There’s no need to hop on a plane to get your fix of tropical adventures, the UAE is home to an overwhelming array of natural islands waiting to be explored.
Best for: Secluded luxury
It will take just one visit to Zaya Nurai Island in Abu Dhabi to appreciate why it is fondly referred to as the “Maldives of the Middle East”. Dreamy blues surround its charming palm-fringed, white sandy shores, making every angle Insta-worthy. It’s a mesmerising setting that works well for both day trips or a stay in a private beachfront villa – think hammocks and swings in the middle of the ocean, tropical tiki cabanas with overflowing cocktails, gorgeous infinity pools to admire the views and Thai-style luxury homes. With several dining venues scattered across this private resort, there’s plenty to suit all tastes. If you haven’t visited already, this island idyll should make it to the top of your list as the experience is sure to leave you eager for plans of a swift return.
BEST WAY to get there: A complimentary speedboat transfer from Saadiyat Island will see you zipping through the waters of the Arabian Gulf, watching as they transform from deep blue to clear turquoise along the way.
Best for: African-style safaris
An exotic locale situated off the coast of Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island is not only one of the capital’s biggest islands but is also among the region’s largest private wildlife reserves. A world of excitement awaits at this picturesque paradise with its combination of rugged landscapes, mangrove forests and scenic beachfront you’ll happily admire for hours. Whether you’re looking for a fun day out or planning a stay at one of the three luxury Anantara resorts located on the island, there’s plenty to keep you busy. For an adventure unlike any other, embark on a safari to encounter the island’s free-roaming wildlife – think gazelles, Arabian oryx, blackbucks, giraffes, ostrich and emu – instantly transporting you to the heart of Africa without leaving the UAE. Afterwards, discover the fascinating marine life beneath the island’s crystal waters with a snorkelling experience.
Best way to get there:A seaplane flight from Dubai offers amazing views of the rustic terrain.
/ Snoopy Island
Best for: Snorkelling adventures
It’s not on the island itself where the charm lies but rather the view of it from the shore that makes this one a treat. Named after the famous cartoon dog its shape resembles, Snoopy Island juts out of the Indian Ocean, a few hundred metres from Fujairah’s sandy shores. The rock’s prominent silhouette aside, the waters surrounding the island are teeming with interesting species of marine life, making it a great spot for snorkelling as you discover bright corals and shoals of colourful fish. It’s said, you’re more likely to spot a shark around Snoopy Island than Shark Island itself!
Best way to get there:Charter a private boat to get to Snoopy Island or if you’re feeling adventurous enjoy a swim from the shores of Al Aqah.
/ Al Futaisi Island
Best for: History and culture
Now privately owned by Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan al Nahyan, archaeological finds proves the island was once a quaint village settlement dating back several hundreds of years. Wells, forts, a mosque and graveyard are still preserved on the site and it is believed that Al Futaisi Island once supplied sweet water and stones to build homes and forts for the people of Abu Dhabi. Another historical highlight is the Arabian Fort, an ancient structure fashioned out of conventional mud bricks. History and culture buffs are sure to love this one. Soak in this rich heritage with a day trip and you’ll also find that the island is home to diverse flora and fauna including free galloping gazelles. Sightings of migratory birds and flamingoes are quite common while dolphins and an occasional visit from the endangered Green Sea turtle bear testimony to the island’s rich aquatic life.
Best way to get there: A ferry from Al Bateen Marina in Abu Dhabi to soak in the sights along the way.