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Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa
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Reviewed 20 February 2014

On our recent visit to the UAE we spent 2 nights at this resort as a side-trip from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort. We chose this resort as it offered a mini 'safari' like experience for our young son and thought it was an interesting way to break up our tour of the UAE. Service and accommodations were all very good - the decor in keeping with a safari lodge - and the buffet breakfast was more than adequate. We thoroughly enjoyed our wildlife tour in the 'safari' van - our guide was fabulous and explained many facts about the island and variety of wildlife that we encountered (which included giraffe, leopard, oryx and many bird species). We also booked the archery session which was equally enjoyable and well-run. This resort appears to be struggling to attract guests and was quite deserted whilst we were there, which was not a problem for us but may be for some others. We ate at 2 of the restaurants on site for dinner - one was very good (tapas on the beach) but the other (steak/seafood) was a little under par. Obviously when staying at this resort you do not have any other choice but to eat at restaurants on site due it's remote location. We were not that interested in swimming/utilising the beach, but for those who are you may be disappointed with it - to protect the property from the sea, large buffers have been deposited just off shore and spoil the appearance of the beach. It is also extremely windy most days. The pool area is very inviting though and food/drinks can be ordered at the pool.

  • Stayed: January 2014, travelled with family
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1  Thank bellarineGeelong
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
GM-Anantara-SBY, General Manager at Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded 2 May 2014

Dear bellarineGeelong

Thank you very much for sharing this overall very positive review. Our Arabian Wildlife Park is a truly unique feature of this island and I'm sure that you found it very unexpected. We want all guests to know that there are beautiful and endless speeches on this island within walking distance of the resort and we hope that on your next trip you are able to explore them.

If staying during the midweek nights the resort can at times be quiet however during weekends we are usually fully booked so it is advisable to plan ahead. You may not have been aware that there are 3 Anantara resorts on Sir Bani Yas island all with their own restaurants that may be experienced during your stay and we now offer regular free shuttles as part of our "dine around" program

We do hope that you would choose to return and again experience this wonderful island.

Best regards

Mark Eletr
Cluster General Manager
Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 February 2014

Sir Bani Yas island is extensively hyped by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority so my family and I were very much looking forward to a special birthday trip during school half-term.

We decided to fly with Rotana Jet, rather than endure the road to Ruwais. I'd thoroughly recommend this, as the flight from (and back into) Al Bateen airport showcases fantastic aerial views of Abu Dhabi island, not to mention taking just 25 minutes, rather than the 3 hours of automotive hell that is driving from AD. The Al Bateen airport experience is a pleasantly quirky one too, and the flight is not expensive, at about AED 500 pp return.

On arrival, we were taken by mini-bus to the hotel, where we were greeted by the very pleasant Anantara staff and shown to our rooms, which were made ready early for the arrival of the Rotana Jet flight. (The theme of excellent service continued throughout our stay, with particular thanks being due to the staff of the Al Shams bar (Manulay and Ruwan, if they'll forgive my spelling), the Palm restaurant (including the table staff and the over-worked omelette- and waffle-maker, Kyaw!), the lifeguards and the room cleaners. All were as good as I've experienced - friendly and attentive without being overbearing - and I've stayed in some good hotels. The staff at Anantara are, without doubt, its best asset.)

The rooms were a good size and the beds in both our double and our children's adjoining room were fantastic: huge and very comfortable. Unfortunately, the other aspects of the rooms were not really up to the standard of the UAE's better hotels, with cheap televisions (basic satellite package) and ageing bathrooms. (I couldn't work the A/C or lighting system either, but that's probably my fault.) There was also some noise from the room above on our last night.

The rest of the hotel's facilities are also average. The pool is fine (they're missing a trick by not having a pool bar); the beach is tantalisingly close but not easily accessible; the facilities for children are pretty poor (a ping pong table and 'teen room' with a couple of computers) and the diving centre isn't really in the best location for snorkelling, although Al Mahara have just taken it on so things should improve. My wife said the spa was fine; at AED 850 for her treatments I said they'd better wax my nasal hair with ylang-ylang and unicorn droppings if we ever find ourselves there in the future…

The 'Italian' restaurant, Al Olio, is located a bus ride away next to the island's villas and is over-priced accordingly. My salmon was average, at best (when the chef asked how our meal was and I told him, he admitted the salmon was frozen and was the same as I could buy in a local supermarket). That just isn't good enough at any price, let alone AED 95 for a small portion. My wife and children all had the chicken, which was also very average. My salmon came with mashed potato and no vegetables; the chicken came with vegetables and no potatoes. Al Olio is over-priced and unsuitable for children, which the staff at the main hotel failed to tell us. They also told us the restaurant was fully booked at our preferred time of 7.30pm, which it wasn't; we ended up eating at 6.30pm and there were just three occupied tables when we left at 8.30pm. In their defence, both the Al Olio chef and the Executive Chef apologised, knocked 20% off our bill (which still left it much more mouth-watering than the food), offered us a free lunch at Al Shams bar the next day (which they allowed us to take at dinner time) and said the menu was about to be re-vamped. Not early enough for us, but we appreciated the gesture and their acknowledgement that they'd fallen short of the standards required at their prices.

The best, and certainly best value, food is probably to be found out the Al Shams bar and neighbouring restaurant, where the chef will happily cook the lunch menu (pasta, pizza etc.) in the evening. (They don't tell you this unless you ask, of course.) If you have children or an aversion to wasting money (not always bedfellows, I know), my advice would be to base yourself there, enjoy the draught beer (AED 30-something to AED 45 for a small bottle in Al Olio's restaurant) and cocktails and chat to the friendly guys behind the bar.

The buffet breakfast is pretty good, with a wide selection of the usual cereals, fruit, pastries, pancakes, omelettes etc. Inevitably, the buffet was over-run by misbehaving children whose parents were as averse to discipline as their children were to healthy eating options, but unfortunately that's par for the course.

We did the safari excursion on our first full day on the island and it was a pleasant, if ultimately slightly underwhelming, experience. Our guide was very good and our open-windowed Land Cruiser was comfortable. We saw lots of gazelles, a few oryx, a couple of ostriches and a few of the island's giraffes - all beautiful and most enjoyable sights. Sadly, we didn't see any of the island's five cheetahs, but that's the way it can go when they are left to roam (relatively) free, as they should be. I just wish the authorities would raid the hundreds of villas in the UAE in which big cats are known to be caged and add them to the rescued population on Sir Bani Yas. All in all, we were left feeling that the island's nature reserve is something of a token gesture and could be much better 'stocked'. It's an expansive place so why not use more of it?

From expansive to expensive…

My main issue with this trip was the cost, much of which can be attributed to the travel industry's powerful cartel in this part of the world, of which Anantara is a part. We have two children, aged 14 and 12, who are treated as adults by the travel industry despite their obvious failings as 'adults', such as their legal inability to marry, drink, smoke, drive, vote (well, you get my drift). It grates to have to pay full adult prices for their rooms, when I asked if they could share ours, and still have to request adjoining bedrooms because they're too young to be left alone at night on the other side of the hotel, not to mention paying full price for everything else, from food to activities.

We are expats and we appreciate that we live a relatively privileged life, but we are not rich by the standards of many people in the UAE and this three-day holiday came to a total of AED 14,000 (including flights, activities and food), which is a serious dent in our budget. (Special occasion, as I said.) We wouldn't mind if we'd felt that we'd had an exceptional time, but we didn't. We felt that we'd had a pleasant three days away, but no more. But for the excellence of the staff (mildly patronising general manager aside; it took her a full five minutes to admit that anywhere other than in the world of tourism, a 12-year-old is a child, not an adult) we'd have felt pretty disappointed.

The policy of charging adult prices for children is just something we have to put up with if we want to stay in hotels in the UAE. (And we mustn't forget the "Tourism Fee": if you want to put off tourists, just openly charge them an extra fee on top of their other costs. Surely someone in the ADTA must have realised by now that they could just increase the price of everything and few people would even notice.) Well, that's fine, but I will no longer be spending my money on staying in UAE hotels. Instead, my family and I will holiday in Europe later this year, where our children are not charged adult prices in hotels - and I know a number of other families here who intend to do the same. We can use the beaches and enjoy the sun in the UAE whenever we like but our 'leisure money' will go elsewhere.

So, would I recommend the Anantara Desert Resort and Spa? If money is no object and you want to stay somewhere away from the main cities, it's fine. If you have anything resembling a budget and you expect something really special, no. The staff are wonderful but that isn't enough. It's too expensive, doesn't live up to the hype and has left me feeling like I've been 'had'. Lesson learned.

Room Tip: I think most rooms have sea views. Go for higher numbers, e.g. 320 rather than 307, for a better view (I think).
  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled with family
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3  Thank ADTripper1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
GM-Anantara-Mui-Ne, General Manager at Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded 20 February 2014

Dear ADTripper1,

Thank you very much for taking the time to share your experience with the trip advisor community. I'm very pleased that you acknowledge the wonderful service and quality of staff that we can offer here.

Clearly we are concerned that we have failed to deliver value for money, and as the incoming Cluster GM for the Island it is one of my early priorities to review our value proposition. The local markets of Abu Dhabi and Dubai are key to our success and we must ensure that we are accessible to our local residents.

In terms of the tourism levy, this is something that UAE residents will be familiar with and therefore no surprise when booking and staying at hotels. It is a tax that we do not have the discretion to ignore. Furthermore, it is unusual for a hotel to discount the price of an additional room which is being used for children. In much the same way that airlines will charge full price for a seat utilised for a 2-year-old, hotels should be permitted the same understanding.

I would welcome the opportunity to see you and your family return and if given a 2nd chance, I'm confident that we could provide you with a far more satisfying experience so please feel free to contact me directly.

Thank you and Best regards for your future travels

Mark Eletr
Cluster GM
Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Resorts

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Reviewed 16 February 2014

I can not recommend this place enough. Absolutely delighted with the staff and the quality of service they offered us. Everything was personalised, we felt very special.
We booked two nights, it was a family of 4 consisting of two young girls. We were going to drive there, but decided to fly in the last minute. We used Rotana Jet.
We were greeted at the airport by the hotel staff, then driven to the resort.
As soon as we walked in, the reception staff were very welcoming and professional. They checked us in with no hassles and then the lady (Maria) took us to our room.
The room was top class, very nice, large and had a garden with excellent views.
Later that afternoon, we decided to do the Safari, we thoroughly enjoyed it. The guide was very knowledgable. In the evening we had dinner at Amwaj restaurant. Again the staff were brilliant.
Next day, we spent most of it by the infinity pool. Our girls loved it, and were reducing to leave. I must praise the life guards as we as the poor bar staff. They were excellent and very hospitable. Lunch by the pool was delicious and the cocktails served were refreshing.
This hotel is an excellent place if you want to wind down, you will be treated like royalty by very professional staff. All credit to their management for the training offered and their customer service ethos. Will definitely go again and have already recommended this place to many colleagues at work. keep up the good work.

  • Stayed: February 2014, travelled with family
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Thank Azzawi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
GM-Anantara-SBY, General Manager at Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded 2 May 2014

Dear Azzawi,

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful review. The team is delighted to read that you had such a fantastic time and that you found satisfaction in all areas.

Anantara resorts on Sir Bani Yas island offer wonderful variety of natural experiences and less than a 30 minute flight from Abu Dhabi.

We hope to welcome you and your family back very soon.

Best regards

Mark Eletr
Cluster General Manager
Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 February 2014

A wonderful retreat on a peaceful island. Wildlife similar to African national-parks. A very comfortable hotel, surrounded by plentyful green. Perfect rooms. Delicious breakfast-buffet.Excellent dinner buufet, especially on Friday night: seafood as much as you want and perfect. Even endless lobster!!

  • Stayed: April 2013, travelled as a couple
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Review collected in partnership with this hotel
Thank Peter_H649373
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
GM-Anantara-SBY, General Manager at Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded 2 May 2014

Dear Peter_H

Thank you for taking the time to share this wonderful review. The team is thrilled that she had such a fantastic experience from start to finish. We offer such an incredible range of experiences and how indulgences and most certainly guests should not miss the wildlife drive through our Arabian wildlife Park.

We hope to welcome you back very soon, Best regards for your future travels

Mark Eletr
Cluster General Manager
Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 January 2014

I went to the resort for 3 nights (16-19 Jan) for my wife's birthday. It was a great vacation, one of our best ones if not the 1st place.
It was somehow a long drive from Dubai but it worth it. When we arrived to the Jetty place, their was a warm welcome by the staff and we stayed at the waiting area. The ferry was good.
The hotel is clean, calm, and relaxing. The staff are very helpful, and they are always meetimg you with a smile on thier face.
I stayed in the (1 Bedroom Villa) which really was amazing. It gives you the privacy you need that you can spend the whole day inside. There is a small pool (heated one) which the kids enjoyed very much. The bedroom is large with a big bathroom, a living room, a dinning area, kitchen, and second toilet.
I enjoyed every single second and would recommend it for my friends.
I think if someone has the budget he should be going to the villa as it is completely a different experience than the normal rooms.

  • Stayed: January 2014, travelled with family
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1  Thank Abd A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
GM-Anantara-SBY, General Manager at Anantara Desert Islands Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded 18 October 2014

Dear Abd A,

Thank you for this wonderful review and for sharing your wife's special day with us. It's true that the villas are simply amazing and for their size and appointments we think they offer a incredible value for money when absolute privacy and luxury is needed. Please keep us in mind for your next family vacation and we hope to welcome you back soon.

Best regards

Mark Eletr
Cluster General Manager
Anantara Sir Bani Yas

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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