Sunday, February 22, 2015

Desert Islands Resort and Safari Experience with Anantara

Off we went to our desert island escapade, a lovely mid term family getaway close to home. Sir Bani Yas Island is s a natural island located 170 km southwest of Abu Dhabi and home to three Anantara Resorts. We stayed at Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara, a luxurious Abu Dhabi resorts in one of the region’s most spectacular destinations.

The journey from Dubai is a bit of drive. It took us 3.5hrs on a long stretch of relatively boring 2 lines road with loads of trucks to arrive at Jebel Dhanna Jetty to catch the boat to the island. Excitement is on again as we arrive at the Anantara check in point. Time to settle in the plush salon for a coffee and easy check in to the hotel and off we took the ferry boat. Less then 20 minutes later we arrived on Sir Bani Yas Island. Another 10 minutes ride in a coach bus and we FINALLY arrived to our remote island haven. It's all worth it!

For history, Sir Bani Yas island was originally home to Arabia's largest wildlife reserve, over 87 km2. The reserve was established in 1977 by Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who chose this island as a retreat. He passed a law prohibiting hunting on the island and started developing it as a wildlife preserve in his "Greening of the Desert" programme, which was designed to help make the deserts more suitable for human settlement and provide a haven for many of Arabia's endangered wildlife species. Several millions trees were planted and numerous animals species introduced to the island, including gazelle, oryx, giraffe, and ostrich. Once the reserve was established, Sheikh Zayed the man with a vision wanted to share the results with the world, hence it was opened to visitors.

The island landscape is a contrasting mix of dry sandy plains, natural salt domes, green and rocky hill tops, lush mangroves and shimmering water from the Arabian Gulf. A captivating exotic setting to discover through the range of hotel activities. Desert Islands Resort and Spa by Anantara is located on the beach, perfect display of natural and rugged beauty.

The resort is of Middle Eastern aesthetic and African lodge influence. A beautiful luxury without bling, an understated elegance in earthy tones. Artifacts lines the walls of the corridors and the restaurants to give a personal touch to the boutique hotel. We stayed in a spacious Delux Garden Room, on the ground floor open into the garden, just steps away from the swimming pool - recommended with children. The garden with it's many walkways and little paths is wonderful for afternoon promenades with the pram - little Josefin enjoyed napping this way. The infinity pool steps away from the beach is small but well appointed, perfect for lounging around and sipping cocktails. The beach is wild and offer little amenities just enough to keep things real, in a very lovely understated way - close to nature. We enjoyed our first diner at Amwaj - very good middle eastern restaurant on a rustic beach setting. Charming. Our second evening was more continental dining at The Palm where we also enjoyed our breakfasts on the terrace. There is also a fish restaurant called Samak and a snack bar by the swimming pool for easy lunch. Overall the food and the service was very good. The lovely staff was always ready to please.

The Wildlife Safari Drive is a must. We experience the sunrise drive with in a personal Jeep with our very friendly and knowledgeable guide. Schedule to meet in the lobby at 6.45 we were very excited to discover the beauty of the island and the many species, from Arabian oryx, gazelle, girafs and so many more… Nothing to be disappointed. The island is home to around 30 species of mammals, including a variety of antelopes and one of the world’s largest herd of endangered Arabian oryx. The Arabian oryx, a species of antelope, was formerly extinct in the wild, but Sir Bani Yas Island is home to a herd of over 400 who roam freely on the island. The Park houses some 13,000 animals indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula including the endangered Arabian Oryx, Sand Gazelle and Mountain Gazelle as well as free-roaming predators and scavengers such as cheetahs and hyenas. It was so interesting to hear our guide sharing is knowledge and passion about the island and the animals. The tour lasted about 1h45 along dirt tracks and offer many opportunity to see the animal up close. We enjoyed a quick breakfast on top of the majestic hilltops. A wonderful way to enjoy coffee and croissant at 7.30 am, surrounded by natural beauty and the rising sun.

A beautiful initiation to the wildness. I believe it was a perfect introduction to what is a safari. It opened up our mind to one day visiting Africa with the girls to see the full scale of what nature as to offer.

The resort offers a large selection of activities for the family from nature and wildlife experiences whether walking, kayaking, mountain biking or driving. There is also archery and a selection of water-sports activities including diving, snorkeling, deep sea fishing. An important part of Sir Bani Island is the Arabia’s rich equestrian culture, something to experience while visiting the stables and trying horse riding. Luella and I took a tour for novice rider. A lovely walk around the the stables and surrounding grounds while peeking at beautiful gazelles. It was Luella's first time on a horse, Sweetie the gentle horse was perfect and suited her ability as a new rider. Again, the staff was wonderful, pleasing, encouraging and guiding.

The good stuff:
- Good way to introduce children to a safari experience. It's impressive but not overwhelming.
- Lovely staff and good service contributed to make our stay a lovely experience
- Large selection of activities
- Loved the understated aesthetic of the resort and rugged beauty of the location
- An Eco Resort. Anantara consider the environment ‘recognises the importance of sustainable business practices that consider the environment and the use of energy and resources’. 
- Spacious room

Need to know and consider:
- It's a staycation because its located in the UAE but it does take 5 hours from Dubai to reach destination between the drive, the boat, the bus and in-between… You have the option to fly, using RotanaJet, worth considering.  It was fully booked on our traveling dates.
- Many of the activities are for children above 6 or 8 years old - check it here / here.
- The beach is wild, limited seating and service. Still beautiful and true to nature.

Thank you for having us Anantara Desert Island Resort and Spa. A wonderful trip with memories to cherish for years to come. Visit Antanara for full details, activities and to plan your family or romantic stay.

No comments:

Post a Comment