Having a long weekend in the U.A.E usually sparks a majority of the residents to embark on a journey to the surrounding emirates for a trendy ‘staycation’. Following this tradition, my family and I set off on a short road trip to the fauna filled Sir Bani Yas Island for a two-day staycation at the island during July last year.
The island that has developed into a wildlife haven today, was once occupied by the Bani Yas tribe in the 1760s. With exemplary efforts to conserve the Arabian wildlife, the late president of the country His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan established the island as a wildlife reserve in the 1970s. Currently, the island is home to over 13,000 free roaming birds, animals and over two million trees as a result of continued conservation efforts. It is therefore no surprise that the island was awarded as World’s Leading Sustainable Tourism Destination by the World Travel Awards in 2014.
Travelers’ and explorers’ have a choice between the three resorts for a luxurious stay on the island. Friendly staff greeted us near the jetty with refreshing welcome drinks as we arrived by car. The staff then guided us to a 30 seater water taxi to take us to the hotel. I would recommend coinciding your arrival by car with the scheduled boat timings to ensure a reduced wait time at the jetty, though there is a reception room available to make your wait comfortable. Options to travel to the island by air and sea are also available for visitors, to add an additional factor of adventure to your trip.
Upon disembarking the boat, designated cars transported us to the beautiful and sustainably designed Anantara hotel, where we had made our reservations.The five-star resort successfully weaves environmental and cultural recognition and sensitiveness with the provision of top comfort and indulgence for guests. The wide Arabian doors of the hotel opens up to a vast hotel lobby with terracotta walls, complete with floor to ceiling windows letting in unfiltered bright natural light and a cool breeze to encircle the reception area.
Bright and spacious rooms with plush warm toned interiors and a customized welcoming message pleasantly surprised us as we arrived. A balcony adjoining the room overlooked the calming Arabian sea, offering a space for calm introspect away from one’s busy routine.
There are plenty of activities for guests and visitors on the Bani Yas island ranging from snorkeling, exploring excavations to animal safaris. The choice of food and restaurants on the island are numerous and very appetizing. The Anantara spa is also definitely not to be missed for its offer of a variety of luxury relaxing services in the most calming environment and stunning views of the blue waters.
As the weather was quite humid during our visit there, we could not quite enjoy the nature walks which allow the guests to observe the wonderful long necked gazelles wandering freely on the hotel grounds.
The early morning sunrise wildlife 4×4 safari ride with a cheery expert guide was the highlight of our trip, where we had sightings of remarkable fauna introduced from around the world. Having been on an African game drive, my curiosity for an Arabian safari experience was heightened and I must say I was highly impressed.
As the sun slowly peeked from beyond the hills, some off-road driving led us to an area of beautiful ghazels’ and antelopes’ as they galloped alongside us. Dotted along the landscape were the endangered Arabian oryxes, majestic and white with sharp curved horns contoured in the midst of indigenous ghaf trees.
The excitement continued as just a few meters’ drive brought us in close vicinity with another exquisite animal – the giraffe. All eyes on the jeep were on this tall standing animal as its head slowly turned towards us slyly, to acknowledge our presence and open admiration.
The animal sightings got more exciting as we entered a guarded enclosure on the island which as we were informed was the residence of the fastest animals on the island. Even though all eyes on deck were actively hunting for a sighting of these creatures camouflaged amongst the tall grasslands, it was our expert who pointed out two of the animals lounging on the grass.
A quick yelp from the passengers followed by quick shutter clicks of cameras were interrupted by a sudden decision of one cheetah to cross our vehicle path. The long limbed animal walked gracefully to an area under the shade of a tree and thus we ended our safari on a high note.
During the cooler times, visitors also have a unique opportunity to leave behind their mark in the island by planting a mangrove sampling, further greening the area.
Overall, Sir Bani Yas island is an exemplary of sustainable tourism management that has evolved over the years and continues to protect and conserve the environment, culture and social aspects. The island provides a responsible tourism experience and I would highly recommend everyone to visit the island.
Read more: Sir Bani Yas Island
Read more: Anantara Resorts
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