Sir Bani Yas Island – Beach, Safari & Island Tour (Abu Dhabi)

Categories: Travel reports, Asia, United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi

The last stop on our cruise with Mein Schiff 6 was the small island of Sir Bani Yas about 170 kilometers southwest of Abu Dhabi in the Persian Gulf. In addition to a beautiful beach exclusively for cruise guests, the island has, above all, the largest wildlife reserve in Arabia. The nature park is home to over 13,000 wild animals such as oryx antelopes, mountain gazelles, Barbary sheep, cheetahs and giraffes and can be visited on a guided safari.

Sir Bani Yas header image

Things to know about Sir Bani Yas Island

Sir Bani Yas is a natural island located 9 km off the coast of Jebel Dhanna. Measuring 17.5 km from north to south and 9 km from east to west, it is the largest natural island in the United Arab Emirates. The highest elevation is Qarn Zaqīq at 148 meters.

Sir Bani Yas is home to the largest wildlife reserve in Arabia. The reserve, covering an area of 87 square kilometers, was established in 1977 by Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan as a royal nature reserve with the aim of ensuring the survival of Arabia’s endangered species. In addition, during his reign, the sheikh was repeatedly given exotic animals (such as llamas, giraffes and antelopes), which he then settled on the island. Thanks to the successful implementation of the late Sheikh Zayed’s vision, Sir Bani Yas Island is now home to over 13,000 animals from 30 different species, many of which are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered or threatened in the wild, including sand gazelle, blackbuck antelope, Urial sheep, Barbary sheep and the Arabian oryx antelope.

Once the reserve was established, Sheikh Zayed wanted the world to share in the results and opened it up to weekend tourists. These tours soon became so popular that visits often had to be booked over a year in advance. Today, Sir Bani Yas is both a bird sanctuary and wildlife reserve, showcasing nature through activities such as adventure safaris, kayaking, mountain biking, archery, hiking and snorkeling. In addition, on the island you can find some historically significant sites, such as cultural evidence from the Stone Age, early Islam and the foundations of a Christian monastery.

Several cruise lines, especially MSC Cruises and TUI Cruises, call at the island as part of their cruise itineraries and use a small part of the island as a “private island”. The section includes beaches and several bar and buffet areas. The concept reminded us a bit of the private islands Castaway Cay from Disney-Cruises or Harvest Caye from NCL-Cruises in the Bahamas, even though we have not been there ourselves.

Sir Bani Yas, Map, Plan

A map of Sir Bani Yas Island

Demurrage time of Mein Schiff

Berth: Sir Bani Yas Cruise Port (location in Google Maps)
Laytime: 7.00 am to 11.00 pm
All on board: 22.30

Mein Schiff 6 is moored directly at the 350-meter-long jetty of the Sir Bani Yas Cruise Port in the east of the island. This was not completed until 2022, before which cruise ships anchored about a kilometer off the island and visitors were brought to Cruise Beach by tender boats. Thanks to the new jetty, two ships can now dock simultaneously and up to 5,000 passengers can embark and disembark directly on the southeastern beach of Sir Bani Yas Island.

Safari at Arabian Wildlife Park

Besides the beautiful beaches, the highlight on the island is certainly the Arabian Wildlife Park. The nature park is home to over 13,000 wild animals and occupies over half of the island. Directly via Mein Schiff you can book a guided jeep or truck safari of about 2 hours over the island and the wildlife park. This currently costs 89 EUR per adult, children over 3 years pay 49 EUR.

We had opted for the early morning truck safari at 8:30 am. The trucks leave right near the ship’s dock, but unfortunately they are very cramped with little seat space for the legs. It was really very uncomfortable, especially with a child on your lap. The trip starts with a short round trip to the center of the island before entering the segregated areas of the Wildlife Park.

And it didn’t take long until we discovered the first animals. The park is home to thousands of animals native to the Arabian Peninsula, including one of the world’s largest herds of the endangered oryx antelope, mountain gazelles, Barbary sheep, Arabian grazers, and free-ranging predators and scavengers such as cheetahs and striped hyenas.

The highlight of the park, however, are certainly the approximately 40 giraffes. We could also observe some of them on our safari through the park. Overall, you can see a lot of animals during the trip, but of course it is not to compare with a safari e.g. in South Africa or Tanzania.

Sir Bani Yas island tour

Another way to explore the island of Sir Bani Yas is a guided island tour, which can also be booked directly via Mein Schiff for EUR 59 per person. This approximately 1.5 hour tour takes you along the nature reserve (you can see the animals from a distance if you’re lucky), on to the remains of an old monastery and on to a photo stop at a viewpoint in the north of the island.

The church and monastery were discovered only in the early 1990s, after being buried for centuries. The remains point to early Christianity in the region and the only known early Christian site in the UAE today. A church, a monastery and several houses with courtyards were found on the site, pointing to the 7. and 8th century can be dated. In the north of the island is the Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara, a 5-star luxury resort with 64 rooms and 6 villas.

Overall, the island has rather not so much to offer in terms of sights or beautiful photo spots.

The Cruise Beach

Besides the Arabian Wildlife Park, Sir Bani Yas Island stands for one thing above all – beach & relaxation. Directly at the cruise ship dock, a stretch of beach about 2 kilometers long stretches out with hundreds of palm trees, shady cabanas and more than 2,000 sun loungers.

Everything is organized here for a perfect day for the cruise guests. You get free towels for the beach, you can borrow sand toys for the little ones, there are several stalls with free drinks, at lunchtime a large buffet is set up by the ship and there are also plenty of toilets. For the little ones there is even a small playground and a large bouncy castle right in the sea. You really have everything here to spend a carefree and relaxing day at the beach.

The highlight for our little daughter was definitely the beach, which is full of beautiful shells. The sea was also pleasantly warm and had no waves. The sunbeds and umbrellas in the front area were of course quickly occupied, but the further you went to the back, the emptier it became. We were lucky and even at noon we got a free berth directly near the jetty. But that didn’t matter, because we were with our little one anyway only on the beach and in the water 😉

Sir Bani Yas Island was really a perfect end to our 7-day trip with Mein Schiff 6 through the Orient ❤

All travel reports of our cruise with Mein Schiff

On our one-week cruise "Dubai to Oman" with the Mein Schiff 6 from TUI Cruises, we were able to experience five eventful and varied days ashore: Our journey took us from the city of superlatives - Dubai - to Abu Dhabi, where the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates is located. We continued to the oriental Khasab (Oman) with its breathtaking fjord landscape and to Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, which is surrounded by mountains and desert. The last stop of our trip was after a relaxing sea day the island Sir Bani Yas (UAE), which offers a kilometer-long sandy beach and a nature reserve with 10,000 animals. With beautiful memories in our luggage, disembarkation then took place back in Dubai.
Map Mein Schiff Orient Crusie Day 1 » Mein Schiff 6 - Check In, Cabin & Discover the Cruise Ship
Crusie Day 2 » Abu Dhabi - The Top 5 Sights on Your Own
Crusie Day 3 » Khasab - Boat trip through the fjord world & Khasab Castle
Crusie Day 4 » Muscat - Top 5 Sights & Photo Spots
Crusie Day 5 » Seetag
Crusie Day 6 » Sir Bani Yas (Beach, Safari & Island Tour)
Crusie Day 7 » Dubai (Day on board & Check Out)