If you are a fan of high-rise hotels and luxury shopping malls Doha may be on your holiday radar but the capital of Qatar is probably not the first place you would go in search of a peaceful island getaway. But Banana Island, a mere 30 minutes by boat from the heart of the city might just change your mind, says Alex McIntosh.
Review: Go Bananas on Banana Island
Sitting on a crescent of golden sand in the Persian Gulf Banana Island offers 141 suites and villas. The property, a member of the Anantara Group, prides itself on offering the only over-water accommodation in the Middle East. We split our stay between a Junior Suite and an Ocean Pool Villa. The suites are spacious and well-appointed with a large balcony overlooking the main beach and the lagoon. But the villas are a cut above, they face the ocean side of the island, which is not accessible to guests, so the overall feel is one of serenity and seclusion. Our four year old swam for the first time in the sizable private pool, so it will always hold a place in our hearts.
High speed catamarans go regularly throughout the day between Banana Island and the Al Shyoukh marina which is minutes from Souk Waqif a great place to eat, shop and soak up some of the traditional side of Qatari life in a city that is more associated with shopping malls than market stalls. However if your objective is to move as little as possible and enjoy a relaxed and indulgent family holiday, Banana Island may be your mecca. The kids’ club is enormous, offering everything from an ice cream parlour to an American diner. The small water park is perfect for younger children, whilst the bowling alley, cinema, surf simulator, extensive water sports and of course the lavish spa provide ample distraction for older kids and adults alike.
We visited during Ramadam, the cause of some trepidation as we were aware that most of the restaurants on the island might be closed for some or all of the day. Our worries were quickly assuaged when bleary eyed we were treated to an extensive and lavish breakfast on our first morning. But it was the Iftar evening meals marking the end of the daily fast that were the real experience, the food is so good you won’t care that Banana Island is alcohol free. An array of Arabian delights offered in a market stall set up in Asraq was relaxed and utterly delicious, whilst the more formal Iftar dinner at Al Nahham was equally delectable. The staff are incredibly attentive and brilliant with children, at dinner on our last night our waiter Bahanu managed to persuade our son to go to sleep on a makeshift bed he created by our table, leaving us to enjoy every course and the epic Doha skyline in peace. We were speechless!
THE LAST WORD
Cards on the table Banana Island is not the Seychelles or the Maldives and the island does have a slightly fabricated feel but the luxurious accommodation, the impeccable service and the dizzying array of distractions that await when you step off the boat make this so much more than a stop-over destination.
Book it: Junior suite from £383 per night, Sea View Pool Villa from £1,202 per night. anantara.com
Featured Image: (c) Kerry Dean.