Imagine this – You leave your home in Dubai arriving at a jetty only to be taken on a boat to an exotic island surrounded by crystal blue sea, stunning villas on the beach all with private swimming pools and a lush natural island habitat with the friendliest staff waiting to greet you. Have you guessed where in the world we are? Well, let me surprise you; this heavenly escape is literally one hour away from Dubai, in Abu Dhabi. Welcome to Zaya Nurai Island, a tropical paradise 20 minutes by boat off Saadiyat island. I literally felt like we had been transported to the Maldives as my toes sank into the sand.
Stemming from the Arabic word ‘Nur’ meaning light, Nurai is an island of staggering beauty, of turquoise seas and white sands. A place filled with natural harmony appealing to all five senses.
When I told the minis we were going away for the weekend to an island in the sea, they ran into their bedroom and packed their bags with toys and their swimsuits. Five minutes later they were ready to leave with their trunkies in tow, eager to get out of the front door. Once in the car when one started they were all at it, “Are we nearly there yet?”, we were literally only at the end of our road! However, less than an hour later we arrived at the jetty check in area where we waited for the boat.
On arrival, we were met by the lovely Ivy who welcomed us with open arms and made us feel like we were “home” plus she was clearly experienced with children. I’m fortunate enough to have visited the Maldives on many occasions and I can honestly say that I had the same feelings as soon as I stepped onto the island: relaxation, tranquility, peace and beauty (I’m an island girl at heart!).
Once on the island we jumped into a buggy and had a mini tour around the island. I was surprised by it’s size I actually didn’t realise just how big it was and how beautifully the villas effortlessly blended into the surroundings. I liked how spacious the island was and how it wasn’t overly developed yet still catered to all needs – from a water sports club to tennis courts, a gym and restaurants.
We had a gorgeous two-bedroom Beach House which included two small swimming pools and the most amazing view of the turquoise ocean which was only steps away. There’s nothing quite like opening your door onto the beach with the sea as your backdrop. A minimalist décor fitted in with the island vibe – the bathrooms need a very special mention as they’re totally to-die-for – airy and bright with rainfall showers, large sleigh baths, so much space and even 2 palm trees planted inside.
The other rooms available are the water villas which have 4 bedrooms and are a generous 10,000 square feet which are ideal for families living in ultimate luxury and comfort. With floor to ceiling windows the ocean is literally your back yard.
The other villa option are the 18,000 square feet Estate villas which are 5 and 6 bedrooms dotted around the perimeter of the island with its own undisturbed private beach.
The all day dining is Frangipani which offer rustic chic vibes with a menu blending the culinary influences of the Middle East, Asia and the West.
The Al Fresco dining experience is perched on the waters edge serving fresh fish and aptly named “Hooked”!
Outside the main restaurant there is a stunning infinity pool which is great for the kids to play while I relaxed which is safe as there is a shallow area on one side for kids to sit and splash around.
Petit Z is the fabulous kids club with friendly staff to entertain your little ones with a great indoor and outdoor play area. There’s so much for kids to do which provides you with the chance to get a little alone time! There was also a sand area where as a family we all played boules, the kids loved it so much that we have actually gone out and bought a set as it’s a great activity for the whole gang! New to Nurai is the kids waterpark featuring 4 slides, a water bucket and a splash pool.
You can also visit the island as a day guest and enjoy Zaya Nurai’s Friday brunch and use of the beach and pool facilities. The brunch is everything you could imagine with a fantastic seafood and meat BBQ spread, large array of cheese, sushi and salads alongside a huge selection of other dishes. The freshness of the food jumps out and with the sounds of waves crashing. It really is island eating at its finest.
Words don’t do justice to what Zaya Nurai has set out to accomplish and – even though I hope I’ve given you a glimpse into how magical it is, you really have to experience it yourself to truly believe it. We are lucky to have a tiny slice of Maldives right on our doorstep with a hint of local flavour and comparable to any of the big name high-end resorts. I cannot recommend this getaway enough; for 2 days my family got to experience excellent island living the uniquely authentic Zaya Nurai way.