Escape from Abu Dhabi
Sir Bani Yas Island had been on the family bucket list since it had been opened to the public. After many months of talking about want to visit, we took advantage of a long public holiday weekend in October and booked a stay at the Anantara Sir Bani Yas Islands Resorts. Apparently, a couple dozen other couples/families had the same idea.
Anantara manages and operates three distinct properties on the island, (1) Desert Islands, (2) Al Yamm and (3) Al Sahel, the latter two being villa properties.
But let’s start at the beginning.
How do you get there?
From Abu Dhabi, you have to drive about 350km in the direction of Ruwais to get to the boat jetty for Sir Bani Yas Island. You then have to get on a passenger ferry / boat that will take you to the island as private cars are not permitted (makes sense when you consider that the island is ecological and conservation reserve). Once you to the island, it is a 10-15 minute / 16 kms bus journey to the Desert Islands Hotel. All in all, it can take up to 4 hours to get to the hotel from Abu Dhabi (something that we underestimated during the planning was the travel time).
When we arrived at the hotel we were greeted by the lovely Maria (at Reception) and Eugene (F&B Manager) who made our entire stay all the more memorable, by recommending and booking activities for us for the duration of our stay.
There are a whole host of activities available to guests such as horse-back riding, water sports, falconry, mountain biking, kayaking and nature and wildlife walks or drives. Not to mention the wonderful spa that the property operates. Unfortunately, that particular weekend we stayed at the resort, the sea was quite rough which ruled out a fair few of the water-based activities – I tried my hand at scuba diving and failed.
One of the more popular activities, and the reason why many people go to the Island is the ‘wildlife’ drive. If you have ever been on an African safari experience, then quite honestly, this drive is fairly underwhelming (as it was for me). However, my parents had the opposite experience. The park is approximately 87 square kilometres and holds over 15,000 animals of 30 different species in this park with the giraffes and cheetahs being the fan favourites. One of the things you will realise is that whilst these animals are not animals that live in captivity, these are not ‘wild’ animals in the truest sense of the word.
The island is a great place to escape for the weekend. You honestly will not feel like you are in the Emirates. One of the things I loved about my weekend there was that there was almost zero light pollution which allowed me to do a bit of star gazing from my room. I tried my hand at capturing the night sky only to fail miserably at my first attempt.
- ‘Sir’ is pronounced ‘Seer’ in Arabic.
- For dining options, Al Shams and Olio are particularly good.
- Ensure that you reserve a place on the ferry prior to your arrival at the boat jetty to avoid long waits.
- Definitely try the horse-back riding experience through the reserve. This is really unique.