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“Truely unique & luxurious offering amazing experience” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa

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Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa
Certificate of Excellence
sydney
Level Contributor
10 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“Truely unique & luxurious offering amazing experience”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 22, 2013

From the moment you step on to the ferry to the island you will be blown away by Sir Bani Yas Island. It is a remarkable place a resort in the middle of an island safari park. You can go on safari with your own wildlife tou guide in a safari jeep and see the 53 giraffes, cheetahs, hyena's and gazelles plus more. The island has a magical feel and was a holiday destination of the great His Highness Sheik Zayed. It is a romantic getaway but great for families aswell with lots of activities including a watersport centre, pool, beach, gym, bike riding, canoeing plus much more. If you like 5 star luxury and want a unique experience this is well worth the distance and a must see. The seafood restaurant is excellent as is the pool side burgers!

Room Tip: A Truly Unique Place offering total luxury!!!
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank Ali J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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716 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (155)
Date | Rating
  • Arabic first
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
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English first
Miami Beach, Florida
Level Contributor
64 reviews
32 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 86 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 21, 2013

As a somewhat jaded traveler, I am always on the lookout for something special, unique and a new experience. I found that and so much more in Sir Bani Yas Island and the Desert Island Resort and Spa. Desert Islands Resort and Spa by Anantara is an experience beyond explanation.

Allow my feeble attempt to share what awaits those fortunate travelers who visit the island. This is truly an Arabian Fantasy Island that provides a series of unforgettable experiences. Here you’ll find soft sand beaches, wild animal safaris and countless outdoor activities to experience all while being pampered with five star accommodations, amenities, and service.


We took the shuttle flight from Abu Dhabi private airport for a 20 minute flight and arrived on Sir Bani Yas Island. The short flight makes us feel that we are truly traveling and getting away from it all and it was just what we needed.

We were greeted by the property manager who welcomed us in the airport lounge; he is quick with a smile and witty joke with his thick Swedish accent. We take the 15 minute bus shuttle to the property and observing the island as we begin to take in what we are to experience. Sir Bani Yas Island is a perfect meeting of desert safari and tropical beach and an experience not found anywhere else in the world.

At the resort, we are greeted with a cool towel and refreshing drink and no check in line to wait in. The lobby is like a grand reception area with couches and decorations like the grand lodge of a king. We are given a quick tour of the property by one of the staff and are then escorted to our room.

The accommodations were on par with the overall five star experience. The rich earth tone color scheme was a perfect complement to the vivid hues of the desert and sea environment. The thatch pattern on the ceiling was a nice touch and complimented the indigenous fabrics and original artwork.

The room was spacious and we quickly dozed off in the plush king-sized bed with the soft Egyptian cotton linens. We were on the first floor so we had a nice terrace to enjoy a glass of wine at night and then step out for a stroll around the property. In our room we found the modern conveniences including international flat-screen satellite TV, individually controlled air-conditioning, rain shower, Anantara bathroom amenities, rattan ceiling fan, Nespresso coffee machine, work station, free WiFi, and mini bar.

After a brief rest, we ventured out to tour the property. Our first task is to take a dip in the pool and then soak up the sun. The pool is a spacious free form shape with an infinity edge. As you look from the pool, your next sight is the Arabian Sea giving the feeling that you are floating in the ocean. The free form layout has many nooks and alcoves allowing for the feeling of privacy.
Outside was hot but the helpful pool staff was quick to adjust the umbrella and bring a cool drink making it very comfortable. The pool is very refreshing and quickly cools off any heat and stress from that world away.

We had a chance to enjoy dinner at Samak, their signature seafood restaurant. Inside is decorated with beautiful seaside colors more reminiscent of Cape Cod than the Middle East. There is an open kitchen where you can pick out your selection and watch the chef busy about in his preparation.

At Samak, we had the pleasure to meet Dams, who has the distinction of being the first Salt Guru that I have encountered. He was like the Sommelier of Salt and gave us an interesting presentation of his wide selections of natural salts; where they are from, why their flavors and coloration was different. Then he went on to suggest which salt would complement the choice of seafood. Very interesting

We chose to dine al fresco on the terrace which overlooked the infinity edge pool and Arabian Sea. It was the perfect beginning of a romantic evening as we chatted about the little things as couples do, while enjoying the Samak's savory dishes.

The next morning we awoke early excited about the safari that we had anticipated since planning our trip. After coffee and pasty our guide takes us to the open air 4x4 jeep for our ride to the park. Our guide, Ted is very knowledgeable and tells us the history of the island and the resort as well as the expansion plans for the future. He tells us about the history of the island and conservation efforts as well as the ambitions of the island founder.

Sir Bani Yas Island is home to one of Arabia’s largest wildlife reserves and the "Greening of the Desert" program, established in 1971 by the late ruler and founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His aim was to make the deserts more suitable for human settlement and provide a haven for Arabia’s endangered wildlife.

In the park, we see the majestic Arabian Oryx, gazelles, ostriches, peacocks, and various birds. I was most impressed by the cheetah and the giraffes were a sight to behold. The Moroccan Babar Sheep were also beautiful to see. One of Arabia’s largest wildlife reserves the Arabian Wildlife Park, which is home to more than 10,000 free roaming animals, takes up more than half of the island. The creation of the Arabian Wildlife Park is the result of years of conservation and re-vegetation work that continues to this day.

On our last night, we chose to dine at Amaj the tapas restaurant. We enjoyed the short stroll holding hands and walking along the coast line as the sunset just beyond. Cozy, oversized chairs and sofas on the terrace create a relaxed living room feel, enhanced by lounge music with a breathtaking sea view. The tapas were a wide variety from both sea and land with Arabic tasters and Asian plates, followed by signature homemade ice cream creations,

In the morning, we had a breakfast fit for a king at The Palm restaurant. The buffet had a wide selection of dishes, pastries, fresh fruits and drinks. I chose the omelets station and our chef prepared my omelet perfectly. Breakfast at The Palm; what a great way to start the day.

We then ventured out to experience Sir Bani Yas Island’s natural wonders with a kayaking trip which should not be missed. After a short ride across the island with our guide Ted giving us more history on the island and pointing out various animals and sights, we arrived at the launch point. It was a delightful 90 minute tour through inlets and canals to the mangrove area full of fish and other wild life. . The quiet waters are perfect for paddling across and will truly provide an appreciation of the stunning nature and wildlife.

Desert Islands offers a range of nature-based activities themed around the exciting wildlife and conservation projects on Sir Bani Yas Island. Explore the Arabian Wildlife Park and view many of Arabia’s rare indigenous animals on a Nature & Wildlife Drive, kayak through breathtaking waters home to many fish and birds or mountain bike through the rugged terrain of the landscape.

So after our visit, the Fantasy Island experience became real to us. It was a wonderful stay filled with exceptional accommodation, dining, service, and memories that will last for years to come.

Room Tip: Get a second floor room so you can have a balcony with a good view. Also, you can go May or October...
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  • Stayed May 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Glenn H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
20 reviews
14 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 8, 2013

We arrived by car, having spent three days in Abu Dhabi. The check; in whilst waiting for the ferry, was lovely. I wish I could say the same about the ferry and then the following bus transfer. My great impressions were diminished by the shabby appearance of the boat and the bus. Considering we are in a country renowned for flashy transport, we were a little disappointed, with the tatty boat and the 80's feel of the bus! Thankfully the hotel did not continue in the same vain. Large rooms, beautiful bathrooms and stunning views from the balcony.

We headed straight to the pool were, thankfully not every bed was taken, the hotel was at about 50% capacity. Lots of families so if this is the kind of thing that would put you off make sure you avoid school holiday times. However if you have a family they seemed well equipped.

At this stage I would like to acknowledge Romeo the life guard - what a legend! Constantly paying attention to the guests, providing them with drinking water, moving umbrellas to gain maximum shade, bringing out towels, nothing seemed like too much trouble for this employee!

Onto the restaurants, we dined twice at the fish restaurant, both superb evenings the second night however was hampered by our European cousins who after finishing their meal produced cigars and cigarettes. We had only just finished with our starter and as we were sitting downwind we asked to be moved to a different table as we were non-smokers, they obliged. However moments later another family of smokers arrived and proceeded to smoke between their meals as well, coincidentally as we were tucking into our main meal. So my main suggestion to the hotel would be to have outside smoking and non-smoking areas in all the restaurants. This is a massive deal for us especially as we asked to move away from the smoking family only for them to put another smoking family next to us!!!! There were other tables they could have put the smokers at!! It turned out to be a ruined evening and meal.
One of the activities we decided to take part in was the two hour bike ride. My partner and I consider ourselves to be relatively fit – however with the temps out there any activity is tough, so I would strongly suggest either going early morning or later afternoon. They could only fit us in on a 2.00pm bike ride – which we took. It was amazing we saw all kinds of animals around the island and it was a truly great experience. A couple of little niggles would be 1 – the guide would cycle quite a bit into the distance as he was fitter than us, which meant that the animals that were hanging around eating were gone by the time we reached the area as the guide had scared them away. It also felt a bit like he was rushing to get us round.
On the last day we used the spa – this was truly an amazing experience. Lovely lovely lovely. Would definitely recommend.

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank Tracy J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Singapore, Singapore
Level Contributor
136 reviews
82 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 139 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 2, 2013

The best part about this resort has got to be the service levels. In terms of service standards, this has got to be one of the best places we have ever stayed in, and it makes Shangri-la (with whom we have been members of the Golden Circle loyalty programme for some time) feel ordinary. They really put in a great deal of effort to make guests feel valued, and this is coming from somebody who had only paid to stay in the cheapest room category in the resort.

From the moment we arrived at the jetty until the time we had got back on the mainland and drove off, every single staff member we had encountered made us feel very welcome, and were almost always trying to ensure that we were comfortable. It felt to us like they were always ready to assist with queries and requests, even when those did not fall under their specific job scopes.

Everywhere we went in the resort, many of the staff members greeted us by our names. Somehow they had a system to know who we were, so we seldom had to identify ourselves or state our room numbers. We thought that was a nice touch.

Before we had arrived, we had also written to the resort asking to be assigned a room with a nice view if possible, as we were going on the trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The resort went further than that. We got our room with a nice view of the pool and beach, and they also prepared a lovely cake for us in the room.

The list goes on, and it appeared that every corner we turned in the resort, we experienced excellent service from the staff.

On the “hardware” side of things, the resort was generally clean and well-maintained, and the rooms are reasonably spacious and comfortable. The resort was, however, relatively limited in terms of facilities, which is forgivable, noting that there are only about 70 rooms or so in the resort, which may have contributed to the “personalised” level of service. However, the resort does offer a good variety of activities to keep guests entertained, although most of them do not come cheap. We tried the Wildlife Drive, which allowed us to see animals roaming freely within the wildlife reserve on the island, and the lady who took us on the drive was friendly and engaging, and tried hard to ensure we saw as many of the animals as possible, making the trip enjoyable for us.

Transport to the resort is a little of a hassle though. From the jetty, there is a boat ride of about 15 minutes, followed by another 20-minute bus ride on the island to get to the resort. Including waiting time (for transfers from the boat to the bus, for both passengers and luggage), it took us about 45 minutes per way to get to and from the resort. However, the transport schedules were generally adhered to, so it allowed us to plan our time well.

On the whole, this is a nice place to relax in. It is cosy and not congested at all, probably because of the relatively limited number of rooms, and the service is great. However, for people who get bored easily, maybe 2 nights will be about right, as there are not too many things there that can keep guests entertained for many days.

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank MelvinLin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Level Contributor
68 reviews
45 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 66 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 27, 2013

1st the good(and the very good) :
The whole journey there is a nice experience by itself . We were greeted on mainland where we checked-in and left our luggage . The reception is very pleasant (albeit quite small) with refreshments etc.There's a shaded parking to leave the car in case you drive there .
We boarded the boat which took about 15 mins to the island then onto a bus which took another 15 mins or so to the resort . We were swiftly taken care of and shown to our rooms . Everything is very well organized but transit time can be quite long at peak times .
From previous posts we knew we should immediately head to the activities center in order to find some availability . It was full house during our stay .
The activity center staff were very courteous and accommodating and very well trained to deal with the massive influx of people .
Anything to do with activities is truly 5* . The guides are very knowledgeable and do take extra care in showing you the best time .
We had rented a one 1 bedroom villa with plunge pool(adjacent to the hotel building) and a deluxe room(in the building) . The villas are really amazing , so spacious and well appointed with a big kitchen etc. The villa patio is fantastic , i spent the 1st evening there away from the crowd at the hotel . A little back door connects you to the pool and restaurants area which was very convenient .
The bad :
Step out from your room to use the hotel facilities (to be fair i didn't see the spa ) is like going from 5* to 3* . The pool is frankly quite gross , dirty , unkempt with tiles falling off etc. My son was cut pretty severely in the pool , the lifeguard just threw us some first aid kit and turned around like nothing happened . He didn't even bother investigating how this happened .
They have a very interesting wave breaker on one side of the beach which allows a tidal pool to fill up . Unfortunately when we saw it the water had seeped out and frankly it didn't look very interesting to step into . The problem is the island is on the shipping line of the biggest industrial ports of the UAE so a lot of trash gets thrown off the oil tankers and ends up on the shore of this gem of an island . The other beach , the open ocean , is a short walking distance . I can't say it's amazing (but again we are spoiled with Abu Dhabi's Sadiyat beach) It isn't bad either .
Another downs side is the food quality . The best we tried was barely average so one night we decided to head over to the Italian at the adult only resort about 10 mins drive (Al Yamm resort) which was better .Transport is arranged by the reception . Considering that you are literally in the closest place to the middle of nowhere i would have imagined they would have a top notch chef . They already went the distance to employ activities guides from around the world , i couldn't figure out why they would stop at that .
To conclude , the experience was great . We initially thought 2 nights there are too much ended up being just right . The kids didn't want to leave and that doesn't happen very often with us . A word of caution , this isn't a resort to sit around and pamper yourself . You go there with activities in mind .
As far as activities are concerned we tried archery , horse back riding (the stables and the manager are really amazing ) , kayaking and safari .
A short word about bookings , they are extremely inflexible when it comes to room occupancy . The villa for example can easily accommodate a family of 4 but there was no way we could convince them to allow more than 3 people which is kind of silly because after all this is a family oriented resort and they only have 8 connecting rooms out of 64 total rooms .For us it would have been an issue because we have 3 children and they're too young to stay in a room alone .
That said we will return for sure .

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank WMFive
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ko Samui, Thailand
Level Contributor
14 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 27, 2013 via mobile

We live in Dubai and decided to take a short break to sir banyas.
The drive and ferry was excellent. The hotel is old but a good feel.
The staff are amazing! Wow! well trained and definitely could teach most hotels in Dubai a thing or two about quality customer service.
The food is not 5 star quality. Samak is a great restaurant for seafood and light lunch. Amwaj is not recommended.
More marketing would be great to attract more UAE residents. However, the price is on the high side. Definitely not in line with the standard of rooms and quality of food. Maybe 3.5 to 4 star:)

Helpful?
Thank Loshini L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Level Contributor
52 reviews
21 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 18, 2013

From the moment we met the first resort employee to the point when we left four days later the experience was stunning, the food, the service, the quality of the hotel & the resort attractions. We stayed in a 2 bed villa in the hotel complex, it was excellently decorated, the splash pool was exactly what it said it was and was perfect and a good size. We travelled with our young twin daughters and they enjoyed every second of the break. The food was very good in all the restaurants we tried and on one night we had dining by design, which was dinner in the villa with our own chef and butler. Both were very good and the food was cooked perfectly, the customer services was exceptional and discreet. Full marks to the Chef and the Butler on that night they were very good!! We had breakfast every morning in the main restaurant and the staff (particularly the Philippino's - although I hate to discriminate as they were all fantastic) adored the twins and made us feel very welcome even though my girls are hard work at times!! Shisha was very good and not expensive considering I pay more in Dubai on most occasions. Full marks to the shisha guy, he even brought shisha to our villa on one night which very cool. We went on a wildlife tour on one day and hired the whole truck (twin daughters mean I had to do this so as to not want to ruin anybody else's trip) and Ted was our guide. He was amazing very tolerant of our 18 month old girls he was amazing with them. Again Ted was a true star and took a different route to everybody else especially for our girls. The hotel also gave us a good price as we hired the whole vehicle so again and big thank you to the organising team. One last comment, on the first night we had booked dinner for just my wife and I at the fish restaurant, without asking they sent a golf buggy to pick us up. Real service is when you don't have to ask and they just do it naturally, that sums up the mentality of the hotel and the employees. The communal pool was great and very child friendly (with lots of places for the adults as well). I am a CEO of a major service provider in the MENA region and this was a brilliant break. I would hire all the staff in a flash! I can not recommend this particular resort highly enough and a true 5 star experience.

Room Tip: The 2 bed villas are excellent for families!
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  • Stayed October 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Christian R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Steven P, General Manager at Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa, responded to this review, October 18, 2013
Dear Christian and family

It was with great pleasure that I read your recent review of your stay with us over the recent very busy period. I was so pleased to hear that Karin and the team here looked after you and your family so well.

Our 2 Bedroom Villas are a great asset to the resort and the Butler service provided is of paramount importance to us and the enjoyment of all our guests staying in them.

Ted, Dennis (your butler) and Ali, our Shisha Guru were very pleased to be picked out as performing exceptionally well and it was lovely to see that the ladies at Breakfast took special care of your daughters.

Our Dining By Design Concept, whether being in your Villa, or any where on the island, is an Anantara signature experience and is a great offering afforded to all our guests. A short while ago, 2 guests enjoyed a Dining By Design in one of the Dry Wadis in the park and along with a saxophonist and guitar player, they also had a most wonderful experience.

Thank you once again for passing on your comments and we really do look forward to being of service to you all again in the future.

With best of regards

Steven

Steven Phillips
General Manager
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa

Property: Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa
Address: P.O. Box 12452, Sir Bani Yas Island 00945, United Arab Emirates
Location: United Arab Emirates > Emirate of Abu Dhabi > Sir Bani Yas Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 3 Hotels in Sir Bani Yas Island
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:5 star — Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa 5*
Number of rooms: 64
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 And Spa By Anantara
Desert Islands Resort & Spa By Anantara Hotel Sir Bani Yas Island
Desert Islands Hotel
Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa Emirate Of Abu Dhabi/Sir Bani Yas Island

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