Dubai: The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) is planning a Dh500 million eco-tourism project, including a five-star hotel, souq and sports activities, on an island 65 kilometres off the UAE coastline.

Sir Bu Nuair island, a marine and wildlife habitat, is 40 minutes from Sharjah.

The project will include a 70- to 100-room five-star hotel, 70 serviced apartments and villas, a museum, amphitheatre, camping village and an education centre for environmental studies, said Marwan Al Sarkal, chief executive of Shurooq, during a press conference on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market 2013.

The project will target residents and tourists looking for a quick getaway from the bustle of the city, Al Sarkal said. Besides retail and dining, the island will offer holidaymakers a variety of sports activities such as diving, cycling, hiking, sailing, canoeing and snorkelling.

Transport to the island by sea-planes and boats will be available twice a day, he said. Travelling to the island takes 2 to 3 hours by sea, 25 minutes by plane from Jebel Ali and Abu Dhabi and 40 minutes from Sharjah.

The project is expected to be completed by 2017.

Investors to fund project

Shurooq, the Sharjah government’s investment arm, will attract funds from investors to develop the project, he said. It is currently in negotiations with different hotel operators for the management of the five-star resort.

The island was declared a protected site in 2000 by the Ruler of Sharjah and will only be partly developed, Al Sarkal said. Sir Bu Nuair was recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2012 on Unesco’s preliminary list.

The 13 square kilometre island, which is “predominantly uninhabited”, is home to green and hawksbill sea turtles and marine birds, he said.

Sir Bu Nuair is home to 385 turtle nesting sites and rare fish, said Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, chairman of the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA).

Asked about the environmental impact of developing the island, Al Sarkal said the project would be located away from the turtle nests. He added that Shurooq is working with EPAA to ensure sustainable development.

The island was used as a shelter by pearl divers, Al Sarkal said. It is now the starting point for the Al Gaffal Dhow Race where 100 dhow boats compete in a race to Dubai and other heritage events.

The project is part of Sharjah’s efforts to boost tourism. It follows the Kalba eco-tourism project that Shurooq had announced last year. In Kalba, Shurooq will develop a natural reserve, protect heritage sites, revamp the creek and construct a hotel complex in Khor Kalba.