This past weekend witnessed the first ever Sir Bani Yas Challenge, a 33km run/hike/kayak race set amongst that natural beauty of Abu Dhabi’s largest natural island. The wildlife reserve and bird sanctuary hosted the 280 adventurers from across the globe, including Australia, Brazil, Columbia, Spain, Switzerland, South Africa and the United States.
The youngest contestant was just 14 years old, while the oldest was 64. Husaak Adventures, the organiser of the Challenge, had a team of over 50 team members and volunteers, being helped by hundreds of staff members who are all based on the island from different other sponsors and partners.
The top 3 finishers in the Female category were Fatema Husain from Bahrain who finished the race in (5:03.48), Tahreer Alfadhli from Kuwait (5:42:05), and Barbara Espejo from Spain (5:43:59). In the Male category, the top 3 were Jason Wagner from South Africa (3:49:21), Ahmed Al Falahi from Oman (3:52:26), and Pete Goodwin from the UK (3:56:08) The challenge was organised by Husaak Adventures and sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), Abu Dhabi Ports Company, hospitality group Anantara and EWS-WWF.
Sir Bani Yas, an 87-square-kilometre island off the coast of Abu Dhabi, was developed into a wildlife reserve by the late Sheikh Zayed in 1971. Over the years, it has established itself as one of the UAE’s largest animal reserves and is currently home to over 15,000 free roaming animals and birds.
With a wide range of eco-tourism activities on the island, including kayaking, trail running, mountain biking, diving, hiking, and safari tours, the island is rapidly becoming a leading eco-tourism and adventure destination in the region.
Ali Husain, the founder and director of the GCC adventure company Husaak Adventures, said, "We truly believe that SBY island and the Al Dhafra region can play a significant role in the adventure tourism vision of AD due to multiple factors one of which is the easy access to the adventure communities in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in addition to the existing adventurers in Abu Dhabi and Dubai."
Most participants being from across the GCC, the Sir Bani Yas Challenge is line with Abu Dhabi’s vision to bolster its adventure tourism segment and establish itself as a year-round destination of distinction. As part of its mandate to boost the tourism sector’s contribution to the local economy, as well as attract and increase the number of visitors to the Emirate by 2021, the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi will continue to enhance its offerings within this space.