Wanderlust: Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara

 It’s been two days since our mini staycation at {Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara} on Sir Bani Yas Island and I am still brimming with a smile just thinking of our fantastic getaway. It was the most amazing family vacation, even if it only lasted 24 hours. We had the BEST time. Not a minute was wasted outdoors. The kids thoroughly enjoyed playing outside, splashing at the pool, walking the gorgeous sandy shores collecting unusual seashells and exploring one of the most special islands we have ever seen. It was so well enjoyed that both the children cried when I told them we had to head home. My husband and I literally had to plead with them to get out of the pool as we were minutes away from missing our ferry back to the mainland of Abu Dhabi.

Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi? That’s right! This hotel is situated on its very own island. The drive from Dubai was a 3 hour 30 minute cruise down a straight road, nothing too scenic to view. That makes it 2 hours 30 minutes from the city of AD (250KM). It was an exciting adventure for the kids and for the first time in my five years of motherhood I heard the famous saying “are we there yet”. We kept ourselves entertained the entire way, playing games in the car and talking. It was so nice to be together as a family, something that many of us find hard to allocate time to doing.s1

The water along the coast of the Arabian Gulf was blue/green, very similar to the waters found in Maldives. Heavenly!!! Who needs to take a plane for an exotic getaway when you can visit this secret hideaway!

Once we arrived at the port to get to Sir Bani Yas Island, we boarded a ferry which took us to the island “Sir Bani Yas Island”. The port was well managed and clean. The kids enjoyed the refreshments on offer and light snacks (cookies and fruit). I was happy to enjoy a cup of coffee. The staff handled our baggage and brought it to the ferry for us. All we had to do was sit back and relax before boarding the boat.

The ferry ride lasted about 20 minutes. As we approached Sir Bani Yas Island we were all so very excited to see what would be in store for us. Again, our bags were transferred to a zero-emission bus, and the other guests and my family boarded our last mode of transport to the hotel. It took about 10 minutes from the pier to the hotel. On the way, guests on the bus were busy looking out the window spotting various wildlife species.

We were greeted by hotel staff waiting in the outdoor lobby handing out fresh cold towels and juice. The inside area of the hotel had a real Asian/African feel. Like we were really away on holidays somewhere far away! The kind staff member named ‘Lovely’ helped us arrange paperwork and was quick to have our room ready. Within minutes we were on our way upstairs to check out our sleeping quarters.

As the door flung open to our sea view room we all gawked out the balcony window at the scenery. Gorgeous pool, landscaping and the Gulf sea! At this stage Nate had fallen asleep on my husband and we tucked him away peacefully in a comfy bed. The hotel room was clean and modern. The bathroom was relaxing and therapeutic. I loved the “soap menu”, I have never seen one of those before. And they were all so delicious and fragrant to bathe with. The Nespresso machine was a hit with my husband! I barely had time to snap a few pictures and get settled as Ruby has already flung open the suitcase and was standing there ready in her bathing suite! We decided to let my husband stay back with Nate and have a rest with him while her and I had some “girls time”.s2

Hand in hand, we strolled down to the pool. We had a BALL! We played hide & seek, Marco Polo and lounged poolside. It was the PERFECT afternoon. The infinity edge swimming pool was spectacular. One half of the pool has very shallow waters making it the best pool I have taken my little ones to visit. I did not feel nervous at any stage that they would drown or have an accident (overly paranoid mother). And the “deep end” of the pool was not overly deep as I could walk across on my feet without getting my hair wet (winning). To finish off our girls time, as we knew the time was ticking before the boys would be joining us, we walked down to the sea to search for seashells. It was totally bliss without another human in sight. The color of the water was beautiful. We were unable to swim in in the Gulf sea, only dip our toes in the water as there was a sign out warning guests of jelly fish. And indeed we did spot a handful of them on our mini adventure.s3

Once we arrived back to the pool, lo and behold…Nate & my husband were there ready for a swim too! We spent the afternoon laughing and swimming all together. The kids started to tell us they were hungry so I ordered a meal for them from the child menu. Chicken nuggets and fries. They were not made from scratch (to my knowledge) but it was just the perfect snack by the pool. Endless bottles of complimentary iced water were available throughout the day near the lifeguard, who kept a close eye on the little ones. My husband and I decided to have a Sangria each as it was happy hour. We stayed outside exploring the grounds and swimming until dinner time.s4

s6We headed back to our room for a quick shower. Our reservation at the Arabic restaurant was for 7pm. We arrived just on time. “Priti” was our waitress and what a wonderful one she was! She helped us get seated at our table outdoors with the view of the pool and sea. It was surprisingly not hot, there was a nice breeze coming off the water and we wanted to take advantage of it. The children shared another kids menu together. Pizza! It was really good and this time I believe made from scratch! It was eaten up in no time and then…Ruby fell asleep in her chair:) My husband and I enjoyed our meal to the max. One cocktail each and two sets of appetizers. Meze and hummus with meat. It was delicious. And as I write this…my mouth is salivating…the mixed grill. WOW! Out of this world, the meat was cooked to PERFECTION. Might I add, the price for food was very reasonable. Items off the kids menu varied between 30-40 AED. And from the adult menu 30 AED and up. The cocktails were 40 AED and up and very nicely made (try the banana one if you visit, yum yum!). We were so full by the end we didn’t even have space for dessert (that’s a first). After dinner the whole clan, including myself had the most pleasant sleep. It was one of the most special days I have spent with my kids and husband, enjoying the great outdoors and wonderful food.s5

Before I fell asleep, I somehow remembered to call down to reception for 2 wake up calls. We had a excursion booked for 6:15am and I didn’t want to sleep through the alarm! SO glad that we didn’t! It was amazing! The kids didn’t seem to mind the early start to our day as we were going on a nature drive across the island! Let me better explain Sir Bani Yas Island to you now!desert-islands-05

It is 87 square kilometers, making it one of the largest natural islands in the UAE. A tribe first inhabited the land some 250 years ago and that is where the island gets is name from (the Bani Yas tribe). The late founder and president of UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan developed the island as a wildlife reserve in 1971. He wanted to ensure the survival of Arabia’s endangered species. Originally, the island was only opened on the weekend to visitors back in the 1990s, but these tours were so popular that visitors had to book months in advance. Several million plants and trees have been planted on Sir Bani Yas Island thanks to the late Sheikh Zayed’s ‘Greening of the Desert’ program. Mangroves surround the coastal region, protecting areas for fish to breed. Anantara plants one mangrove for every visitor to the island to offset the environmental impact of their visit. Absolutely brilliant! Over 30,000 mangroves have been planted since 2009. There is also a 8KM no-fishing zone around the island to protect marine life such as turtles, dugongs and dolphins.

Wildlife is incredibly important on the island and the staff have to follow strict orders to preserve the island. There are over 30 species of free-roaming animals that can be seen. 4100 hectares (nearly half the island) is dedicated to breeding and rehabilitating animals indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula. The critically endangered Arabian Oryx resides on the island. It was once nearly extinct in the 1960s and now the island is home to over 5,000 of them. Just over the past year, in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency, more than 10,000 animals from the island have been released into wildlife reserves in the Liwa Desert.

So now that you have a better understanding and some knowledge of the island, let me get back to our nature and wildlife drive! We drove around the island in true safari style. Janine was our guide, she was superb. We spotted every single species animal there is to be seen on the island, minus the hyenas (they sleep in the day). s8The best moment was standing a few feet away from a giraffe as it grazed the trees. It was simply breathtaking. s10The icing on the cake to the adventure was travelling up a rocky mountain, getting out of the car and there in front of us was a spread of pastries, coffee and hot chocolate as we watched the sunrise. s9 The tour lasted 2 hours which was just enough time to see and do everything. Janine was very informative the entire journey sharing interesting facts along the way.

Here are just a few other activities on offer:

  • Mountain biking
  • Kayaking
  • Sailing
  • Cruising
  • Hiking
  • Snorkeling
  • Archery
  • Pearl diving
  • Culture & History Tour
  • Sir Bani Yas Stables

Shortly after 8am we pulled back up at the hotel. We had a quick bite to eat at the Palm restaurant. They had a very nice spread of breakfast type foods. We couldn’t get enough of the fresh juice! The kids scarfed down their food and were asking us to hurry up as they wanted to swim! By 9am we were back in the pool and having our last stroll on the beach. Ruby has ballet lessons on Saturday and sadly we had to take the 11am ferry back to the mainland to be ontime for her class for 3:30pm. We all really wanted to spend the rest of the day on Sir Bani Yas Island! Check out is at 12:00pm for all guests and there is a ferry leaving just about every hour, so people can really take advantage of their stay and enjoy it to the max.

Our car was scheduled to collect us from the lobby at 10:20am, it was 10:15am and I was begging the kids to hurry up and get moving back to our room and change…we JUST made it! The kids were pooped on the ferry and slept the ENTIRE journey back to Dubai, waking up 30 minutes before arriving at Ruby’s ballet school! Yes, you can just imagine how much they LOVED their stay!s7

The five-star Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara offers luxury rooms, suites and beach villas. There is also a lavish spa and three dining experiences to choose from. I can already picture it…Brad Pit and Angelina Jolie are heading to AD next month. This would be the PERFECT spot for their family to vacation! I have no doubt that they would fall in love with all the activities and wonderful hotel. They could book out the only two royal villas available:) There are also 4 beach villas and 58 spacious rooms and suites if they need more room:) The resort was named among the world’s top 70 resorts and the region’s top two hotels by Conde Nast Traveller’s List. Just watch and see, I am sure I am on to something:)

A few other tidbits before I say adieu to our memorable family vacation:

  • The hotel is three-stories high
  • There is a library
  • Kids club with crafts and sports activities (please note that only children above 4 years of age can be dropped off without parental supervision, children under 4 need a guardian or nanny)
  • Teens’ Club
  • Gym
  • Tennis court
  • 2 shops

This is a MUST visit hotel while you are here in the UAE. I have no doubt you will enjoy it as much as my family and I did!

http://desertislands.anantara.com/

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