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Sir Bani Yas Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi is home to one of the more Original hotels around. Once a private game reserve island owned by the late founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan, the animals have remained, and the former Sheikh's lodge has been turned into an immaculate hotel.
Run by the excellent Anantara group, the hotel (where the Sheikh entertained guests) has 64 tasteful Arabic style rooms spread across four floors, and two restaurants, The Palm and Samak, serving up buffet breakfasts, lunches and a la carte dining. As this is a superb hotel for families, there are plenty of kids's favourite foods available on the various menus.
And speaking of families, this is, quite simply, the perfect place for parents wanting to introduce their children to the safari experience without longer haul flights to Africa and the tedium of malaria prevention.
The island's safari guides are extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife, the island and the region's history, and lead guests on fascinating game drives to see animals ranging from the critically endangered Arabian Oryx to ostrich, giraffes and even hyenas and cheetah, both of which were once indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula.
When not viewing game, guests can borrow mountain bike, visit the Anantara spa or the new Watersports centre offering windsurfing, sailing, kayaking and diving and with its own restaurant. A further two hotels - one a savannah style safari lodge and one a beachfront family hotel - are planned for the island in 2013.
Why we love it
Going on a game drive to see giraffes and cheetahs in Arabia might sound a bit, well, tacky, but trust us, it's one of the most brilliant beginner's guides to safari we've ever come across. The Original Travel consultant who visited recently, and who is an African safari expert, was pleasantly surprised.