There is a saying, ‘It is not easy playing God.’ But there is yet another saying, ‘Where there is a will there is a way!’ And where there is wherewithal along with a will the result can only be as beautiful and unique as Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island, Al Sahel Villa Resort, Abu Dhabi.
Sir Bani Yas is a natural island located 100 km southwest of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Originally home to Arabia’s largest wildlife reserve, it spans over 87 sq.km. the reserve was established in 1971 by the late ruler and founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Thanks to decades of intensive conservation work and ecological investment, it is now home to thousands of large free-roaming animals and several million trees and plants which make it a bird sanctuary as well as a wildlife reserve.
The magic begins at the drive to the Jebel Dhana jetty from Abu Dhabi airport where miles of desert land studded with natural shrubbery and date palms keep you company. One catches tantalising glimpses of the blue green ocean and then finally the island comes into view.
A short luxury boat ride brings you to the island, where the hospitality envelops you in a warm embrace as the first uniformed hotel person greets you and drives you to the Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Al Sahel Villa Resort, in a 4×4 land cruiser.
The Arabian wildlife park surrounding the resort is all of 4,100 hectares and has stunning landscapes composed of salt-domed hilltops and a savanna full of arduously propagated native vegetation.
Anantara Al Sahel shares its island home with over 10,000 free-roaming animals including one of the world’s largest herd of endangered Arabian oryx.
In the waters around the island, one may even catch sight of dolphins and sea turtles. All these animals are monitored and cared for painstakingly by a dedicated team of wildlife experts. Amongst the several species of birds, are white cheeked bulbuls, blue and green peafowl, partridges, francolins and habara birds.
The Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island, Al Sahel Villa Resort is made up of thirty rustic villas and a reception area. The entire setup is elegantly built, decorated with restraint and yet infused with a lot of character so it is as engaging whether one is indoors or outdoors.
The South African based firm of North Point and the British global engineering firm of W S Atkins were collectively at the helm of the interior design and architecture.
The interior of the villas and the place in general, is full of authentic indigenous touches referencing both Arabian and African cultures. The bric-a-brac, art and other accessories seen in the common areas and villa interiors are enough to keep one long occupied.
Three accommodation types are available, one bedroom villas, one bedroom pool villas with a separate lounge and dining space, as well as a personal plunge pool and spacious two bedroom pool villas.
The roofs of the villas are reproductions of ancient Barusti roofs, which were once commonly made by the Bedouins, desert-dwelling Arabian ethnic groups, using dried palm leaves and ropes.
Sustainably designed and run, at the Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island, Al Sahel Villa Resort there is no dearth of choice of activity. One may enjoy the authentic therapies provided by the Anantara Spa or workout at the gym.
Just admiring the beauty of the open savanna whilst indulging in refreshments in the alfresco lounge is activity enough as the ever changing landscape full of lively birds and animals keeps one’s mind and soul satiated.
Dining at Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island, Al Sahel Villa Resort, is a mouthwatering affair, with the signature restaurant, savanna Grill, offering a luxurious safari lodge venue to savour impeccable western favourites and traditional African specialties.
Extending the sophisticated pleasures, a private cigar lounge offers a fine selection of international cigars for aficionados. Guests are further spoilt with the freedom to choose between any of the restaurants and bars at all three of Anantara’s resorts on the island, opening up a world of flavoursome possibilities in a variety of distinctive settings.
All in all Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island, Al Sahel Villa Resort, is a holiday destination which puts a check in every box of requirements of the most finicky traveller.
Text By Mala Bajaj
Photographs Anantara Hotels & Resorts