Just over three hours from Dubai is a tranquil paradise that I would be happy to call home. And the best way to start your trip is from the air. The desert island of Sir Bani Yas, just west of Abu Dhabi, is seemingly inaccessible due to the shallow waters. Under the brilliant azure and turquoise ripples lie underwater mountain ranges and sand dunes struggling to reach fresh air. Sand bars jut out proudly into the inky depths, and rivers surge through sandy patches that have made their way to the surface. I could have been in the Maldives. I’ve been on lots of flights but this has to be one of the most captivating. At one point it was disorienting. The blue sea melted into the sandy coast, which merged with the sandy air, masking the horizon, which melted into the blue sky. I could have been flying upside down and not known it.
Our destination was a sneak preview of the new five-star deluxe Anantara Al Yamm villas opening next month to provide a relaxing and secluded spot that is so far unmatched in the Abu Dhabi area. To keep the peace, this is an adult-only retreat, although children are welcome at the neighbouring Desert Islands Resort. The 30 one or two bedroomed bungalows, which are neatly positioned on the beach or next to a lagoon, boast high-end fixtures and fittings, with plenty of dining and relaxing space to help you feel at home from home. If your private deck isn’t private enough you can retreat to the roof terrace.
The island has been developed by the Tourism Development and Investment Company, a subsidy of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, following the vision of Sheikh Zayed who wanted to create a sanctuary on the island, for his guests, as well as 10,000 gazelles, hyenas, cheetahs and giraffes.
So take your pick of activities: relax at the spa, swim in the pool or the sea, hire a boat for a spot of deep sea fishing, take a drive into the nature reserve for a bit of wildlife spotting…or do absolutely nothing. Isn’t that the point of a desert island?!
For more photographs click here.
The practical bit:
Transport: A free boat service, which runs every two hours, is available from the mainland, but the quickest option is to opt for a 20-minute flight from Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi. The flight, which costs around 400 AED, leaves three times a week on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Prices: A special summer rates coincides with the opening of the new villas starting at 1,850 AED including breakfast for a one bedroomed villa.
Accommodation options: Anantara also operates the Desert Islands Resort and Spa, the only resorts currently on Sir Bani Yas Island. The Anantara Al Sahel Villa Resort is due to open at the end of the year.
A bit of trivia: Al Yamm means “the sea”. The name was inspired by the Arish dwellings of the early fishermen and pearl divers who lived seasonally on the island.
Want to find out more? www.al-yamm.anantara.com