Dubai and Abu Dhabi may be the United Arab Emirates glittering capital cities – attracting thousands of cruise goers each year to their luxury hotels, five-star restaurants and beautiful beaches – but it’s a small island port which is starting to gain the attention of travellers around the world.

Where is Sir Bani Yas Island?

The largest of Abu Dhabi’s eight Desert Islands, lying Southwest of the Emirati capital, Sir Bani Yas Island offers passengers the chance to take in a world of scenic beauty, adventurous activities and spectacular wildlife.

Situated in the Persian Gulf, the island enjoys a hot year-round climate, with temperatures reaching over 40°C in the summer months of June and July.

The island also has a fascinating history, with many important archaeological sites still being discovered. Sir Bani Yas itself was created millions of years ago by natural geological forces, which is how the recognisable “salt-dome” of the island’s crest came to be.

Protecting the World’s Endangered Species

In In 1971, under the UAE’s founding ruler, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the island was declared a nature reserve – protecting the endangered wildlife of the United Arab Emirates and wider Arabia. Hundreds of species of animals were introduced to the island, including many which were at risk from extinction. Over the past two decades, the nature reserve has grown and now covers more than half of the island, and some 4,000 hectares. Animals are free to roam in the reserve, and wildlife lover’s will be able to spot cheetahs, hyenas, sea turtles and giraffes amongst many other species.

Things to Do on Sir Bani Yas Island

From relaxing by the beach-side pool to diving amongst shipwrecks, spotting wildlife on exhilarating land safaris to being pampered in the world-class spa, Sir Bani Yas Island is a piece of paradise that can be enjoyed in whatever way suits your tastes.

Adventure-seekers will love the island’s range of activities, which includes sea kayaking, horse riding, archery and hiking. Those who prefer water activities should visit the Desert Islands Water Sports Centre, where PADI diving courses and snorkelling allow guests to experience the kaleidoscope world of marine life and shipwrecks. For the ultimate Emirati underwater experience, sign up for one of the island’s pearl diving trips, where participants can learn about Sir Bani Yas Island’s unique seafaring heritage before diving into the sea in search of pearls to keep.

The waters around the island are also home to dolphins, sharks, and five different species of sea turtles, including the rare Hawksbill Turtle, which visitors can spot during activities including paddle boarding and kayaking.

Much of the island’s land-based activities focus on the incredible wildlife at the nature reserve, giving visitors the opportunity to see many of the Arabian Wildlife Park’s inhabitants up close. Whether you want to join one of the Wildlife Drives, take a nature walk or hike, see the reserve from horseback or follow one of the mountain biking trails, you’ll encounter some of the park’s 13,000 animals – including ostriches, giraffes, hyenas, cheetahs, jackals and more.

Land sailing is another of Sir Bani Yas Island’s most popular activities. Sail along the pristine beaches of the island with one of the expert guides or have the whole family partake in an exhilarating land sailing race.

If relaxing by the pool is more your thing, the Desert Islands Resort & Spa has everything you need for a luxurious, beach-side break. With an infinity pool that offers incredible views over the aquamarine waters of the Arabian Gulf, five-star facilities and a range of pampering treatments available at the beautiful Anantara Spa, you’ll leave Sir Bani Yas Island feeling refreshed and re-energised.

Cruises That Visit Sir Bani Yas Island

Many of the biggest cruise lines include stops at Sir Bani Yas Island on their United Arab Emirates cruises, including MSC, Oceania Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean – offering passengers the chance to experience the best of this islanncl d during a port day.

For a truly unique Sir Bani Yas Island experience, the MSC Beach Experience on a MSC cruise provides passengers with access to an exclusive beach – connected to the main island by a wooden boardwalk. As well as exploring everything Sir Bani Yas has to offer, MSC passengers have exclusive access to a strip of paradise-white sand, a range of bars and activities including paddle boarding and snorkelling. MSC’s guests don’t even need to visit the island’s main spa to feel pampered – with MSC Aurea Spa personnel available for appointments directly on the beach.