Into the Wild: A Unique Staycation Experience at Sir Bani Yas Island | Lady & her Sweet Escapes

Nov 21, 2018

Into the Wild: A Unique Staycation Experience at Sir Bani Yas Island

What's your favorite thing to do during long weekends? Ed and I, if we're not escaping to another country, love to do something new in the UAE. Our holiday checklist usually involves a relaxing staycation, tasting a new cuisine, and experiencing a new activity. 

And there is one destination where we were able to tick off all those three. Sir Bani Yas island!      

Stay in Sir Bani Yas Island

About Sir Bani Yas Island
Sir Bani Yas Island is one of the largest natural islands in the UAE. It is located off the coast of Abu Dhabi's western region. Established as a nature reserve by Sheikh Zayed Sultan Bin Al Nahyan, this unique island destination serves as a sanctuary for the region's endangered wildlife.

The island has three accommodations to choose from, all Anantara properties. Hence, we expect nothing but a luxury retreat. Thankfully, we scored a mid-week offer at Desert Islands Resort and Spa by Anantara. The rate is still expensive compared to our previous staycations in the UAE, yet seemingly all worth it when summed up.

Desert Islands Resort and Spa
Desert Islands Resort and Spa

Reaching Sir Bani Yas Ferry Port by Public Transportation
Sir Bani Yas may sound like a remote hard-to-reach island, but going to its ferry port by public transport is possible. Warning: It is a long and tiring journey that will consume half of your day, so stock up on phone battery, good music, and lots of patience. Or have a stopover in a hotel in Jebel Dhanna just like what we did on our way to the island.  

Coming from Dubai, Ed and I took the early morning bus trip to Abu Dhabi main bus terminal. Upon arrival, we purchased a Hafilat (Abu Dhabi's version of Dubai's NOL card) and searched for the intercity bus to Ruwais. We can either take X80, X87, or X88.

The bus trip to Ruwais is a 4-hour journey with three stops in between to pick up/drop off passengers. These we can use for snack or toilet break as well. Remember to alight in Ruwais ADNOC Compound bus station and take the local bus 882 from there to Sir Bani Yas ferry port. If you intend to stay for a night in Jebel Dhanna, take a cab or arrange a hotel pick-up from the bus station and a drop off to the ferry port the next day.

Anantara Welcome Lounge and Private Ferry
The ferry schedule and island activities were emailed to us before our stay and we had to send a confirmation to secure our seats.

Upon arrival at the ferry port, we were ushered to the lounge for Anantara guests. Our booking was verified at the reception, bags were tagged and stored, and then we were asked to wait for our departure. Complimentary drinks and cookies are served at the bar.

The boat ride is about 30 minutes. It was a smooth and comfortable one. I usually get seasick, but this one I managed without popping a pill.      

Ferry to Sir Bani Yas Island
Ferry to Sir Bani Yas Island
Sir Bani Yas Island jetty
And we have arrived!

Desert Islands Resort and Spa
Before it became a hotel, the Desert Islands Resort and Spa was once a holiday retreat exclusive for the Royals. Just by the thought of that, you can imagine how special, private, and extraordinary this place is.

The 5-star fortress-style hotel is situated near the protected wildlife sanctuary. Adjacent to it is a mangrove lagoon which serves as a home to the flamingoes during the cold season, and a stone's throw away is a white sandy beach and a dazzling view of the Arabian Gulf.

The interior is a cross between sophisticated and exotic. It has a spacious lobby which perfectly accommodated the huge crowd during check-in. Ed and I were impressed with how quick and systematic the team was when we arrived all together with other guests from two big shuttle buses. 

luxury accommodation in Sir Bani Yas Island
One of the three luxury accommodation in Sir Bani Yas Island
5 star hotel in Sir Bani Yas Island
This 5-star hotel was once a Royal holiday residence!
Desert Islands Resort interior
Magnificent interior!
view from Desert Islands Resort
Breathtaking views of the island!

Deluxe Sea View Room
We stayed in a deluxe sea view room; the cheapest among the room category, but still luxurious in every inch! With the neutral tones and local accents, it has a very Middle Eastern vibe yet somehow made me feel I was in an African safari lodge. 

The private balcony offered a good view of the infinity pool and the sea. The bathroom has a separate tub and rain shower. The coffee making facility has a Nespresso machine!   

room in Desert Islands Resort
King Bed with luxury bedding 
deluxe accommodation in Desert Islands Resort
a touch of Arabia in every corner
bathroom in Desert Islands Resort
the sleek bathroom
Elemis skincare in Desert Islands Resort
pampered with Elemis bath and skincare products
wildlife near Desert Islands Resort
An overview of what to expect in the protected wildlife sanctuary!
Yep, there are cheetahs and hyenas in there!
Lady in Desert Islands Resort Sir Bani Yas
This book made me look forward to our island activity!

Dining in Sir Bani Yas Island
Ed and I booked a full-board stay which is, I must say, a smart move when visiting Sir Bani Yas island. As expected, meals in hotel restaurants are pricey and we actually save a lot by booking a stay with activity and meals package! 

We took our lunch and breakfast at The Palm. It is the Desert Islands' all-day dining restaurant serving bountiful International buffet in a casual setting. 

For dinner, we opted to have the African-themed dinner at Savannah Grill in Al Sahel Villa Resort. It was special. The alley to the venue was lined up with torches and it was like we were heading to a Survivor tribal council! Survivor fans here. Hahaha! The buffet is laid out in a campsite, under the stars. We tasted ostrich and gazelle meat for the first time; and yes, both were quite tasty!   

restaurant in Sir Bani Yas
The Palm restaurant
outdoor lunch in Sir Bani Yas
Al fresco dining, perfect for winter days! 
lunch buffet in Sir Bani Yas
The Palm's buffet features dishes from around the world...
grill station in lunch buffet in Sir Bani Yas
...and has a grill station during lunch!
Savannah Grill in Sir Bani Yas Island
Dusk in Savannah Grill
dinner in Savannah Grill in Sir Bani Yas Island
All kinds of (halal) meat: gazelle and ostrich meat included!
African-themed buffet in Sir Bani Yas
African-themed buffet in Sir Bani Yas

Activities in Sir Bani Yas Island
Sir Bani Yas Island is an exotic destination. It is a place where you can see the wildlife up close! Ed and I joined the Nature and Wildlife Drive at sunrise. We saw giraffes, gazelles, the Arabian oryx, and cheetahs! Definitely one for the books! I'll share the whole experience in a separate blog post.

Other exciting activities include kayaking through the mangroves, horseback riding in the island terrain, nature walks and visiting the 6th century AD Christian monastery!

For those who are more into rest and relaxation, the Desert Island Resort has a temperature-controlled infinity pool lined with sun loungers and umbrellas! There's also a shuttle bus connecting the three properties in the island; hence if we had enough time, we could have visited the lush savannah in Al Sahel and the beachside barastis of Al Yamm!

Nature and Wildlife Drive in Sir Bani Yas Island
Nature and Wildlife Drive in Sir Bani Yas Island
cheetah in Sir Bani Yas Island
A cheetah! Just chilling on top of a hill. 
Ed in Sir Bani Yas Island
Ed in action! He loved the drive, but concluded we need a proper camera lens for safaris! :)
beach in Sir Bani Yas Island
the private beach behind the hotel
sun loungers in Sir Bani Yas Island
R and R spot!
Perfect place to unwind? Yes, it surely is!

Desert Islands Resort and Spa
Al Ruwais, Sir Bani Yas Island
Tel # +971 2 801 5400

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