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Sir Bani Yas Island

Wednesday 16 January 2019 (UAE)   

Sir Bani Yas Island (Baniyas Island)

Sir Bani Yas Island (Baniyas Island) is a desert island close to the UAE coast in the Abu Dhabi emirate about 250 km southwest of Abu Dhabi city, and 350 km from Dubai. The island and wildlife reserve has a hotel resort and spa, ruins of an old church monastery, guided tours with photo opportunities of animals including gazelles, cheetahs, Arabian Oryx, giraffes.

  • Sir Bani Yas Island was a retreat for Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi, and founder of the UAE.
  • Sir Bani Yas Island area is 87 square km. About half is designated as the Arabian Wildlife Park with an area of 4,200 hectares.
  • The word "Sir" is part of the name of the island, not a title. The rest of the name is written as "Baniyas" or "Bani Yas", we haven't figured out if one is more correct than the other.
Horse riding on Baniyas Island - Sir Bani Yas Stables (16 March 2012 update - WAM news)
  • Horse riding facilities are now available on Baniyas Island for visitors at the newly opened Sir Bani Yas Stables.
  • Horse riding available for beginners to experienced riders.
  • Horseback tours of the island's wildlife available.
  • Facilities include 2 stable barns, 6 sand paddocks, 2 large grass paddocks, a lunge ring, a covered riding arena, training ring, riding ring.
  • Capacity for 30 horses.
  • BYO (Bring Your Own) horse option is not available as far as we know.
Sir Bani Yas Island church and Sir Bani Yas Island monastery
  • Ruins of a Christian church and monastery dating back to the 7th century A.D. were discovered on Sir BaniYas Island in 1992.
  • The area appears to have been inhabited by 30-40 monks from about 600-750 A.D. then abandoned.
  • The remains of the early Christian Nestorian monastery are located on the Eastern side of Sir Bani Yas Island.
  • Area of monastery complex reported as about 65 sq meters? Seems very small - about the size of a one bedroom apartment. Is apparently the largest Christian archaeological site in Eastern Arabia.
  • Excavation was carried out from 1993-1996, then halted until 2009 when work restarted on the instructions of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
  • Archaeological Director of the project is Dr Joseph Elders. He is also the Chief Archaeologist for the Church of England.
  • Project Manager of the excavation is Peter Hellyer.
  • The site was opened to the public from 11 December 2010, however, access appears to be restricted to guests staying at the Antara Desert Islands resort who opt for one of their guided tours.
Sir Bani Yas Island Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara
  • Desert Islands is a 5-star resort hotel on the northern side of the island with about 65 rooms, suites, and villa accommodation.
  • Facilities include temperature controlled swimming pool, sheltered beach, several restaurants and pool bar, tennis court (rackets and balls available), small shops selling trinkets.
  • Activities include guided wildlife driving tours, guided mountain bike rides, kayaking, archery, snorkelling, walks (although limited and restricted to the mangrove lagoon area near the hotel?), scenic tours by plane (not every day), sailing excursions.
  • Restaurants and rooms have alcoholic drinks available. Pork products are not on the menu though?
  • Opening date of the resort in October 2008.
Other facilities and activities at Sir Bani Yas Island
  • Al Sahel Lodge, in the Arabian Wildlife Park - opening in 2013?
  • Al Yamm Lodge, on the beach - opening in 2013?
  • Desert Islands Watersports Center - opening in 2012? Maybe Q3 2012 (Jun 2012 information)? Diving and sailing activities.
  • Desert Islands Conference Center - opening in 2012?
  • Sir Bani Yas Stables (horse riding) - open March 2012
Sir Bani Yas Island wildlife
  • Arabian Oryx - considered to be extinct in the wild since 1972. Increasing population (several hundred in 2010) on SBY Island as a result of a breeding program.
  • Barbary Sheep
  • Beisa Horned Oryx
  • Caracals
  • Cheetahs (Northern Cheetah) - 4 as of beginning 2011 including one male cub born in January 2010.
  • Dugongs
  • Giraffes
  • Hyenas
  • Indian Blackbuck (Black Buck) Antelope
  • Laristan Urial
  • Mountain Gazelles
  • Sand Gazelles
  • Sea snakes
List of birds on Sir Baniyas Island
  • Black-eared Kite (Milvus migrans lineatus)
  • Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus)
  • European Golden Plover (Pluvalis apricaria altifrons)
  • Flamingo
  • Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum)
  • Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus) - first seen January 2011
  • Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)
  • Mourning Wheatear (Oeanthe lugens)
  • Ostrich
  • Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fluva)
  • Peacock
  • Spur–winged Plover (Hoplopterus spinosus) - seen in October 2010.

Total number of bird species seen on SBY Island about 180 as of January 2011.

Marine life around Sir Baniyas Island
Vegetation on Sir Baniyas Island
  • Toothbrush Tree (Salvadora persica)
Sir Bani Yas Island history
  • 600 million years ago (Cambrian period) - beginning of the formation of salt deposits on Sir Bani Yas Island. Volcanic rock, limestone and sandstone deposits formed on top of the salt foundation.
  • 15-20 million years ago (Oligocene & Early Miocene periods) - salt domes on Sir Bani Yas Island exposed as they rise to the surface.
  • 6-8 million years ago (Late Miocene Period) - fossil evidence indicates presence of elephants and other large animals at Jebel Dhanna on the mainland opposite Sir Bani Yas Island.
  • 200,000 years ago (Old Stone Age) - first human presence in the area, west of Jebel Dhanna, indicated by discovery of flint tools in archaeological excavations.
  • 5,500-1,200 BC (Neolithic or Late Stone Age, and Bronze Age) - earliest human presence on Sir Bani Yas Island around 5,500 BC. Oldest house in the UAE dates back to around then, discovered on Dalma Island near SBY Island. From about 2,000 BC, seafarers appeared to use SBY Island as indicated by discovery of some pottery and a tomb.
  • 1,200-300 BC (Iron Age) - no evidence found of any human activity on Sir Baniyas Island.
  • 300 BC to 600 AD (Late pre-Islamic Period) - human settlements on nearby islands (including Delma Island) indicated active trading with Mesopotamia and Mediterranean regions but no evidence found of any settlements on SBY Island.
  • 600-750 AD - early Christian Nestorian monastery in operation on Sir Bani Yas Island.
  • 630 AD - Coming of Islam (Islamic Period) - Sir Bani Yas Island relatively quiet, visited by fishermen and pearl divers, and traders. Ceramics dating back to the 14th-15th century AD found, including fragments of Chinese celadon and porcelain, indicating maritime trading activities.
  • 1590 - first mention of the island in European literature, by Venetian jeweller Gasparo Balbi who called it "Sirbeniast" and noted that pearls were often found around the island.
  • 1600 to early-1900s - visitors attracted to SBY Island by the salt mines and the boom of the pearling industry in the 19th Century. Remains of 3 settlements, a mosque, a tower, and some Islamic graves dating back to this period found. Villages abandoned in the 1930s and 1940s as a result of the decline of the pearling industry.
  • 1966 - Sir Bani Yas Island chosen as a retreat by Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan when he becomes ruler of the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
  • 1971 - the UAE formed as a federation of 6 emirates (7 in 1972 when Ras Al Khaimah joined), and Sheikh Zayed becomes President of the UAE.
  • 1977 - law prohibiting hunting of animals created, wildlife sanctuary and breeding program founded on SBY Island, and "Greening of the Desert" initiative launched by Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
  • 1999 - 8 kilometer no-fishing zone established around Sir Bani Yas Island to include marine life in the wildlife sanctuary.
  • 2004 - Sheikh Zayed passed away on 02 November 2004.
  • 2008 - Desert Islands Resort & Spa launched in October 2008 as the first hotel resort on SBY Island.
  • 2009 - half of the island designated as the Arabian Wildlife Park, intended to be home to wild animals indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula. First free-roaming Striped Hyena cubs were born in the Arabian Wildlife Park.
  • 2010 - first free-roaming cheetah cubs born in the Park in January 2010. Mangrove tree planting program started with a goal of one seedling per visitor to the island. Park upgrades started to include more activities and accommodation for guests.
  • 2011-2012 - planned opening of nature lodges and conference center for 350 persons.

Future developments include more nature-based tourism activities including horseriding, falconry and a heritage trail to showcase the islands history. Additional water sports also planned.

Sir Bani Yas Island headings (to be updated)
  • Sir Bani Yas Island in Abu Dhabi
  • Sir Bani Yas Island hotels
  • Sir Bani Yas Island map
  • Sir Bani Yas Island photos
  • Sir Bani Yas Island tours
  • Sir Bani Yas Island UAE
  • Sir Bani Yas Island United Arab Emirates
  • Sir Bani Yas Island airport - there is a small airfield or airstrip which operates for the scenic flights, hotel flights, and other small aircraft. But special permission to land is needed for access - don't just try and fly there in your lawnmower-powered microlight.
  • Sir Bani Yas Island accommodation consists of private palaces for the Abu Dhabi royal family, one hotel resort for members of the public, a couple of lodge retreats under construction in 2011, and staff accommodation for all the guides, employees, and workers who live on the island.
  • Sir Bani Yas Island resort - two lodge retreat style resorts are under construction in 2011 and scheduled to open in 2011 (but might be delayed to 2012 - Al Sahel Lodge and Al Yamm Lodge.
  • Sir Bani Yas Island Al Ruwais - The ferry terminal to Sir BaniYas is about 20 km from the industrial town of Al Ruwais just off the Sila Road.
  • Sir Bani Yas Island ferry - the comfortable ferry trip is free for guests booked at the Desert Islands resort and operates hourly between 1045 and 1745 from mainland to island, and 1115 to 1715 from island to mainland. Ferry crossing time is about 15-20 minutes. A bus connects passengers with the ferry dock on the island and the hotel, journey time also about 20 minutes.
  • Sir Bani Yas Island air service launched
  • Sir Bani Yas Island Abu Dhabi hotel
  • Sir Bani Yas Island animal park
  • Sir Bani Yas Island ADAC
  • Sir Bani Yas Island Abu Dhabi Tripadvisor

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Sir Bani Yas Island Anantara

Last update Saturday 14-Jul-2012. Page development 1H 2T 3D 4L 5C.
Related pages
Related websites (new window)
  • www.desertislands.com - Sir Bani Yas Island website. Operated by Tourism Development & Investment Company of Abu Dhabi (TDIC) and Anantara? Available jobs and vacancies listed via the Contact Us page.
  • desertislands.anantara.com - Anantara Desert Islands resort website with online booking and special offers. Book ahead at least 30 days for 25% discount (last checked January 2011).


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