Jet set your way in an executive flight from Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi and step into the delightful Al Bani Yas Island. Eons away from the big city life, the effect of Sir Bani Yas Island does what it should- it takes you back to the basics. Slide into a chauffeur driven land cruiser and on begins your journey to your Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Al Yamm Villa Resort. You will notice that the island is actually massive; it spans 87 square km and there's space for miles and miles. Amongst the shrubbery, you will notice sand gazelles and several other animals native to the region roaming freely and feasting on the greens. It's no wonder they won the 2014 World Travel Award for the 'World's leading sustainable tourist destination.' The island also grows several fresh fruit throughout the year, besides dates. Dugongs, turtles and dolphins are also occasional visitors to the island. Sir Bani Yas Island was originally developed as a wildlife reserve by late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the First President of the UAE in 1971 to cater to saving the native species of the region. In fact, the island is named after Al Nahyan's tribe, called Bani Yas. The island is brimming with history, and reportedly has artefacts dating back to 600 AD. To know more, make sure you take their Culture and History tour which will meander through trails to visit an ancient monastery and clues that dates back to an earlier civilisation amongst other prominent pitstops.
Roll up to the double heighted lobby and be welcomed with a cold towel and refreshments from the gracious Anantara staff. You will start to feel the stress wash away almost immediately as they walk you through the check-in process. In the lobby, you will get the hint of a view of their infinity pool overlooking the turquoise sea. The sight alone makes you feel almost balmy. Once the check-in process is complete, you will be whisked away to your villa in the golf cart by their friendly staff. The resort consists of 30 villas, 15 of which are beach facing and another 14 overlooking a tranquil lagoon rich with mangroves. You have the option to choose between one and two bedroom villas. Some of the villas come with their very own plunge pool, offering privacy at its best. They also offer delightful outdoor seating in a private outdoor enclave that forms part of the villa. Designed in a style influence by Arabian heritage, it is one that I can only describe as what I'd like to call 'Contemporary Arabesque.'
Enter the villa, and you will almost saunter in on the beds which are decked with crisp cotton linens, down duvets and pillows. Open the screens and you will be blessed with beautiful views of the ocean or a blend of green mangroves that simply spark with colour. Two sun beds will be situated right outside your villa that make it an excellent private space to bask in the sun. Or at night, take the opportunity to sit outside and listen to the light cooing of the birds and go stargazing - the sky is a blanket of stars at night. Relax with the gentle breeze and perhaps indulge in a bit of soliloquy, because just the mere silence is such a nice change from the hustle and bustle of daily lives in the city. Staying at Al Yamm is the perfect place to disconnect. The beauty of this resort is that it offers the frills of luxury in a very no-nonsense type of way. The jacuzzi in the villa is designed impeccably. Light up the candles that ooze out the soothing aromas that are reminiscent of every Anantara hotel, and settle in in a luxurious bath. If you want to visit the spa instead, then schedule an appointment where you will be taken to the Desert Islands resort. If you so wish, there are private cabanas at the beach where you can enjoy a relaxing massage and begin your journey towards rejuvenation.
If you wish to explore the other resorts, you are free to do so to try out various activities. The Al Sahel resort is designed right in the middle of the free-roaming wildlife and is akin to an African savannah, whereas the Desert Islands is a more family-oriented resort. The infinity pool overlooking the Savannah at Al Sahel is ideal, it gives you the illusion of being in a watering hole as peacocks and gazelles walk on by. As you get out of the swimming pool, treat yourself to a fragrant cold towel, chilled water and some fruit sticks to refresh yourself. The Savannah restaurant offers excellent South African fanfare, including bobotie spring rolls and Borewors, which are South African sausages served with a pap. If you enjoy nature and the wild, I suggest you take an early morning wildlife drive where you can observe over 30 species native to the region, including the previously almost extinct Arabian oryx.
Another restaurant that is simply delightful, especially when it comes to its interiors and blissful seafood is Amwaj. Subtle contemporary fittings and tasteful design pervade throughout the restaurant. Even the ceiling fans resemble ship turbines, suiting the overall nautical ambience. Olio offers excellent Italian fanfare; I suggest you try their pizzas which are brimming with fresh ingredients. The overall quality of the food and service is exemplary, the staff truly understands the hotel in and out and are a delight to be around.They also have a 'Dine by design' concept, where the staff organises a custom dining experience that could range from a candlelit dinner by the stables to a full-fledged South African braai, complete with bonfire.
If you are truly keen on doing something unique and you are feeling adventurous, try to go pearl diving; an age old trade and important facet of UAE heritage. If that sounds a bit too extreme, the Desert Islands Watersports centre offers everything from kayaking to diving. If you enjoy riding horses, the Sir Bani Yas stables offer you a piece of equestrian culture. These experiences are bound help you reconnect with the real and tangible, a welcome distraction from the world of technology and all that cities offer.
Pictures courtesy: Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Al Yamm Villa Resort