A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In 1977, H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan had a vision. He took the first step to transform the UAE desert on Sir Baniyas Island into a habitat more suitable for human settlement, a safe haven for wildlife to thrive and everything he touched turned to Green. As a part of his ‘Greening of the Desert’ initiative, millions of trees were planted and numerous endangered species were brought to the island. From the island to the entire country, nature flourished and today, the UAE is a testament to his dream come true.
Situated southwest of Abu Dhabi, Sir Baniyas Island is a natural masterpiece, grounded on 6 kilometers of rock salt formation that surfaced from the sea roughly 500 millions years ago. Amidst the rugged landscapes and free roaming wildlife, lies Anantara Sir Baniyas Island Resort, one destination that boasts of three distinct experiences: The Desert Islands Resort & Spa, a palatial fortress overlooking the Arabian Gulf; Al Sahel Villa Resort, a rustic luxury lodge nestled in the heart of the island’s Nature Park; and Al Yamm Villa Resort, set across the white sands shoreline by the mangrove lagoon.
It is approximately a 3.5 hour drive from Dubai (if you’re optimistic) to reach the Jebel Dhanna jetty where you can pre check-in at the Anantara Sir Baniyas Island Resort concierge desk, have some refreshments and take a seat in the air-conditioned chalet while waiting for the next boat to arrive. The boat that takes you to the island runs every two hours, so it’s not a good idea to be late. After a thirty minute boat ride you land on Sir Baniyas Island, where shuttle buses are assigned to take you to your respective resorts, which in our case was the Al Sahel Villa Resort.
Arriving at the Anantara Sir Baniyas Island Al Sahel Villa Resort is akin to walking into an oasis of peace and tranquility. Far, far away from the bustling city, you can reconnect with nature, kick off your shoes, relax and unwind to the music of leaves swaying in the breeze, rustling peacock feathers and the footsteps of gazelles grazing through the brush roaming wild and free in the back yard of our villa.
If you seek adventure, take a nature excursion to explore the island on foot, by bike or by car. Explore the salt domes, maneuver over rocky terrain, and meet a new friend in the wild. We had booked a Nature Drive that had a very early 7am call-time (earlier than I ever usually wake up on a weekend), and for 1.5 hours we explored the wildlife Nature Park and marvelled at being close enough to touch the animals. We met a family of giraffes and learned that males can easily be distinguished from a female as they are more muscular, taller, have darker patches and longer ossicones.
Then we came across two lazy cheetahs who were chilling (or rather, digesting) as they had just had their fill of a gazelle and wouldn’t need to hunt for prey again until another 48 hours. On the island the cheetah is at the top of the food chain so they are technically the kings in these parts so one must tread very carefully, or better yet stay in the vehicle! We also saw the Black Buck or Indian Antelope and the Arabian Oryx, a few of the vulnerable creatures that have found sanctuary in the wildlife protection reserve at Sir Baniyas Island. Home to more than 13,000 animals, Sir Baniyas Island is a paradise for nature lovers.
The Al Sahel Villas interior is a picture of contemporary rustic elegance, with glass windows and doors on all sides letting in a stream of natural light. Ideal for daytime reading or getting cozy with a cup of coffee. I don’t remember the last time I had some self indulgence, but there is nothing better than a warm bubble bath to refresh your sun-soaked body and revive your senses, while looking out the window at the birds flying overhead in the clear blue sky. I was absolutely in love with the antique brass bathroom fixtures, from the tub to the wash basins to the shower, at Anantara Sir Baniyas Island Al Sahel Villas.
Anantara Sir Baniyas Island Resorts
P.O. Box 12452, Al Ruwais
Sir Bani Yas Island
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Tel: +971 2 801 5400
Fax: +971 2 801 5408