Abu Dhabi launches $3bn desert islands

An impression of the bay at Sir Bani Yas Island

Abu Dhabi is to create a unique multi-experience tourism destination, a culmination of the rich natural heritage and eco-tourism vision of the UAE’s late President Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

The Dh11.5-billion ($3-billion) Desert Islands destination – which lies off the emirate’s western coastline will consist of eight islands and an onshore gate – providing a multitude of experiences encompassing a nature reserve, a cultural destination and a showcase for world-class environmental, conservation and ecological tourism, including the Arabian National Park.
The islands will create a singular destination with experiences rivalling those of the Caribbean and the Maldives. The Desert Islands comprise the former royal nature reserve of Sir Bani Yas Island, Dalma Island and the Discovery Islands – six nearby offshore outcrops. All will be linked by a ferry and hydrofoil service, water taxis, private 'resort' boat service and regional and sea planes.
The Desert Islands experience will begin with the Marsa Jebel Dhanna gate, which will include a 150-room beachfront hotel, in Jebel Dhanna, 250km from Abu Dhabi, which will be the destination's arrivals, departure and logistics hub with a two-km jetty, a pier with shops, cafes and restaurants, and a 20-berth private boat marina.
The 87 sqkm Sir Bani Yas Island is the heart of the destination. Home to 68 species of birds as well as several Arabian animals and dolphins and huge sea turtles offshore. The island will be the arrivals and departure point for Sir Bani Yas Island and will be close to a new airport and cruise ship terminal. Sir Bani Yas Bay will feature a promenade, floating restaurants, a cultural centre and alternative energy museum. To the north of the bay will be luxurious beachfront homes and an integrated aquarium and family resort, including a lagoon where visitors can swim with dolphins.
The smaller 33 sqkm Dalma Island will provide a true heritage experience being rich in history and archaeological finds and where traditional fishing, farming and aquaculture liveli-hoods continue and will be home to a new Arts Centre, an archaeo-logical museum, an inter-active children's learning experience and a tourism and hospitality school; as well as a southern resort with holiday homes.
The Discovery Islands and their surrounding seas are aimed at being a world class example of environmental conservation and ecological tourism. They will have a variety of accommodation from five-star hotels to small family resorts, and in all 4,000 hotel rooms will be created.