As a somewhat jaded traveler, I am always on the lookout for something special, unique and a new experience. I found that and so much more in Sir Bani Yas Island and the Desert Island Resort and Spa. Desert Islands Resort and Spa by Anantara is an experience beyond explanation.
Allow my feeble attempt to share what awaits those fortunate travelers who visit the island. This is truly an Arabian Fantasy Island that provides a series of unforgettable experiences. Here you’ll find soft sand beaches, wild animal safaris and countless outdoor activities to experience all while being pampered with five star accommodations, amenities, and service.
We took the shuttle flight from Abu Dhabi private airport for a 20 minute flight and arrived on Sir Bani Yas Island. The short flight makes us feel that we are truly traveling and getting away from it all and it was just what we needed.
We were greeted by the property manager who welcomed us in the airport lounge; he is quick with a smile and witty joke with his thick Swedish accent. We take the 15 minute bus shuttle to the property and observing the island as we begin to take in what we are to experience. Sir Bani Yas Island is a perfect meeting of desert safari and tropical beach and an experience not found anywhere else in the world.
At the resort, we are greeted with a cool towel and refreshing drink and no check in line to wait in. The lobby is like a grand reception area with couches and decorations like the grand lodge of a king. We are given a quick tour of the property by one of the staff and are then escorted to our room.
The accommodations were on par with the overall five star experience. The rich earth tone color scheme was a perfect complement to the vivid hues of the desert and sea environment. The thatch pattern on the ceiling was a nice touch and complimented the indigenous fabrics and original artwork.
The room was spacious and we quickly dozed off in the plush king-sized bed with the soft Egyptian cotton linens. We were on the first floor so we had a nice terrace to enjoy a glass of wine at night and then step out for a stroll around the property. In our room we found the modern conveniences including international flat-screen satellite TV, individually controlled air-conditioning, rain shower, Anantara bathroom amenities, rattan ceiling fan, Nespresso coffee machine, work station, free WiFi, and mini bar.
After a brief rest, we ventured out to tour the property. Our first task is to take a dip in the pool and then soak up the sun. The pool is a spacious free form shape with an infinity edge. As you look from the pool, your next sight is the Arabian Sea giving the feeling that you are floating in the ocean. The free form layout has many nooks and alcoves allowing for the feeling of privacy. Outside was hot but the helpful pool staff was quick to adjust the umbrella and bring a cool drink making it very comfortable. The pool is very refreshing and quickly cools off any heat and stress from that world away.
We had a chance to enjoy dinner at Samak, their signature seafood restaurant. Inside is decorated with beautiful seaside colors more reminiscent of Cape Cod than the Middle East. There is an open kitchen where you can pick out your selection and watch the chef busy about in his preparation.
At Samak, we had the pleasure to meet Dams, who has the distinction of being the first Salt Guru that I have encountered. He was like the Sommelier of Salt and gave us an interesting presentation of his wide selections of natural salts; where they are from, why their flavors and coloration was different. Then he went on to suggest which salt would complement the choice of seafood. Very interesting
We chose to dine al fresco on the terrace which overlooked the infinity edge pool and Arabian Sea. It was the perfect beginning of a romantic evening as we chatted about the little things as couples do, while enjoying the Samak's savory dishes.
The next morning we awoke early excited about the safari that we had anticipated since planning our trip. After coffee and pasty our guide takes us to the open air 4x4 jeep for our ride to the park. Our guide, Ted is very knowledgeable and tells us the history of the island and the resort as well as the expansion plans for the future. He tells us about the history of the island and conservation efforts as well as the ambitions of the island founder.
Sir Bani Yas Island is home to one of Arabia’s largest wildlife reserves and the "Greening of the Desert" program, established in 1971 by the late ruler and founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His aim was to make the deserts more suitable for human settlement and provide a haven for Arabia’s endangered wildlife.
In the park, we see the majestic Arabian Oryx, gazelles, ostriches, peacocks, and various birds. I was most impressed by the cheetah and the giraffes were a sight to behold. The Moroccan Babar Sheep were also beautiful to see. One of Arabia’s largest wildlife reserves the Arabian Wildlife Park, which is home to more than 10,000 free roaming animals, takes up more than half of the island. The creation of the Arabian Wildlife Park is the result of years of conservation and re-vegetation work that continues to this day.
On our last night, we chose to dine at Amaj the tapas restaurant. We enjoyed the short stroll holding hands and walking along the coast line as the sunset just beyond. Cozy, oversized chairs and sofas on the terrace create a relaxed living room feel, enhanced by lounge music with a breathtaking sea view. The tapas were a wide variety from both sea and land with Arabic tasters and Asian plates, followed by signature homemade ice cream creations,
In the morning, we had a breakfast fit for a king at The Palm restaurant. The buffet had a wide selection of dishes, pastries, fresh fruits and drinks. I chose the omelets station and our chef prepared my omelet perfectly. Breakfast at The Palm; what a great way to start the day.
We then ventured out to experience Sir Bani Yas Island’s natural wonders with a kayaking trip which should not be missed. After a short ride across the island with our guide Ted giving us more history on the island and pointing out various animals and sights, we arrived at the launch point. It was a delightful 90 minute tour through inlets and canals to the mangrove area full of fish and other wild life. . The quiet waters are perfect for paddling across and will truly provide an appreciation of the stunning nature and wildlife.
Desert Islands offers a range of nature-based activities themed around the exciting wildlife and conservation projects on Sir Bani Yas Island. Explore the Arabian Wildlife Park and view many of Arabia’s rare indigenous animals on a Nature & Wildlife Drive, kayak through breathtaking waters home to many fish and birds or mountain bike through the rugged terrain of the landscape.
So after our visit, the Fantasy Island experience became real to us. It was a wonderful stay filled with exceptional accommodation, dining, service, and memories that will last for years to come.