Sir Bani Yas Island in Abu Dhabi
Stay in an AFRICAN STYLE SAVANNA RESORT at Sir Bani Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
Only Two and a half hours drive from Abu Dhabi and three and a half from Dubai, lies one of the UAE’s most successful developments: Sir Bani Yas Island. This remote and protected island is one of the largest wildlife conservation projects in the Middle East. There are three accommodation options available on the island ranging from traditional hotel rooms, seaside villas and safari style savannah villas.
We stayed at the Al Sahel resort which has 30 luxury safari villas set in a Wild Africa style savannah, one of my favourite experiences in the Middle East to date. The villas include a patio area with a private pool overlooking the savannah wildlife! Spend some time relaxing by your villa, while being surrounded by free roaming gazelles, right on your own doorstep.
Over time the animals have developed a natural curiosity for their resort guests. Some of The land-based activities provide a great perspective of the island’s size, topography and conservation efforts.
My recommended options include as follows:
The early morning nature walk. Your tour guide will collect you from the resort and drive you to the entrance of the wildlife enclosure.
Once inside, opt to drive past the huge herds of antelopes and deers to the back of the park, allowing more time to walk with the giraffes. We were taken on a personalised tour with a qualified nature guide, allowing us to walk alongside a large herd of giraffes as they roamed freely amongst the acacia trees.
This allowed for a more personal wildlife photography experience.
Depending upon the time of year you visit, it’s probably best to take the early morning option at 6.30am, especially If visiting during the hotter months between May and September, although there is another walk at 8.30am. The tour runs for 1 and a half to 2 hours, but it can be unbearably hot after around 9am.
There are several activities available, for all ages and abilities, at the Sir Bani Yas Stable Yard. For beginners there is a simple ride around the bush area, close to the stable yard.
More experienced riders have the opportunity to view some of the wildlife up close, while riding through the wildlife park. Most of the horses at the stable yard are retired racehorses from around the UAE.
The Wadi walk was like landing on planet Mars. The now dry and arid volcanic landscapes have formed over millions of years, through natural erosion.
We were led by our tour guide through the wadi, finding the remains of animal skeletons, oryx footprints, salt deposits, layers of limestone and sandstone, with mineral deposits such as gypsum and iron ore.
An afternoon high tea in the savannah, is quite a unique experience.
Moving further into the bush land, you will feel you have truly escaped, while being surrounded by the free roaming wildlife. High tea is not to be missed if you want to indulge in a traditional English pastime in an African setting.
We arrived at our private dining area, pre-prepared with an elegant spread laid out, with a protective umbrella, that shielded us from the strong afternoon sun.
The island was initially a private dwelling of the late Sheikh Zayed. Since his death in 2004, his wish was to transformed the island into a wildlife reserve.
The island is now home to over 11,000 animals and 30 different species. This includes the Arabian oryx, saved from extinction in the 1970’s by the late Sheikh Zayed. Other species on the island include Gemsbok, reticulated giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas, Spotted Deers, Indian Red Deer, Sand and Reem gazelles, just to name a few. The cheetah’s and hyena’s are currently being kept in separate enclosures.
The ‘Discover Conservation’ activity helped explain about the breeding and conservation efforts on Sir Bani Yas Island.
Unfortunately, we were too late to see the hyena’s, so be sure to choose the 6.30 am tour to have the best viewing experience. Also on offer are various land-and water-based activities including safari drives, nature walks, wadi walks, mountain biking, falconry, kayaking, paddle boarding and many more.
Sir Bani Yas Island is unlike any other experience you will have in the Middle East. I would highly recommend visiting if you live in the Middle East region, or if you’re planning on a vacation in The UAE.