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Hotel Review: Desert Islands, Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi

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Once the UAE ruler’s own private game reserve, the Sir Bani Yas Island about 200 kilometres to the south-west of Abu Dhabi has been skillfully transformed into a major tourist attraction with the opening of the Desert Islands Resort and Spa by Anantara last October.

In the 1970s Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan first decided to turn this barren island off the UAE coast into a green playground for thousands of animals, including the rare Arabian oryx. He planted more than two million trees and even irrigated a mountain in the centre of the island, turning it green.

Wildlife park

After his death it was decided to open this unique ecological experiment to visitors. It is a remarkable combination, part bush land, part zoo. There are thousands of gazelles, numerous species of deer, several hundred oryx, 40 giraffes, hyenas, eight cheetahs and a whole host of smaller birds and animals.

For the best sightings guests are conveyed in safari vehicles for a 7am drive. The island is also ideally suited for activities like kayaking, snorkeling and mountain bike riding, all included in the room rate at the excellent Desert Islands Resort and Spa complex.

This brand new hotel is built to the highest five-star standards with 68 rooms and six villas. Rooms are very spacious with all the usual luxury features and fine bathrooms. They also have private terraces and access to the swimming pool at ground level.

Service is very good at this boutique hotel and staff are soon addressing you by name. The pool area is beautifully arranged for privacy and relaxation with a substantial bar and restaurant, although the beachfront is presently cut-off by huge concrete breakwaters that will be partly removed in the future.

Great food

A second restaurant flows from the hotel interior onto a large ground floor terrace, and is pleasantly shaded. This restaurant offers a wide range of international cuisine both a la carte and from a buffet. Barbecues on the terrace are a specialty and very popular.

The hotel attracts quite a lot of local visitors from Abu Dhabi, who particularly like the lavish spa with its sea views from the treatment rooms; the double room even has a jacuzzi on the terrace. For the energetic there is a huge gym and tennis courts.

If you are coming from Dubai then the drive is over three hours and it probably makes sense to stay three rather than two nights. Fortunately at the moment the hotel is offering a three nights for the price of two package with buffet dinner and two activities. You can also fly from Abu Dhabi.

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Written by Peter Cooper

March 28, 2010 at 8:09 am

Posted in Hotels, Restaurants, Travel

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