VIRTUOZITY JUMPS ON A BOAT AND HEADS TO ZAYA ON NURAI ISLAND TO TRY ACTUAL LUXURY ISLAND LIFE JUST OFF THE UAE CAPITAL’S COAST
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.