village could be seen from here with its makuti thatched Swahili houses.
Sabaki River Mouth is listed as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International. It hosts a number of rare beautiful birds. The tidal mud flats are a vital habitat for migratory waders, gulls and terns, and the coastal scrub and wetlands adjacent to the river mouth are an important habit for shorebirds and other water birds.
The number of these birds keep on changing due to its proximity to other Important Bird Areas (IBA) in the neighbourhood like the Arabuko-Sokoke and Mida Creek, Dakatcha Woodlands and Tana River Delta.
Most of the visitors who throng this place have a very wonderful time. Both local and foreign visitors visit the area. Students from various institutions also make part of the visitors. Local tour guides are usually at hand to take visitors through the amazing tour.