REVIEW: BANANA ISLAND by ANANTARA – DOHA STAYCATION

I never thought the day would come that I would be keen on a staycation, in Doha.

Allow me to tell you why. A staycation, for those who don’t know, is a vacation without having to physically leave the town you live in. Now not to sound too spoilt, we travel at least 4 times a year and with all the back and forth on planes, through airport transfers, passport control, hotels and, my worst, living out of a suitcase, by the time I get home to our apartment I am so excited to see MY bed, my cats and my wardrobe.

Every year on the 18th May, we are inevitably in Scotland for my other half’s birthday, but this year that trip wasn’t possible. I racked my brain for ideas of what to get a thirty six year old man who spends any free time he has, on his iPad buying himself anything from spear guns to Seinfeld branded paraphernalia. I decided to go with an experience instead of a gift. I checked out the hotel spas in Doha to see what they had to offer in the way of spa days or massage packages, but to be quite frank, I am not altogether confortable paying QR2000 each for a 2 hour shenanigan that would see us dredging our way back through Doha traffic to get home, only to be wound up all over again.

Luckily for Facebook and a simple status update reaching out to friends for ideas, my friend suggested I tried out Banana Island as they often had good deals. This idea tickled my fancy, because instead of a relaxing 2 hours at a spa, we could go to Banana Island for the night and enjoy 24 hours of sun, sea and sleep, the perfect treat for an extremely busy CEO and his very thoughtful Mrs.

Banana Island by Anantara was once a vacant stretch of sandy land, shaped like a banana, that was only ever visited by seabirds, jet skiers and boating aficionados. One day, seemingly out of the blue, up popped an island resort. I really had no idea what to expect but there was only one way to find out.

       We drove down to the port, situated next to the Museum of Islamic Art on the Corniche, with David totally unaware and thinking we were going to the Sharq. Just as we passed the Museum we had to do a U turn to get to the entrance, at which point I had pretended to forget massage vouchers at home. Seconds later I yell, “just kidding” as we screeched around the corner into the departure zone.

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As we arrived we were welcomed by a hoard of helpful men who took our luggage and valeted our Jeep with the kind offer to wash it, free of charge. The check in process was quick and easy while we waited in the air-conditioned lounge for the boat to arrive.

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Boats leave every hour on the hour.

I had imagined a lux yacht that would escourt us across the sea, but in reality it was like being in a water bus with seats in doors and air-conditioning, which in hindsight was actually a good thing.

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The trip is 30 minutes from the port to the resort.

The island is glorious!

We had booked a Premier Sea View Room (which cost around QR1400) which gave us the option of either using the lagoon type pool in front of our room (we had the ground floor room which was perfect as it gives direct access to the pool), the main stretch at Crescent Beach or the Q lounge pool (which is attached to a restaurant that extends into the ocean).

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Lagoon Pool

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Lagoon Pool

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Floating away

The beach has umbrellas and chairs with beach service for towels, water and sunscreen. There are kayaks and tubes for you to use as well.

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Initially we were a bit taken aback that the view directly in front of you, across the ocean, is Hamad International Airport, and were concerned that there would be a lot of noise, but thankfully the planes take off over the city and you can barely hear a thing.

After a good dose of Vitamin D we trotted over to the Q Lounge Restaurant for lunch. The restaurant sits on the beach looking out to sea, with option to sit inside the air-conditioning or on the deck by the pool. I was truly impressed by the drinks menu, because YES, it is a dry island aka NO ALCOHOL. I am not drinking at all at the moment so this was no problem for me, and it was actually great to be somewhere where alcohol was not the central focus of everyone’s entertainment. They had so many mocktails, including a scrumptious passionfruit “mojito” and beautiful fresh juices and smoothies. There is also a Ferrero Rocher milkshake for the rebellious out there. They have 13 different types of hummus, which is like heaven to me, and a mixture of different cuisines. I opted for the cob salad and “beethummus”.

The restaurant manager Peter and his team were so incredibly welcoming, kind and helpful. At the mention of David’s birthday they made him a special birthday chocolate fondant cake with all the bells and whistles and came out singing Happy Birthday. Ok… I admit it…I had some cake. I was in a chocoholic paradise.

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Next stop was the Anantara Spa for couples massage. Prior to treatment we were able to use the facilities, which are not unisex unfortunately, but I understand why. Unfortunately the one steam room I couldn’t get to work and the other was at 85 degrees Celsius and I ran out panicking as I felt like I was burning. The hammam room is something else, I can only show you photos, words will not suffice.

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Post massage we hopped on a golf cart and went over to the wellness centre to check it out. They have an organic café called Zest, which is where we ordered dinner from and had delivered to the room, a zen garden to wander around in, a reflexology pool to walk around in and of course, the fitness centre.

Zen Garden

Walking in the reflexology pool

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A word must be said about the fitness centre. It is separated into male and female sections, which again I understand, but what I was disappointed in is that the male gym has just about every piece of equipment from Technogym that you could possibly imagine. It’s bigger and far more superior in so many ways. The women’s gym is small but does the job. There are lots of cardio machines, a few weights and the odd machine. I was desperate to be able to work out in the male section. I didn’t spend enough time at the fitness centre and would love to go back and check out the consultation process and evaluations I believe they offer.

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That night we tucked up on the couch in our room and read books, ate dinner on the terrace by the sea and in general felt like we got to reconnect away from the stressors of life and the cop out of the television at home. Both of us felt revitalised and as if we had been away for a lot longer than just one night.

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Sometimes we get caught up in life and routine, wake up, gym, work, home, dinner, tv and bed, only to wake up and do it all over again. Your body wants to reject stress, stress does nothing to help your digestive process, sleeping patterns and blood pressure. Life in Doha flies by so quickly as you count down for your next vacation, but why not hop on a boat for 30 minutes and escape everything that makes you feel bogged down. Take a little time for yourselves and each other. We have one life together and it’s important we do our very best to love that life.

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Other activities on the island:

  • Dive Centre
  • Water Sports
  • Nine Hole Golf Putting Course
  • Kids waters slides
  • Splash Surf Pool (Learn to surf)
  • Kids Club
  • Teens Club
  • Tennis courts
  • Bowling Centre
  • Cinema
  • The best shisha in the world
  • And apparently there is a lot more to come

Restaurants:

  • Azraq – all day dining
  • Al NAhham – Arabic
  • Ted’s American Grill (they have a 1.8kg burger challenge)
  • Tanzerin Beach Grill
  • Q Lounge
  • Riva – Italian
  • Zest – Organic Cafe

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