When you think of Qatar, just like any other Middle Eastern country, you instantly envisage trails of dune bashing in the summer heat that can burn off your skin if you are not just wearing the right SPF sun block. Well for Qatar, the opposite is true. If you’re after sand, water and relaxing by the beach, Qatar’s recently opened Banana Island Resort by Anantara might be better suited for your next trip – less people guaranteed. Banana Island Resort by Anantara in Qatar offers tropical pursuits, a resort in its real sense; offering natural surroundings, beachside brags and space and privacy that doesn’t go away. While going to Banana Island the basic summer season wardrobe essentials should be at the top of your list, and naturally, a transformative new swimsuit will be the foundation of your off-duty uniform because the resort is all about breezy layers of water, some unwinding relaxing hotspot and a place to relish some authentic cuisines. The island is located just off the coast of downtown Doha. It almost takes about 30 minutes of a ferry ride to get to the island. You can catch a ferry ride every 45 minutes. Considered as Middle East’s only wellness centre in a resort setting – the island spreads across lush botanical gardens. Staying overnight might be a little expensive, in comparison to the hotels in the city. However, the best thing about Banana Island resort is that you can take a day pass for QR500 that includes food vouchers and full access to beach and you return back home to the city at night. The day-pass is like a get-away for the residents of Qatar that are looking forward to unwind post a hectic week of work and have some family time. Although luxury catamaran ferry takes you from the heart of Doha to Banana Island Resort but since it’s a closed ferry, with no sea breeze at all, you just lose interest even before getting to the island itself. Resorts worldwide use open ferries to give its visitors the real feel of the sea and water because the feeling of wind in your hair with splashing water on a high speed ferry is a total bliss and a different experience. As small as the island is, shaped like a Banana, it’s definitely charged with many recreational activities to do and considering I was there for a night stay, I just had enough time to explore most of it, well let’s say the best of it. Post a warm welcome with traditional African drumming, rose water and dates, I was escorted to my spacious room that opened its back door right on the beach. It was a comfortable, clean and a modern room. Little extra like robes, vanity packs and slippers was a nice touch. Having a balcony on the room is always a plus; one can sit there at night with a cup of coffee and just enjoy the serenity whilst reading your favourite book as you relax. However, there was no bath salt in the rooms and while I was checking out, I noticed, it was up for sale on the reception area. Now that’s not fair. If somebody had already paid a lot for a night stay, bath salt, at least of some amount, should be complimentary – like many hotels in the world. However, one can let go of that considering the other perfect amenities it furnishes, including its perfect design, lay out and the attitude of staff. After checking-in and getting the luggage in the room, I was headed for lunch. Now, Banana Island offers a wide range of cuisines on its premises. From retro American to Middle Eastern, Italian and South Asian food – you name it, it’s there. Although the price might be a little too high for some people, but trust me on this. The food is worth it. Well, I dinned in Riva Restaurant offering Italian Cuisine. Riva gives you an authentic Italian experience with a taste to remember in just about everything you eat there. From the complementary bread basket, the mocktails and the finest Italian dishes. Perfetto! Riva offers everything from pasta dishes to pizza and chicken. In addition, there as an entire dedicated sheesha menu that you enjoy while sitting out with a little cold buff of wind. Riva’s famous AllaDiavola pizza is a must try. It’s priced at QR80 and is the best thing eatery offers. The sundried spicy pepperoni, tomato sauce and mozzarella will make you go there over and over. The other thing that I tried was Ravioli alla Florentina – stuffed ravioli with spinach and cream sauce. Very few places in Doha offer good authentic Italian food without any adaption but this is the place to be when in any doubt. Appropriately, this island resort provides tons of water sports and activities, including kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding, diving, and snorkelling, plus four pools. For those who don’t want a wet workout, there is a tennis court, nine-hole golf course, beach volleyball court, yoga studio, and sizable fitness centre. There’s also the broad, uncrowded beach, which stretches for half a mile. I spent almost an hour an half at the beach next morning, sun bathing, and swimming in the turquoise land. If you’re an Instagram addict and want some really nice photos, try out the swing that’s placed inside the beach water. Although you’ll have to make a little effort because sometimes the water covers the swing and it gets difficult to get the perfect swinging shot, but it’s worth the try. I was expecting an infinity pool for all at a place like this and not exclusive only for water villas. Although even the spa at Banana Island offers beyond the usual expectations with ice wells, an indoor pool under a large glass dome and separate Moroccan and Turkish Hammams for men and women – but the experience of getting in the infinity pool and looking far beyond is an experience itself. Well, never mind. When you’re there – you need to try there surfpool, Turkish Hammam and of course have sometime for yourself on the beach. The night life at Banana Island resort is almost nonexistent. Although it offers the game room featuring eight bowling lanes; a snack bar with chips, candy bars, and baked goods; an RS Formula V2 Racing Simulator; foosball; an air hockey table; a pool table; and large flat-screen TVs with PlayStations along with free-movie theatres but even after doing all this – you get done by 11pm, with a whole night still there and you try to figure out what to do next. Before I forget, here’s to admit that I lost the bowling game to my friend. At night take a nice bubble bath, get a cup of coffee and sit on your room balcony with a book to enjoy some time, or because the rooms are sound proof, you can play the music, no matter how loud on the Bose speakers, provided by the resort, and create your own party. BisouBisou! Visit Banana Island and share your feedback. Published in Daily Times, March 1st 2019.