Bani Yas Island has always been on my UAE To Do List. The island is about a 3,5 hour drive and 30min boat ride from Dubai and lies off the coast of Abu Dhabi in the western region. It’s the largest natural island in the UAE. Its rich history, incredible flora and fauna and the story of how it evolved into a major conservation project truly makes it a globally unique destination.
One of the more common animals on the island are peacocks - in fact, a ranger told us they are considering to introduce some desert foxes to control the population, as culling is not allowed by law.
Some might say this one could be straight out of Angry Birds.
Probably the second most common animal on the island, after the Peacocks.
I guess this is a female turkey, who didn't end up on a Christmas plate.
With only a few days of rainfall per year, a huge irrigation system taking desalinated water from the shore was implemented over the last decades.
Both green and blue types can be found.
Believe it or not, these animals are closely related to Elephants.
Of an Arabian Oryx, if I recall correctly. Having seen them in the wild in the desert, these have become some of my favourite animals.
Proud of its horns.
A male ostrich, with its pink legs signalling the mating season.
Two Barbary Sheep (if I am not wrong) measuring their strength.
Several kind of deer can also be spotted on the island, although we heard they are Cheetah favourites...
Workers are said to have planted the UAE's national tree, the Ghaf tree, on top of the mountain in honor of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who started the initiative on the island in 1977.
There are only 8500 of the Somali Giraffe in the wild. The island is home to about 30.
They are free roaming in the reserve.
The cheetah had just made a kill before we spotted them.
So of course it was time to rest after the meal.
This was what was left of the Gazelle after they were done.
A guided walking tour through the nature park is the best way to truly get a feeling for the animals.
The island is home to many critically endangered or vulnerable species, such as Barbary sheep, and Arabian tahr.
Many thousands of animals have been released back into the wild to help local and international conservation efforts.
After the last young has been born, male and female giraffes have been seperated on the island to avoid further population growth, as giraffes eat a lot...
More than half the island is made up of the Arabian Wildlife Park, which is home to more than 10,000 free roaming animals.
As we came closer during the walking tour, we were monitored quite intensely...
Actually - these are tracks from gazelles walking towards one of the feeding stations, they like to keep in line...
Over 3 million trees have been planted on the island over the last 40 years.
Staying during full moon meant nights were bright.
Desert Islands Hotel
The first hotel on the island opened in 2008 and used to be Sheikh Zayed's guest house.
It's getting cold in the Winter out in the sea, but a fire on the beach and some arabic food makes it more than bearable.
The rugged mountain area features some beautiful Wadis which fill with water during (rare) rainy times.
Many animals are said to come here for their last hours.
Haematite I believe?
Gypsum mixed with iron turn into brown and red colour shades across the rocks.
The central part of the island has not been planted much, and shows the barren yet beautiful mountainous landscapes.
Nature & Culture
Aside from beautiful nature, the island is also home to the UAE's only discovered Christian monastery from around 600 AD - it is currently being renovated and can't be visited though.
The First Rays
Salt and sediments squeezed their way to the surface, creating the patterns in the rock.
Sunrise always makes for the best light.
Even in this landscape, some plants survive, although very few are naturally occuring.
You can explore the island with a 4x4 or also by foot - although at 87sqm it was a lot bigger than I had thought.
The natural variety of the island is amazing.
The island now has three hotels run by Anantara, with a total of less than 150 rooms. Al Yamm is located on the eastern shores in the mangrove area.
Unsure of what kind.
The Al Sahel hotel is located towards the centre of the island surrounded by greenery, with gazelles and other animals regularly passing by.