Escape to Abu Dhabi: A Journey Through its Islands and Deserts

On a long weekend getaway to Abu Dhabi, we wanted to explore the capital’s outskirts and hidden (not so hidden) gems and why Abu Dhabi should be your first port of entry in the United Arab Emirates.

Explore the Islands of Abu Dhabi

The emirate of Abu Dhabi is the largest in the UAE, by far, and with a proportionally much longer coastline, has a larger number of offshore desert islands. Off the shore of the Abu Dhabi emirate are several islands, including Reem Island, Saadiyat Island, Sir Bani Yas Island, Sowah Island (Sowwah), Maryah Island, Reem Island, and Yas Island. Abu Dhabi is located on one of these islands. Sir Bani Yas Island is the largest natural Island in the UAE and was awarded the ‘World’s Leading Sustainable Tourism Destination’. On this occasion, we explored Sir Bani Yas Island.

Safari Game Drives at Sir Bani Yas Island

More than half the island is made up of the Arabian Wildlife Park, one of the region’s largest wildlife reserves, which is home to more than 10,000 free-roaming animals including Arabian Oryx, gazelles and giraffes, hyenas, and cheetahs. You can take a 4×4 Nature & Wildlife Drive of the park in specially made vehicles accompanied by expert guides.

Stay at Anantara Al Yamm

A 2-hour drive from Abu Dhabi into the natural beautiful Island of Sir Bani Yas, a 25-minute ferry ride, and a 7-minute drive into a unique and one-of-a-kind property in the UAE, Anantara Hotels & Resorts & Spa. With three Anantara Hotels Resorts & Spas’ retreats on the island, you can choose between 3 accommodations at Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara, beachfront seclusion at Anantara Al Yamm Villa Resort on the eastern shores, and take in the natural beauty of Sir Bani Yas Island at Anantara Al Sahel Villa Resort.

Learn to Ride a Horse on Sir Bani Yas Island

If you are a beginner or an experienced rider, the stables in Sir Bani Yas Island have around 30 horses of different breeds suitable for ages 13 years old. You have a choice whether to ride by the beach or in the mangroves.

Experience The Bird Sanctuary

Beautiful flamingos can be seen on Sir Bani Yas Island; for the most part, they are seen around the many mangrove areas, other birds such as Emu, Blue Neck Ostrich, Grey Crowned Crane, and more!

Visit the Al Ain Desert

A one-and-a-half-hour drive from Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain is one of the world’s oldest permanently inhabited settlements and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The desert is one of the most beautiful parts of Al Ain after the Empty Quarter in Abu Dhabi and so make sure you visit the beautiful Oasis in Al Ain desert.

Experience Waking Up in the Desert

Waking up in the desert is complete isolation feeling. Staying in a heritage-like luxury hotel is also one of the experiences one must do when visiting!

Horse Riding on The Beach

There is always something magical about riding a horse on the beach and yet alone on an island in the UAE. The beautiful Arabian horses are located in Anantara Sir Bani Yas and you have an opportunity to ride the horse by yourself or with an instructor by the shores of the island.

Explore Jabel Hafeet

Rising 1,240 meters, Jebel Hafeet is the emirate’s highest peak and UAE’s second. This towering rocky height, which stands guard over Al Ain and borders Oman, is forged out of craggy limestone that has been weathered over millions of years. Significant fossil discoveries have been made in the area, which are vital pieces in the jigsaw of the city’s ancient history.

Ride The Dunes at The Empty Quarter

Almost like a fairytale! The world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass, the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) will blow you away with massive expanses of awesome desert and enormous dunes. It’s a landscape of ever-changing endless dunes made famous by the British explorer Wilfred Thesiger and his Emirati and Omani companions in the 1940s and 50s.

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