Sir Bani Yas Island is the largest natural island located off the coast of Abu Dhabi, and used to be the private island of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of UAE. As of today, the island is the abode of thousands of animals, in addition to numerous indigenous plants and trees. Furthermore, it is also a wildlife reserve and a bird sanctuary, and is a major hotspot for adventure activities like hiking, kayaking, diving and more.
Located at a distance of around 250 kilometers from Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island is the largest natural island in all of UAE, in addition to being one of the most popular places to visit in the region. It is one of the eight islands that complete the Desert Islands in Al Dhafra and gets its name from the Bani Yas tribe, who were the first settlers of Abu Dhabi.
The island was awarded the title of the “World’s Leading Sustainable Tourism Destination” in the year 2014. With more than half of the island being the home of the Arabian Wildlife Park, one of the largest wildlife reserves in the region, the island also boasts several million trees, in addition to more than 13,000 animals of different species.
It is at Sir Bani Yas Island where you can find oryxes, gazelles, hyenas, jackals, and cheetahs, along with endangered wildlife species like sea turtles, sand gazelles, barbary and urial sheep, and other animals. The island is also a major hub for adventure activities, including mountain biking, coral reef diving, kayaking, snorkeling and a lot more. You can also find several luxury resorts on the island, making it a perfect place to enjoy a luxurious holiday amidst the serene natural surroundings.
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• Sir Bani Yas Island is the largest natural island in the United Arab Emirates
• Enjoy exploring the flora and fauna of the island, including millions of plants and trees, and thousands of local as well as endangered species of animals
• Enjoy cultural and history tours, or indulge in adventure activities like mountain biking, adventure safaris, kayaking and even pearl diving, among other things
• Get a chance to witness animal species in this amazing wildlife reserve, from the Arabian oryx, and Somali ostrich, to gazelles, deer, giraffes as well as dolphins
• Go for 4x4 open vehicle tours around the island and catch sights of the Arabian Mountain Gazelles, which gives Abu Dhabi the name of the “Land of Gazelles”
• Don’t forget to enjoy a tour of the reserve, and learn about the rare plant species that are found here, such as the thorn acacia or gum tree, which act as home for over 100 species of wild birds
Sir Bani Yas Island is located in the Al Gharbia region of the UAE, around 250 kilometers towards the southwest of Abu Dhabi. It is accessible by a car ride, followed by a boat ride from Jebel Dhanna on the mainland.
Alternatively, you can also reach the island directly by boat or seaplane, which docks at Sir Bani Yas’ Royal Bay Moorings.
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The best time to visit Sir Bani Yas Island is from the month of September to March. It is during these months when the weather here is relatively pleasant, with cool temperatures during the night, and little to no rainfall, making it perfect to explore the island, indulge in different activities, and more.
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History of Sir Bani Yas Island
The island gets its name Sir Bani Yas from the Bani Yas Tribe, who were the first settlers of Abu Dhabi. The island in itself is the crest of a salt dome that was created millions of years ago due to natural geographical forces. Even today, the island is home to a Nestorian Christian Monastery, which is also one of its oldest sites ever and dates back to 600 AD.
The island is also home to several other historical sites, including the remains of the Late Stone Age, many early Islamic structures, as well as the only pre-Islamic Christian site ever found in the UAE. The first mention of the island was in European literature around the 1590s, followed by the 1820s and 1850s. It was in 1977 when the development of the island as a wildlife preserve began, thereby providing thousands of animals a haven and natural habitat.
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When visiting the Sir Bani Yas Island, one of the best things to do is to go on a safari in the Arabian Wildlife Park, which is a prime attraction here. From spotting wild cheetahs, giraffes and the wild Arabian onyx, to axis deer herds, gazelles, ostrich and more, you can see it all during the safari here.
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The Desert Island Resort & Spa by Anantara is one of the prime points of interest in this island. Located near a lagoon, this resort has 64 rooms and 6 private lodges, along with 3 restaurants, a spa, health club, kid’s club as well as other business facilities.
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Don’t forget to enjoy a kayaking experience when visiting Sir Bani Yas Island. In this activity, you get a chance to kayak through the dense mangroves in the island, while catching sights of several wildlife, birds and lush flora.
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A horse-riding experience at this island is definitely one of the best experiences that you can have. Home to more than 30 horses, you can enjoy riding beautiful Arabian horses and mares here, while passing through sandy trails, wildlife parks and dense forested areas.
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The beaches of Sir Bani Yas Island are perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation, where you can unwind after a busy day of activities. From sunbathing under the sunny skies, to enjoy views of the beautiful natural surroundings, a relaxing day at the beach is one of the best ways to spend time here.
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Sir Bani Yas Island is home to the Al Mahara Diving Centre, which is one of the best spots to enjoy a coral reef diving experience here. It is during this activity wherein you can enjoy catching sights of the colorful, underwater world of corals that lie off the coast of this island. You can also witness many other marine species like barracudas, humor fish, hawksbill turtles, and dugongs while diving.
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Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery is one of the best attractions of the island, in addition to being one of the most well-preserved heritage sites of the UAE. It is also the first Christian site that was discovered here and contains ancient artifacts like ceramic objects and plaster crosses.
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1. Savannah Grill:
This restaurant is one of the best places to eat at when visiting Sir Bani Yas Island. Doubling up as an amazing romantic spot, the restaurant offers an extensive menu of vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian food options. Don’t forget to try their lamb and sweet potato puree.
2. Olio Restaurant:
Offering lip-smacking dishes from Italian, European as well as Mediterranean cuisines, Olio Restaurant is also known for its classy ambience, huge portions, as well as helpful and courteous staff.
3. Amwaj Restaurant:
For a fine dining experience by the seaside, this restaurant is the place to be. Offering many delicious seafood dishes, the restaurant is particularly known for items like pan-seared scallops, seafood laksa, and cocktails
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At the Sir Bani Yas Island, some of the common animals that you can find here include gazelles, hyenas, jackals, giraffes and cheetahs, in addition to vulnerable species like sea turtles, sand gazelles, urial sheep, the Arabian tahr, the striped hyena, Sudan cheetah and onyx. You can also find hundreds of species of wild birds that are indigenous to this region here.
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Sir Bani Yas Island is known to offer some of the best views of the sunset, especially from its mountainous centre. The island is home to many vantage points in its western region, along with several beaches, which offer spectacular sunset views.
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