We stayed at Desert Islands on the long weekend of 6th - 8th June. We are a couple both aged 30 with no kids.
Having left Dubai after work, I knew the drive was going to be around 3 hours - unfortunately we missed the boat at 8pm and had to wait for the 10.30pm boat. Not ideal given there were only two couples waiting, when we asked could they send the boat straight back they informed us they could and offered an alternative private transfer for 1100 AED.
The crossing took 30 minutes and the bus journey the other side another 30, we eventually arrived at the hotel gone midnight. All the restaurants were closed however they had advised we order room service in advance which was ready when we arrived in the room which was quite pleasant well received after a 6 hour trip.
The rooms themselves i thought were very nice, we had a deluxe sea view room and it had a king size bed, which was huge alongside a large balcony with two comfy sun loungers. Bathroom was very modern with a very large shower and separate bath. The mini bar was fully stoked alongside complementary Nespresso which i thought was a nice touch.
The weather wasn't great on our first day so we decided to do the shorter (9KM) bike ride at 8.30am. Our guide was very nice and the equipment all in good condition, however the ride was mostly flat and should really be called bike tour as it wasn't challenging, I'm told the 18KM is slightly more 'off road'. For 100 AED this wasn't bad value and lasted around an hour and fifteen minutes.
We had booked to go snorkelling at 2pm however we decided to check out the watersports facilities over at the other building, we were told to arrive back at 1.30pm. When we did eventually arrive back at around 1.40pm we were told the snorkeling was cancelled due to weather conditions, irritating yes, however out of our control........but - why not call me or my room to inform me of this BEFOREHAND.
The rest of the day we spent by the pool which i must say is lovely, it's chilled (temp) which is great when it's 35+ and there are plenty of sun loungers. Lifeguards bring round ice cold water and towels also. This was 'dry' day so i wasn't paying much attention to the waiter service however my wife was ordering juice and had to keep returning to the bar to do so which wasn't ideal.
At 5pm we decided to go on the desert safari drive, which was actually excellent. Our guide Kate was very informative and took us on a great tour which included seeing cheetahs, deer, oryx, peacocks, ostrich, giraffes, hyenas and many more animals. It lasted around 2 hours and was well worth the 255 AED per person. Seeing the animals is not a certainty however the guides do their best.
Dinner that evening we booked a table (as advised) to Samac which is the resorts 'famous' seafood restaurant. Now unfortunately this is when our day took a real nose dive, we arrived at 9.20pm and there were 4 people in the restaurant and zero atmosphere. We were shown to our table and I selected a Sancerre from the wine list, at over 300 AED a bottle you would expect the staff to take note and bring it to the table promptly, it took around 15 minutes to arrive and eventually came after the Oysters I ordered (which were very fresh and well shucked). For main course we ordered the seafood platter which consisted of a lobster, tiger prawns, scallops, squid and sherri and bream fillets.......where to start? The lobster was overcooked, to the extent it would not come out of the shell easily, the scallops were tiny, the tiger prawn had been deep fried in batter (why oh why???!!???) and fish 'fillets' were barely edible - full of bones and lazily filleted meaning there was not much actual fish to eat. This was served with sauteed vegetable and a side of potatoes - the vegetables were forgotten and were brought halfway though the meal. Normally I would have highlighted this while we were eating however it was clear they were not going to be able to offer a replacement as the kitchen had closed and was being cleaned and packed away (this as at around 10.10pm). For the very same reason, dessert was completely off the cards and we were now the only people in the place. When our server came across to clear the plates I highlighted some of the issues with the food and was met with a blank look, then thanks for my comment and handed a feedback card which we left with reception for fear of it not making it out of the restaurant.
All the bars were closed by 10.30pm so we called it a night.
The next day the weather was much better and we were looking forward to our rescheduled snorkeling trip, only to be told at 7am that it was again cancelled due to bad weather.......I'm not convinced this was the case as the sea look remarkably calm.
We spend all day by the pool and sampled many of the cocktails on offer, on the whole the drinks were good and reasonably priced for the region. They also have Warsteiner and Peroni on tap which made a nice chance from the usual beers on offer.
We had a note left in our room from the F&B manager apologising for our experience the previous night, we were offered a round of drinks complimentary which we decided to take in the Amwaj restaurant near the dive centre. We sat down ordered drinks and then were told that none of the seafood options were available on the menu (we are pescetarians so not ideal) - we finished our drinks and left swiftly. We decided to go to the BBQ night in the main restaurant, plenty of prawn, lobster and hammour on the BBQ - all great quality and a nice house wine as part of the all inclusive package. Lots od salads, desserts and hot dishes too. If you are there on a Friday I recommend this.
While this review appears negative, in actual fact the resorts isn't all bad. The staff are very polite, the place is clean, drinks are good and choose the right activity and it will be fun.
However, it's the finer details which Desert Islands falls down on - such as prompt service (we had to call reception 4 times to get room turned over, called 3 times for an ice bucket) the fact that they only told us 10 minutes before our bus was due that the boats to mainland were cancelled due to bad weather, lack of understanding and empathy from staff, quality of some of the food etc etc.
Overall, I won't be visiting again or recommending this place to friends. I think there are more cost effective and luxury resorts in other Emirates or countries - for example Muscat is a similar distance from Dubai and a much better option in my opinion.
I hope this helps
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- With 64 luxuriously appointed rooms, suites, spacious one-bedroom villas and truly luxurious two-bedroom Royal Villas, Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara invites you to live out your own Arabian nights in a destination that is anything but ordinary. 240km from Abu Dhabi City and just eight kilometers off the Abu Dhabi emirate’s western coastline, the island beckons with a mystique that is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of modern urban life. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Desert Islands Resort & Spa By Anantara Hotel Sir Bani Yas Island
- Desert Islands Resort And Spa By Anantara
- Desert Islands Hotel
- Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa Emirate Of Abu Dhabi/Sir Bani Yas Island