This 1,050-acre manmade island, built as a breakwater to protect Abu Dhabi island itself, has developed almost mythical status among Abu Dhabi residents, thanks to its apparent resistance to development. Initially forecast to house a tourist resort and theme park back in the 1980s, (before the island even had a name), it went on to open briefly to the public. But in 2009 all ferry services were abruptly stopped and the island remains largely empty, despite its prime position in the midst of quite extraordinary development. It’s now in the hands of property developers Aldar, who plan to create both leisure and housing developments there but, in the meantime, if you can find a boat to take you there, you’ll be guaranteed a quiet spot on the beach.
Bu Tinah Island
For all environmentalists out there, Bu Tinah Island is a place to hold close to the heart. The island is the first and largest UNESCO recognized reserve in the region. Bu Tinah Island is home to an endangered species of turtle, the Hawksbill turtle, the island is perhaps the most important in the entire capital. However small, Bu Tinah island has gained global relevance as a marine life sanctuary.
Perhaps the most popular of all Abu Dhabi islands is the world-famous Yas Island. It can easily be accessed by car, which is great news for all who visit Abu Dhabi, as it holds some of the main attractions in the city. Yas Island is home to Ferrari World, Yas Viceroy Hotel and Yas Marina Circuit – places which any visitors coming to the capital simply must see. It’s hard to even notice that this is an Island, considering how massive it is.
Sir Bani Yas Island
A nature-based destination alive with wildlife and adventure activities, a 5-star boutique hotel, luxury villas, purpose-built stables and historical sites, Sir Bani Yas Island is one of the eight which make up the Desert Islands in Al Dhafra.
It’s a sprawling, man-made wildlife reserve, founded back in the late 1990s. Once just a sparse, dry plain, it now has foliage planted across the island, sustained by endless water piping, and is home to thousands of wild animals. Located nine kilometres off the coast of Jebel Dhanna, 170km southwest of Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas is 17.5km from north to south, making it the largest natural island in the UAE.
One for history enthusiasts, this little island 210km from the city is said to have at one time been central to the UAE’s celebrated pearl trade. Nowadays, it’s effectively a museum at sea, welcoming guests who want to learn more about this important time in Emirati history. Visit the home of a famous pearl merchant, learn about the island’s unique architecture and take in some ceramic finds uncovered du-ring the restoration of the island’s mosque.