Say the words Six Senses Zighy Bay to just about anyone in the Elegant Resorts team and you'll be met with longing sighs, dream-like expressions and plenty of praise. So, when I was lucky enough to be invited out (and my sister Alice was lucky enough to join me) I couldn't wait to see just how the Omani hideaway lived up to expectations. It wasn't long - approximately the second I arrived - before I realised those expectations were going to be utterly exceeded...
Arriving in Paradise
The Zighy Bay experience starts long before you get to the resort; for us, it was on the scenic, super comfortable transfer from Dubai airport. Leaving the skyscrapers behind, we began to get a sense of everyday Oman as we head through the desert, towards the mountains and the town of Dibba that lies across the UAE and Omani border. Speaking of the border, the crossing was much easier than expected and all documents were sorted by the resort. All we had to do was supply our passport details, relax and enjoy the scenic ride. Zighy Bay is surrounded on three sides by the Al Hajar Mountains, making the approach seriously beautiful, if not a little bumpy - good job the transfer was by 4WD limousine! You begin to meander upwards until, finally, you glimpse the Six Senses hideaway in the distance (sort of reminiscent of a mystical fairy-tale kingdom) backed by the Musandam Fjords. It was then time for the scenic descent to the resort, where we were met with the warmest, most genuine but wonderfully laid-back welcome from the team, as well as a delicious date smoothie and refreshing cold flannels - it was then that I knew we'd arrived somewhere pretty special.
Every villa has a dedicated GEM (Guest Experience Manager) and ours was the lovely Karthik, who met us at check-in and whisked us by buggy to our spacious pool villa. He was super warm and friendly but never over-facing, showing us around the room and explaining the MANY activities on offer here. He advised that we could call him for anything we needed and left us to settle in, also checking that we were enjoying our stay at various points throughout our three days in paradise.
Having changed into our swimwear in a matter of milliseconds, it was time to relax. Regarding where, the choice was ours - on the private mile-long white sand beach, beside our own swimming pool or one of the other two swimming pools on resort. We chose our own pool and as I lay beneath the sunshine, listening to birds chirping and the relaxing sound of running water, looking up at the dramatic mountain surroundings, I genuinely felt as though I was in another world - one where stress simply doesn't exist. I've never been anywhere quite so peaceful, even ethereal at times, and challenge anyone to visit Zighy Bay and not to simply relax. We were advised the resort was three quarters full, though it honestly felt, at times, that we were the only people there. The remote nature of the bay makes it feel like a private island.
Another thing I loved about Zighy Bay (and, believe me, the list is endless) is that it combines five-star Six Senses luxury with a stay that immerses you in authentic Oman, hidden away in the mountains. The resort shares the bay with a local village, on which the design of the standalone villas is modelled. Not the ornate, lavish Arabian style that you may picture when you think of Oman, the pool villas are understated and luxuriously rustic, with plenty of wood, local stone, outdoor (and indoor, of course) showers and beautiful private swimming pools.
Food, Glorious Food
It was simply a matter of time until I mentioned the sensational food here. Let's start at the beginning with breakfast, my favourite meal of the day. There was an outstanding buffet selection of beautiful cakes, fresh fruit, house-made cereals, chia pots, various breads (with plenty of gluten free options), a choice of wellness juices each with a different focus, and a station serving local delicacies and Arabic coffee. Honey comes from the resort's own hives, while much of the cheese is made with milk from Zighy Farm's very own goats (but more about those later!). If all that wasn't enough, things just got better with the a la carte menu. The usual western favourites were joined by locally-inspired dishes - such as Arabic sausages and shakshuka. A breakfast highlight of mine was a delicious masala omelette with cumin potatoes, spiced tomatoes and mint chutney, which made returning to my daily porridge seem pretty dull when I got home.
Phew, and that was just breakfast! Everything else was just as delicious. We were so glad to experience the Shua Shack dining experience, during which lamb is slow cooked in ovens beneath the sand in a traditional Omani method. The chef was so friendly and passionate, explaining the method as he retrieved and served the most delicious lamb I've ever tasted, accompanied by equally tasty saffron rice. All this, as well as traditional Arabic starters, dessert and an amazing pineapple and ginger mojito, saw us suitably stuffed... until breakfast, of course!
I also have to mention just how fabulous they were at catering to my dairy intolerance. In keeping with the Six Senses wellness philosophy, each menu was labelled with allergens (as well dedicated dishes that were good for sleeping, detoxing etc). Not only this, if I really fancied something from the menu that wasn't labelled dairy free, they always did their very best to amend it so I could enjoy it - such as switching the sauce so I could enjoy the sensational scallops at the Summer House.
A Plastic-Free Zone
When we arrived, we were told that there were absolutely no single use plastics in the resort, part of the brilliant Six Senses sustainability philosophy. I must admit, I was sceptical and thought I'd sniff some out somewhere. but I was well and truly proven wrong! All water - that is never imported but purified in their own plant onsite - is in glass bottles; not only in the restaurants, but even in the gym and the transfer car. Straws are paper, toiletries are in ceramic containers and wooden spoons are used for the delicious (complimentary!) ice cream beside the pool. The list goes on. Each villa also comes equipped with bicycles which turned out to be one of our stay's highlights. Just cycling beneath the sunshine, whether to the beach, to breakfast or to the spa, was an experience that really made my time at Zighy Bay.
The sustainability focus continues with the wonderful Zighy Farm, home to free range chickens for eggs and goats for milk - with which they make delicious cheese and ice cream (locally-inspired flavours include Arabic coffee, Zighy date and saffron). There are also organic gardens for fruit and vegetables that are served in the restaurants, as well as plants for the world-class spa treatments. Bees are kept for honey (which is enjoyed at breakfast) and to pollinate local crops. The lovely Afreen showed us around the Earth Lab, a place where conservation is celebrated and achieved. Here, all used glass is recycled and can become gorgeous pendants or ornaments for guests to take home. She also explained a fairly new method in which glass bottles are heated and squashed, creating plates that they use for cheese boards in the restaurants. This can also be done with bottles that may be sentimental for guests - for example, the bottle from an engagement champagne can be made into a unique ornament for the couple's home - clever! You can also handmake organic, chemical-free soaps that look good enough to eat - I actually mistook the ones Afreen showed us for desserts at first!
Another great thing about Zighy Bay is that you can genuinely do as little or as much as you want here. Of course, the remote setting welcomes relaxation, but a huge part of the resort's experience is the wealth of activities on offer - the word 'bored' is simply not in the Zighy vocabulary. One of the best-known activities - certainly one that I had heard about before my trip - is that you can actually transfer in by paraglide. Surely there aren't many (if any) hotels in the world where that's possible?! Other activities on offer include hiking, various boat trips (from traditional dhow boats to luxury yachts), PADI-certified diving courses, rock climbing, mountain biking and a trek to a local village. There is also a dedicated Experiences Centre (just a short buggy ride or cycle away from your pool villa) where you can learn more about and book these awesome adventures. As for us, we tried out the sunrise yoga session on the rooftop of the signature Six Senses Spa. Surrounded by mountains that beautifully reflected the morning sun and backed by birdsong, I honestly can't think of any way I'd rather start the day. We also head out one afternoon on the complimentary kayaks. It was great to get a view of the resort from the water, with panoramas of those beautiful rugged mountains I may have mentioned once or twice!
It's safe to say, I've joined the long list of those that sigh longingly when they hear the words Zighy Bay. Like nowhere I've ever been before - and probably won't again - I challenge anyone not to fall in love with this patch of paradise. Perhaps a resort best known to attract couples and families, I can confirm that two (very lucky) twenty-something sisters also had the time of their lives.