Located 250 kilometres southwest of Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas is the largest natural island which serves as home to the largest wildlife reserve in Arabia. Established in 1971 by the late ruler and founder of UAE, this ecological investment spans out over an area of 87 square kilometres measuring 17.5 kilometres from north to south and 9 kilometres from east to west.
For anyone who wishes to take a break from the skyscrapers and bustle of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Bani Yas is an ideal retreat and is accessible through ferry service which plies between the island and the two cities. If you take the E11 from Dubai and cruise past the cities of Abu Dhabi, Mirfa and Tarif in the direction of Liwa Oasis, then taking a turn off the road at Jebel Dhanna after four hours would lead to the jetty from where ferries go to Bani Yas and the other desert islands. From Abu Dhabi, the jetty is two hours away.
Not to be confused with Yas Island which holds the grand prix, a trip to Bani Yas is a unique experience, and one that has been kept secret amongst the local Emiratis up until now. It is an opportunity to sample Arabian wildlife at its best not to mention a horde of nature related activities which can be undertaken. The island gets its name from the Bani Yas tribe which inhabited the area many years ago and archaeological sites discovered on the island reflect humans of different descents through the years.
The green haven of Bani Yas Island is all about responsible tourism as it serves as a safety zone for a number of endangered species of animals like the Arabian Oryx, a species of antelope which is now extinct in the wild. This island is probably the only place where as many as 400 Oryx roam around freely along with gazelle, deer and giraffes. While dolphins and sea turtles account for the marine life the circle of life on land is completed by the presence of many grassland animals like emus, Eland, Gemsbok and the Urial sheep along with predators like hyena and cheetah.
As the hunters and the hunted thrive within the confines of the wildlife reserve the Bani Yas Island makes its bid towards eco tourism by deriving its electricity from wind turbines, the first of which was set up in 2004.