Sending a new guest to their villa when previous guests are yet to vacate said villa is an absolute faux pas in the hotel world. That’s exactly what happened when I stepped into my villa at Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Al Sahel Villa Resort. While the safari-inspired space was spotless and silent inside, the outside verandah told a different story: five guinea fowl frolicking by my private plunge pool, occupying the best sunning spots and clearly unperturbed by my presence. As my villa butler offloads my luggage, he explains that this is a regular occurrence in these parts, because Al Sahel isn’t any ordinary island resort.
Sir Bani Yas, once the private island of the late Sheikh Zayed and now a conservation area, is home to three Anantara offerings. Al Sahel is the only resort located within the fenced boundaries of the 4,100-hectare Arabian Wildlife Park. As such, guinea fowl aren’t the only wildlife guests you’ll encounter here. Gazelle, staunch Arabian oryx and elusive giraffes also roam freely, as do small groups of cheetah and hyenas — I’m assured by my butler that the tracks of the latter two species are closely monitored at all times.
That’s a welcome relief, as a stay here is best enjoyed outside on the peaceful verandah, where two sunloungers (now vacated by the guinea fowl) await by the pool and are sheltered from the sun by a canvas shade, giving the villa a tent-like appearance.
Inside, high ceilings feature exposed beams and African tribal art and handicrafts adorn the walls. The flat-screen TV sits with a DVD player in a modest wooden entertainment unit in front of the four-poster bed, though you’ll probably never use them as the view of the wilderness outside the floor-to-ceiling windows is too glorious to interrupt.
The rustic, tent-like feel extends past a small desk under the window to the bathroom, which leads off from the main bedroom and living space, and comprises a corner rain shower (designed like an outdoor shower with dark wood saloon doors), and bronze bathtub, which stands in front of double vanities with bronze sinks and fragrant Anantara-branded amenities. On the way through the bathroom to the other side of the main living area, you’ll pass a generously sized wardrobe and the minibar topped by a Nespresso machine, which will come in handy if you plan to sacrifice a sleep-in and be up before the sun on one of the daily early-morning safari drives (and you should).
There’s no escaping the call of the wild no matter what time of day you rise. Gazelle are sure to join you as you sunbathe by the main swimming pool, as you tuck into African-inspired cuisine at Savannah Grill & Lounge, or on your way to a treatment at Anantara Spa. It’s hard to believe Sir Bani Yas is just a short boat ride from mainland Abu Dhabi, but its ‘out of Africa’ ambience makes it one of the UAE’s best escapes.