Is­land Life


Virtuozity - - Destination -

NOTH­ING SAYS SU­PER-LUX­URY more than a pri­vate is­land. It’s the ul­ti­mate cas­tle. Sur­rounded by wa­ter with a sub-con­scious sign that says ‘stay away’, ‘pri­vate’. And not some pre­tend, man-made haven ei­ther. A proper, ‘catch a speed­boat to get there’ is­land, far from the shore and the pry­ing eyes of the pub­lic. It’s a Bond Lair, it’s Richard Bran­son, it’s rock star spe­cial.

Lo­cated around 2 kms off the tip of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Is­land, the tiny is­land of Nu­rai is just that. It has been turned into Zaya, a pri­vate lux­ury ho­tel re­sort, con­sist­ing of low-rise beach vil­las, houses and rooms. It’s all cen­tred around its main build­ing, restau­rants and the boat dock that keeps it con­nected with the UAE’S cap­i­tal.

Two kilo­me­tres might not sound much, but its far enough away to keep the city lights and noise well in the dis­tance, but close enough that the short boat ride be­comes a charm rather than an in­con­ve­nience.

The rooms (vil­las is prob­a­bly more ap­pro­pri­ate) are a mix of ho­tel-style rentals and pri­vate ac­com­mo­da­tions. Yes, some lucky peo­ple ac­tu­ally live here, clearly act­ing out their very own Bond movies or sim­ply en­joy­ing the peace that only a pri­vate is­land can bring.

The sin­gle storey mod­ern Beach Vil­las which sit be­tween the smaller Beach Re­treats and much larger Beach Houses, are built around the is­land’s nat­u­ral bay form­ing a neat cres­cent. Each white-washed villa has a large out­door area with a re­lax­ing ca­bana, gen­er­ous plunge pool and steps down to the beach. The villa it­self is open plan with a

the sea be­yond. With the right weather you could leave the doors open and fall asleep to the sound of the waves wash­ing up on the shore. It’s very Ibiza, very chic and ex­tremely en­tic­ing.

Be­hind the bed is a small kitchen workspace, but no ameni­ties, but who wants to cook when stay­ing some­where like this any­way? The light­ing is all con­trolled from the side of the bed and the cen­tral cur­tains are also elec­tric, al­though oddly the side cur­tains are man­ual.

From the mo­ment you en­ter the space is in­stantly re­lax­ing, beau­ti­ful and breath­tak­ing. The de­sign­ers got the rooms ab­so­lutely spot on.

Each room also gets two push­bikes, so get­ting around is ei­ther a ro­man­tic stroll or a fun bike ride, es­pe­cially as the is­land is only a few kilo­me­tres from end to end. Path­ways lit­ter the is­land so there’s plenty of ex­plor­ing to be done. Each route is over­grown with trees and plants, giv­ing the whole place a Mal­dives feel, which was ap­par­ently the owner’s orig­i­nal in­spi­ra­tion.

There’s an as yet un­fin­ished beach club at the far end of the is­land, as well as a range of beach and wa­ter­sports. You could also book a round of golf on nearby Saadiyat, but why any­one would ac­tu­ally want to leave this is­land par­adise is a mys­tery.

The main build­ing is used for func­tions and houses the re­cep­tion, al­though you never re­ally walk up to a desk as you would in a tra­di­tional ho­tel. Ev­ery­thing is done in your room or on the way there in the nu­mer­ous golf bug­gies that move ev­ery­thing around on the is­land. Next-door is a li­brary read­ing room, a seafood restau­rant and on the other side a won­der­fully quaint Mex­i­can restau­rant which feels like some­thing plucked from a cliff face in Greece, rather than the of­ten overly-san­i­tized restau­rants the Gulf’s ho­tels seem to al­ways serve up.

And maybe that’s the key to Zaya’s feel. It’s not part of any of the big ho­tel chains. This is a pri­vately run ho­tel, so the own­ers are free to do what they feel is right rather than fol­low the cor­po­rate line.

This gives it a real bou­tique feel to it and makes it oddly homely, de­spite its ul­tra­mod­ern de­sign. The staff are su­per friendly and room ser­vice is fast, even though ev­ery­thing has to be driven to your room.

Al­though it has ameni­ties for kids, this is re­ally a cou­ples re­sort, a get­away for a ro­man­tic few days away from the kids and stresses of life. It’s all about re­lax­ing, laying around in the sun and en­joy­ing do­ing ab­so­lutely noth­ing.

By far the most dis­ap­point­ing part of stay­ing at Zaya is hav­ing to leave.

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