The UAE is home to some of the most luxurious and pampering hotels and resorts in the world. And so, it is fair to say that there is a hotel that will suit the likes of every tourist visiting the emirates.
What makes the Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa Abu Dhabi stand an inch above the rest is the possibility of being transported into a completely different realm, far away from the typical desert landscape and progressive cityscapes. The green bouquet of wilderness in the heart of the emirates takes us on a mini adventure with nature and the many facets of relaxation that it has to give.
The hotel runs parallel to Abu Dhabi’s protected mangroves island. The emirate has nearly 75% of the UAE’s 450 different species of birds of which around 50 can be found at the mangroves. Frequently seen are the western reef heron and the black wing stilt.
My husband and I don’t live too far away from the property, and decided to visit the lavish property on a weekend in the end of March, just as winter was packing up. The sun was still kind at midday and the evenings chilly. It was the perfect time of the year to relax, rejuvenate and return to the city with an envious tan!
Our drive to the hotel took us 70 minutes – a comfortable journey time for a staycation. On the way we passed the Ferrari World exit and also the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This knowledge will come handy in case you wish to explore the city and its many attractions during your stay.
The hotel is situated on the highway connecting Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It is just 15 minutes from the Abu Dhabi International Airport and around 2 hours from the Dubai International Airport.
Perhaps the great weather, or just a weekend rush, the hotel was buzzing with activity when we reached. Our check-in hence took time long enough for us to grab a bite for lunch and return to be guided to our room – a Deluxe Mangroves Balcony.
As the name goes, we had a balcony and a view of the mangroves, which can be rounded up in one word – captivating.
The room has ample space and the furniture is well placed. The bed takes up the centre of the room, with a cosy yet unnecessary couch next to it. The television set is placed strategically for guests who aim to spend a lazy day in bed watching the telly. Well, we sneaked in a few hours and can’t say we didn’t enjoy it!
The bathroom has an enticing tub and there are two doors for bath and toilet. A shelf holds some basic supplies like weighing scales, tissues, etc. The bathrobes are brilliant! They are heavy, but also really soft and soothing. The hotel uses Britain’s skin care and spa brand, Elemis. Although known for its professional spa-therapy solutions, I vouch for its heavenly scents!
Interiors and exteriors
Anantara, by nature, is known to adapt to their surroundings – wherever they set foot. It is no different at this property. Oriental and Arabian traditional architecture is evident from the second you enter the hotel. The foyer has high ceilings, decorated with ornate chandeliers, wooden paneling, rich fabrics for the furniture, tall clay pots and the smell of Arabic coffee.
The hotel’s most prominent feature, its trophy of pride is the pool, however, positioned strategically at the rear, facing the lagoon and the mangroves.
Families, couple or individuals would spent all day lazing on the pool loungers or splashing in the pool with the kids. For those looking for an early morning swim will benefit from plenty of healthy Vitamin D from the morning sun rays, with the added benefit of watching the sunrise.
The beauty of mangroves is that they can grow in seawater.
At the mangroves you can find a thriving ecosystem with species you wouldn’t come across too often anywhere else in the UAE. Herons, red foxes, blue swimmer crabs and plenty of fish. On rare occasions you could even spot dolphins or stingrays, according to tour guides who conduct daily trips up and down the mangroves.
The hotel has a line of them stationed at the docks, giving guests at the hotels and neighbouring residences the opportunity to enjoy kayaking and explore the mangroves.
Fun and frolic, all day any day
There are several adventure tours companies that offer guided trips to and from the mangrove. You have the option of choosing a kayaking trip or a dhow cruise.
We chose to go kayaking in the mangroves and enjoy a refreshing conversation with nature. And what a fine choice it turned out to be! Both my husband and I were first timers, but we learned so much that day handling a thin fibre buoyant. Coordination, balance and trust is what it takes to manoeuvre a boat and have complete control over it. We loved our first experience, something that is going to be etched in our memories.
We went in groups, each led by a tour guide. After close to an hour of rowing, throw the soft lull of the lagoon, briefly over choppy water as we turn around a bend towards the mangroves and then into a labyrinth of tens and thousands of trees. After navigating through this wilderness, we enter a wide clear stop where we pull over to the shore to take a break. Here, guests have the chance to take a dip in the cool waters before journeying back to the hotel.
Kayaking through the mangroves, I had many emotions come over me. Anxiety while steering the boat towards the due course we had to follow, elation to see the shoreline at the end of a rigorous exercise, a sense of calm looking out into the blue and turquoise shallow waters of the lagoon, a feeling of accomplishment on our way back to the hotel and a feel of rejuvenation.
The tour companies also offer an abra water hopping service which will take you around popular waterfront landmarks of Abu Dhabi including the fascinating Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. For history revelers, there is the opportunity to take a pearling journey where you will board a dhow and cruise the waterway with views of the mangroves and listening to stories from the once-thriving traditional pearling industry. You will be gifted with a pearl at the end of it too!
Cycling is another great activity at the hotel. You can rent bicycles, stationed at the pool deck. There is a narrow cycling track which covers the length of the property (along the 1.2 kilometre stretch of the Mangroves), which includes the hotel and the residences next to it.
Cooking classes are available on occasions, where the executive chef will show you a thing or two on how to prepare that lip-smacking Thai green curry! A fun package includes taking a market trip with the chef to source the raw materials, including a visit to the spice market before the cook-up.
If you would like to explore the emirate while on your stay at Anantara, a drive to the nearby Ferrari World is a great idea. Another interesting day out is booking into a cultural tour of Abu Dhabi to witness firsthand the rich traditions of this region.
Also available are yoga classes, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, golf, horse riding and well, shopping!
Anantara offers a melting pot of culinary culture. Pachaylen will give you a treat of Anantara’s home base. The restaurant is decorated in Thai grandeur, with very high ceilings. The staff are mostly Thai, dressed in their authentic attire. The menu is rich with traditional Thai dishes served in a fusion format. Expect a surprise element in every Thai dish you are aware of. My Thai green curry was sweeter than I expected, while the crunchy hot and cold combination in the dessert was delicious!
Ingredients is the all-day dining restaurant that serves an international buffet for all three meals. Impressions is a rooftop cocktail bar while the Pool Deck offers Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The venue plays traditional acoustic Arabic music in the evenings and serves shisha at night as well.
Staff is accommodating and try to keep a smiling face addressing a thousand guest queries. Also, the hotel was extremely busy the two days we spent there and in fairness, I wouldn’t expect to see any member of staff springing about the lobby, ensuring everyone is taken good care of.
During our stay, we were also lucky to witness a weekend market at a common outdoor area, at the Residences. People had set up stalls and were selling intriguing wares – we got a small pouch made of coconut fibre and a craft from the Philippines.
For these little surprises, and the beautiful location it enjoys, we loved our experience at Anantara. The room made us feel at home, a rare quality for a hotel, however famous and luxurious.
Where: Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara
Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 2 656 1000
Note – The critic was invited by Anantara Eastern Mangroves, Abu Dhabi. But all the opinions expressed herewith are her own.