Ruwais city is situated near Sir Bani Yas which is a natural Island located 250 km (160 mi) southwest of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It lies 9 km (5.6 mi) offshore from Jebel Dhanna, which serves as a crossing point to other islands such as Dalma. Sir Bani Yas is 17.5 km (10.9 mi) from north to south and 9 km (5.6 mi) from east to west making it the largest, natural island in the United Arab Emirates. Located just off the shore of the Western region of Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island was originally home to Arabia’s largest wildlife reserve. Spanning over 87 km2 (34 sq mi), the reserve was established in 1971 by the late ruler and founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Thanks to decades of intensive conservation work and ecological investment, it is now home to thousands of large free-roaming animals and several million trees and plants. A bird sanctuary as well as a wildlife reserve, Sir Bani Yas showcases nature through activities such as adventure safaris, kayaking, mountain biking, archery, hiking and snorkeling.
The island has a number of significant historical sites, including remnants of Late Stone Age and early Islamic structures. The island is also the location of the only pre-Islamic Christian site to be found in the UAE. The 7th-century Christian church was opened to the public in mid-December 2010. It was discovered in 1992 and has been the focus of archaeological investigation since under a team led by Dr. Joseph Elders. Dr. Elders believes the church was used by Nestorian Christians until about 750 AD.
Nature & Wildlife
Sir Bani Yas Island is home to many diverse members of the animal kingdom, from Arabian Oryx, gazelle and deer to giraffes, dolphins and sea turtles. Many of the more than one-hundred individual species of wild birds which can be found on the island are indigenous to the region. The island is home to around 30 species of mammals, including a variety of antelope and one the world’s largest herd of endangered Arabian Oryx. The Arabian Oryx, a species of antelope, was formerly extinct in the wild, but Sir Bani Yas Island is home to a herd of over 400 who roam freely on the island.
Taking up approximately half the size of Sir Bani Yas Island, the Arabian Wildlife Park is being created to provide an authentic environment for wild animals to freely roam while the island remains an exceptional experience for visitors. The Park will house several thousand animals indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula including the endangered Arabian Oryx, Sand Gazelle and Mountain Gazelle as well as free-roaming predators and scavengers such as the cheetah and hyena.
While research and conservation efforts are a major part in the Park’s current development, a number of exciting wildlife and adventure activities are already available for visitors. This includes game drives, nature trails, and mountain biking and exclusive outdoor dining experiences.
Circle of Life
The creation of the Arabian Wildlife Park is an ongoing process; much of it is shared with visitors touring the area. Highlights of the continuing work include:
- Relocation of non-indigenous animals, including Blackbuck, Emu, Gemsbok, Eland and other animals (scheduled for completion in 2009-10).
- Up-skilling of all island guides to provide visitors with in-depth information about breeding and conversation programme within the Park (ongoing).
- Monitoring of breeding programme and participation in international conservation organizations breeding programme for endangered species
- Re-vegetation: creation of new water holes and grass pastures (ongoing)
- Removal of human interference within the Park, including closing of roads and removal of old irrigation pipes used to set up the greening of the island many years ago (scheduled for completion in late 2009)
- Development of a 32 kilometers (20 mi) boundary fence to separate the Arabian Wildlife Park (complete). Removal of all old fences and signs left over from previous breeding on the island (90 per cent complete).
Sir Bani Yas Island is home to many animals that the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies as critically endangered or vulnerable, including Sea Turtles, Sand Gazelles, Urial sheep, Barbary sheep and Arabian Oryx. Therefore, the island plays a significant role in protecting these animals for future generations. Over the past year, more than 10,000 animals from Sir Bani Yas Island have been released into wildlife reserves such as the one in the Liwa Desert, on the Abu Dhabi mainland. This monumental programme has been carried out in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency.