Abu Dhabi unwraps nature-based destination

Desert Islands - the new nature-based destination offshore the Al Gharbia (Western Region), in Abu Dhabi - has arrived on the international tourism scene with the launch of phase one of Sir Bani Yas Island.

Developed by Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), - a master developer of major leisure, cultural and tourism destination within Abu Dhabi, Desert Islands comprises eight natural islands that include the former royal nature reserve of Sir Bani Yas Island, the historical Dalma Island and the previously unexplored Discovery Islands.

“When we initially launched Desert Islands’ first phase to the regional market, we have received very positive response with an average of over 75% occupancy in October 2008,” explained Lee Tabler, CEO, TDIC. “Our success has made us very keen to start develop the other phases immediately. Due to be completed in 2018, Desert Islands is a flagship tourism destination development for Abu Dhabi, making it only the beginning for us to showcase the Capital’s natural treasures to the world.”


As part of phase one, a 64-room boutique Desert Islands Resort and Spa, managed by the award-winning Thai hospitality group Anantara, opened its doors to the public earlier in October. “The impact that this hotel will have with only 64 rooms is very small, but what it will do for the entire Middle East is give it a conservation project that exists nowhere else,” said William Heinecke, Chief Executive of Minor, owners of Anantara Resorts.



Originally conceived as a wildlife reserve to ensure the survival of Arabia’s most endangered species, Sir Bani Yas Island is one of the great legacies of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the late President of the UAE. Today it hosts the Arabian Wildlife Park which spans three quarters of this 87 square kilometre island and is home to around 23 species of free-roaming animals, including giraffes, a variety of antelope and one the world’s largest herd of critical endangered Arabian Oryx.


The Sir Bani Yas Island experience starts from the moment guests step on to the boat or sea plane and enter this remote and exclusive get-away. Once flying by seaplane, guests will have an amazing opportunity to see over 200 islands spread over Abu Dhabi and the Gulf.


Desert Islands Resort and Spa guests can experience a variety of adventure and nature-based activities including 4x4 guided tours of the Arabian Wildlife Park, mountain biking and hiking on the island’s rugged salt domes, kayaking through its lush mangrove reserve, home to over 60 species of migratory bird life, and snorkelling in the marine-life rich waters off the island which are inhabited by dolphins, dugongs and sea turtles.


Sir Bani Yas Island lies alongside Jebel Dhanna in Al Gharbia, a 250 kilometre drive from Abu Dhabi city, followed by a 15 minute boat trip. Alternatively guests will be able to opt for a 50 minute flight by sea plane linking Abu Dhabi International Airport with the island starting in December 2008.