Welcome to Sir Bani Yas Island
In the remote far west of the country, this 87-sq-km desert island was originally Sheikh Zayed's private retreat. It was his love of animals that inspired him to turn it into a nature reserve and to bring many native species back from the brink of extinction. Today, 60% of the island is home to 13,000 free-roaming indigenous and introduced animals, including sand gazelles, Barbary sheep, ostriches and even giraffes and cheetahs. Rarities include the Indian blackbuck, an antelope that can reach speeds of up to 90km/h, and several species of oryx, including the Arabian oryx, one of the world's most endangered animals.
Abu Dhabi's royal family still maintains two palaces in the island's south, but if they forgot to send your invitation, you can still visit by staying at one of the the island's three full-service resorts. Activities on the island range from archery and snorkelling to horse riding and nature walks and drives.
A limited number of day trips can be arranged, although usually on weekdays only. Check details with the property directly. Note that you cannot visit the island without a reservation at a resort or at least for a tour or activity.