If you looked up the island of Sir Bani Yas in the dictionary, you’d likely discover that “secluded” and “off the beaten path” are perfect descriptors of this naturally beautiful island in the Al Gharbia region of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While Sir Bani Yas lacks the metropolitan dizziness of Mumbai and other city stops on an India cruise, it’s a welcome break from the chaos and the hustle, inviting you to relax and surround yourself with good food, good company, and beautiful nature.
For the outdoorist, Sir Bani Yas offers plenty of opportunities to head outside, whether you’re taking an intimate island tour or mountain biking on exhilarating local trails. Then there’s the Arabian Wildlife Park, a must-see for any traveler passing through on a Sir Bani Yas cruise, where rare wildlife like gazelles and giraffes roam free. Kayak through the island’s dense, protected mangrove forests, stopping once in a while to snap photos and simply soak up the tropical sun.
The main draw of Sir Bani Yas is the Arabian Wildlife Park, where visitors can enter the protected natural ecosystem of the park to spot exotic species, including giraffes, gazelles, the Arabian oryx, cheetahs, and more. The park is home to nearly 10,000 incredible animals.
This five-star resort in Sir Bani Yas is a destination in its own right, close to the beachfront. Take a dip in the swimming pool, book a spa afternoon, or check out the resort’s restaurant. For those who want to rest and sunbathe, there’s a shuttle to the resort from the cruise port, which takes about 20 minutes.
Take a Jeep safari along the island to see its flora and fauna up close and personal, where a driver will take small groups on a tour for a few hours. You’ll learn about the history of the UAE and Sir Bani Yas while taking in the island’s natural landscape.
An hour-long island tour will take you to ancient archaeological sites on the island, plus a stop in the ruins of an ancient Christian monastery. The monastery originated in about 600 A.D., and, according to experts, is one of the oldest structures on Sir Bani Yas. You’ll be enthralled by the island’s history in no time.
For a slightly more active stop on your Sir Bani Yas island cruise, why not arrange a kayaking excursion through the lush mangrove forests on the island? Once you’re tired of hanging out on the beach, an unhurried afternoon of paddling and sightseeing awaits.
Another activity for adventurous travelers in Sir Bani Yas is to arrange a mountain biking excursion across the island’s sandy trails and dunes. Mountain biking here is a popular way to see the island on two wheels and stretch your sea legs.
Food and drink is typically provided by the cruise line during a stop in Sir Bani Yas, though the area does boast a couple of local restaurants. Check with your cruise staff to learn more information about food and drink during your Sir Bani Yas cruise.
Sir Bani Yas was originally settled by the Bani Yas tribe, but they left in the early 20th century when freshwater was in danger of running out. Then, the founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, proposed that the area should become a nature preserve and animal sanctuary, planting thousands of mangrove trees, rehabilitating the island, and opening luxury resorts to encourage tourism to the island. Sir Bani Yas as we know it today was born. See the national animal of the UAE, the once nearly-extinct Arabian oryx, roam freely here. Enjoy the island’s cragged but beautiful dunes, and enjoy a sense of seclusion while you’re among rich animal and plant life.
There’s a Welcome Center and some souvenir shacks available on the beach near the Sir Bani Yas tender port, but there’s no dedicated cruise port. You’ll be close to the resort and the beach, so you can easily spend your day in Sir Bani Yas lounging close to the ship. If you do want to venture out on a shore excursion, experts from your ship will direct you to the Welcome Center, which is where all excursions depart from.
Local transportation in Sir Bani Yas is minimal, so your best bet for seeing the sights is with a shore excursion.
There’s very little shopping on the island other than a couple of souvenir spots near the tender port. Since Sir Bani Yas is primarily a resort town, you’ll do better shopping at one of the other stops along your India cruise for a more luxe experience.
While on your Sir Bani Yas cruise, you’ll use the UAE dirham (Dhs), which is the official currency of the United Arab Emirates. Bargaining is really only popular at the souks in Sir Bani Yas. Credit cards are accepted in many restaurants and stores, and you can easily withdraw cash from any of the many ATMs available. Round to the nearest bill when you’re tipping cab drivers, and a 10% service charge is typically already included in restaurant bills in the UAE.