The Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island is a fabulous staycation for the entire family. We stayed two nights with three kids all under the age of 3 and had such a wonderful time. I must say mamas if you have been thinking about taking your kids on a Safari holiday overseas this is the perfect opportunity to test how they (and you) will manage it. Here are Sassy Mama Dubai’s 20 reasons for choosing The Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island for your clan…
1. Sir Bani Yas Island is approx. only 3 hours’ drive from Dubai & approx. 2 hours from Abu Dhabi – on more or less a straight road starting on Sheikh Zayed and staying on the E11; if the drive seems a bit cumbersome then you can always go by air on Rotana Air – a 50-seater plane which flies direct to Sir Bani Yas Island from Dubai.
2. There is a 20 minute boat ride to the island from a specially designed port where Anantara reps are available to guide you; on the boat ride over or on the way back, some may be lucky enough to see dolphins jumping in and out of the water.
3. The island is 31 square kilometers in size and was a vision of the late His Highness Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nayhan – he found a barren land with high salt composition and decided to create an animal and plant reserve, a place to preserve some of the heritage, promote eco friendly cultivation and give endangered species another opportunity to thrive. Since his death, the government still pay and support the island in order to preserve his legacy with the three properties managed by the Anantara Group also helping in the preservation and upkeep of the island.
4. Sir Bani Yas is home to many species – Cheetah, Ostrich, Giraffe, stripped Hyena, Arabia Rock Hyrax, Flamingo, Eland, Antelope, Barbary Sheep, Indian spotted deer, Gazelle, Arabian Oryx (nearly completely extinct until they started breeding them on the island) and Peacocks.
5. There are 5 Cheetahs on Sir Bani Yas Island with plenty of space to roam. 1 of the cheetahs is kept away from the others in an enclosed area as they have had a “Family Dispute” – your tour guide will explain in more detail this fascinating story! Did you know cheetahs have a land speed of up to 120 Kilometers per hour?
6. There are 9 Giraffes on the island. Did you know that a Giraffe is pregnant for 16 months – Mamas we thought 9 months was long!!
7. The Nature reserve opens at 6.45am – just when the animals are starting to look for breakfast (and when the kids are raring to go!). Once meeting your tour guide you jump into the Safari car and off on the mornings adventure. Its still dark, the sun is slowly rising but it’s a beautiful fresh morning – wrap up warm if you go before the summer kicks in. Once through the main reserve gates you start to see everything you came for from little gazelles jumping up and down to a cheetah if you’re lucky. Thirty minutes into the tour and you stop for coffee and croissants in the mountains with a beautifully stunning view as the sun is coming up. A quick coffee break then back into the car and off again on the hunt. The Nature reserve lasts 1.5 hours and is scheduled a few times throughout the day. The morning tour is a great way to start your day.
8. The island offers fantastic outdoor activities such as the wildlife drive (complete with their customized safari jeeps), a culture & history tour, kayaking, archery, mountain biking for all levels, sailing, horse riding, a falcon show, wadi walking and a fully equipped water sports center with its own private pool for PADI lessons.
9. An activity that comes highly recommended for a family with kids of all ages is mountain biking around the island. The kids are strapped into a Chariot which attaches to the mountain bike – it’s a great way to explore the island, enjoy the views and let the kids fall asleep – well mine did anyway!
10. Anantara offers a choice of three properties – the Desert Island Resort & Spa is a perfect kid friendly hotel, only a few minutes’ drive from the nature reserve gates yet on the coast with a long stretch of beach. The sea is crystal blue, just like the Maldives and perfect for snorkeling and water sports. The pool was perfect for my kids as it was big but had a large shallow area, enough for them to stand up and splash around. The hotel has three restaurants – Samak (pool restaurant) offering a wide variety of kids food, Amwaj, a Local Cuisine restaurant and The Palm which has an amazing BBQ on Friday nights.
11. For mamas and papas who want to enjoy a more exclusive private affair you can have a candle lit dinner on the beach while watching the sunset with your own chef.
12. Anantara Spa is a relaxing haven, an ideal place to switch off and enjoy the desert peace and tranquility – with a wide selection of spa treatments on offer.
13. For a more exclusive and tranquil stay, Anantara has luxury private villas nestled in the natural reserve surroundings. The Al Sahel Villa Resort offers one and two bedroom villas with plunge pools. Children can stay in the private villas which are a lot quieter than the hotel.
14. The final resort on the island are the private beach front villas – Al Yamm Villas which offer large family size villas with breathtaking ocean views.
15. The staff were all extremely friendly, accommodating and experienced – the Anantara touch certainly shines through. The tour guides were mostly Western and have a lot of knowledge about each species and of the island in general. You can tell that they all love being at home with nature.
16. If you want to have a workout during your stay there is a gym on the beach, however why would you want to be inside when you can run to your heart’s content around the island?
17. A really fun kids play area – with an indoor and outdoor area, fully staffed with many toys, trampoline, climbing activates and lots more.
18. For teens who want to escape and have a little “teen time”, there is a chill out room with a TV and Games console.
19. The stables have 20 horses, mostly endurance ones that are now being used for desert and game reserve rides; very knowledgeable and caring staff with many, cheeky stories about each horse and their unique personalities – favorite one was Windy, a playful female who learnt how to open the stable doors with her nose, then went and opened all the other doors so when the staff came the next morning, all 20 horses were running wild around the stables!
20. The island has large swathes of agriculture land where anything from oranges to dates are being produced; not only is this local produce used in the Anantara restaurants but it is also shipped back to Abu Dhabi to be used by the Nahyan royal family – eco living at its best!
Sir Bani Yas Island and the Anantara resorts are a real piece of heaven right on our doorsteps; with so much to offer, a truly unique experience, very child friendly and loads of activities to choose from, this was truly a staycation for all ages. We can’t wait to go back!
For more information visit desertislands.anantara.com or call (+971)(0) 4 567 8888.
Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island, Desert Islands, (+971)(0) 4 567 8888, desertislands.anantara.com