The Best Resort in the Desert: Desert Islands Resort & Spa on Sir Bani Yas

Photo Editor Lori Barbely recently traveled to Sir Bani Yas island in Abu Dhabi in search of wildlife in the desert. The island was "greened" by the UAE's founder, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and houses free-roaming Arabian oryx, gazelles, giraffes, cheetahs, ostriches and a host of other species. And you'll get to experience it all at Desert Islands Resort & Spa.

Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas
After a two-hour drive from Abu Dhabi, I board a ferry at the Jebel Dhana Jetty and am whisked off to Sir Bani Yas. A quick ride across the island, and Desert Islands Resort & Spa rises from the landscape like a mirage.Lori Barbely
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Interior
You see Arabic influence from the moment you enter the lobby. If only I could figure out how to take some of those lamps home with me.Lori Barbely
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Dates
Dates and strong Arabic coffee are a welcome treat in the lobby.Lori Barbely
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Bed
Since resort check-in is handled back at the jetty, I'm immediately shown to my room. As comfortable as it is, I'm eager to explore the island.Lori Barbely
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Hike
I knew the Wadi Walk was going to be interesting when my guide gave instructions on what to do if we encountered any free-roaming hyenas or cheetahs.Lori Barbely
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Skull
He wasn't kidding. For the record: Don't run, make lots of noise and wave your arms in the air to make yourself seem large and imposing. Noted.Lori Barbely
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Hyena
Hey, hyenas have to eat.Lori Barbely
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Cheetah
So do cheetahs.Lori Barbely
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Safari
The next day I take a wildlife drive. Our pop-top safari vehicle seats eight, and everyone has a window seat. Standing up allows you to poke your head out the roof for a better view.Lori Barbely
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Ostrich
The ostrich was one of several animals introduced to the island under the patronage of Sheikh Zayed when he created the wildlife reserve on Sir Bani Yas.Lori Barbely
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Desert Animals
Arabian oryx find shade under the trees planted as part of Sheikh Zayed's "Greening of the Desert" program, which was intended to create a refuge for endangered wildlife.
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Oryx
The island is home to one of the largest herds of the endangered Arabian oryx.Lori Barbely
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Giraffe
About 50 giraffes roam the island, and they seem to be as curious about us as we are about them.Lori Barbely
Desert Island Resort | Abu Dhabi Resort | Middle East Travel | Sir Bani Yas | Hotel
At the end of the day, a refreshing dip in the pool is just what the Sheikh ordered.Lori Barbely