After a great holiday, my husband and I always say we are going to return to that fantastic resort or villa. But we never do. There are just too many new places to explore and check out. However, there is one notable exception: the Six Senses Zighy Bay resort in Oman. We love it and it is the only vacation resort to which we have returned and we plan to do so again. The reasons we, and so many other loyal guests, return to Six Senses Zighy Bay are many: it is the epitome of barefoot luxury, it offers many great activities for all ages, it’s easily accessible …and I could just go on and on.
Six Senses Zighy Bay is located on the Musandam Peninsula in Oman on 1.6 kilometers of gorgeous sand on the Gulf of Oman. It is about a two-hour drive from the Dubai airport. The resort is only a few kilometers from the town of Dibba, but it feels incredibly remote. You will not be leaving to do shopping or dining off-property. The resort is set up in the style of a traditional Omani village. There are 82 villas, ranging from one-bedroom units to four-bedroom private retreats. Every unit is constructed out of stone and has its own private swimming pool. In addition, there are two large resort pools, one of which is a free-form salt water pool. There is also a kids club, a teen club, full fitness center, spa, boutique, library, watersports center, and an excursions/activities office.
For me, the allure of Zighy Bay is its pervasive atmosphere of barefoot luxury. Apart from dinner, it is 100% acceptable to lounge around the resort with a cover-up over your swimsuit and flip flops. And at dinner, attire definitely leans towards the relaxed side of resort casual. (The one restaurant where there is a more formal dress code is Sense on the Edge.) Guests come from Europe and the Middle East, with the UK, Germany, and Switzerland being heavily represented. This is definitely a place where guests come to get away from it all. While every guest I met was extremely polite and pleasant, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of socializing. The environment is decidedly low-key. You can definitely leave the sport coats, ties, heels, and jewelry at home when you come here.
Zighy Bay offers a number of activities to appeal to a wide range of interests and ages. As a beach resort, you have the beach as well as both resort and private pools to enjoy. There is a great spa with a wide variety of treatments as well as multi-day wellness programs. A fitness center is available with a wide range of equipment. Also on site are lighted tennis courts and an archery range. For children and teens there is both a kids’ club and a teens’ club. Each offers a schedule of activities that change daily. Activities might include leaf painting, cookie making, Arabic lessons, or crab hunting. But where Zighy Bay really shines is in its more adventurous activities. I had the opportunity to do both paragliding off the mountain overlooking Zighy Bay and fly in a microlight aircraft all around the Zighy Bay area. The microlight experience left me with a smile plastered across my face that lasted for hours. While both were thrilling, the extremely competent pilot, who told us he had logged over 7000 flights, helped to put me at ease.
My husband and I also went on a hike in the surrounding mountains. This is a guided hike, as there are no trails. And if you wanted to call it a 2-hour rock climbing expedition, it would not be inaccurate. It was the most strenuous hike I have ever done. However, we got to see an ancient Omani burial site, spectacular views of Zighy Bay and the surrounding coves, and explore ruins of traditional stone homes. For anyone in decent physical shape and up for an adventure, I would recommend this hike. Scuba diving, snorkeling, and boat cruises are offered at the adjacent marina. Our family did both the private dhow cruise and the private sunset cruise. Both were great, but the day-long dhow cruise was a favorite for everyone in our family. Not only did we get a luxurious boat to ourselves (along with two crew members), but we had a great time doing all of the activities at our own pace. We went snorkeling. As it was a private tour, we could take our time getting our young kids in the water and teaching them to snorkel. There were so many fish in the shallow, warm waters that it was instantly rewarding for them once they got their masks on. Additionally, our little boy loved jumping off the boat and everyone got into feeding the fish. While a non-private cruise would have included these activities, I don’t think we would have had such a relaxed and wonderful time if we felt the need to keep on a schedule. After a wonderful lunch, we headed out to do some hand line fishing. Throughout the entire cruise we got to see the dramatic coastlines. The sunset cruise travels the same route, but doesn’t stop for the snorkeling and fishing. And, of course, the later sunset cruise features the rugged coast bathed in gorgeous pink light. I would definitely book one of these cruises for your family during your stay. There are many other activities offered from moonlight kayaking expeditions to mixology courses. I think everyone, from kids to seniors, would find something to their liking on the activities menu.
As Zighy Bay is an isolated resort where most guests are on a full board package, I expected the dining and food options to be disappointing. However, I was most pleasantly surprised. The food, not to mention the service, were great, and there were always choices for both the pickiest child eater to my adventuresome tastes. There are two main restaurants that are open every day: Spice Market and Summer House. The Spice Market serves breakfast and dinner daily. The breakfast is sure to please everyone. There are freshly squeezed health juices, an extensive fresh fruit spread, a large buffet, local specialties, and freshly made classics from eggs to pancakes. In the evenings, Spice Market offers an a la carte menu with Arabic and Indian specialties. Keeping with the family friendly offerings, there is a kids’ menu, and if you need to order something basic off the menu for your child, you are made to feel like it is no trouble at all. (I know, we did that often for my picky eaters.) The Summer House is open for lunch and dinner daily and offers a wide-ranging international menu and both indoor and outdoor seating. The other option that is available daily is the Zighy Bar. In addition to all of the lovely, tropical cocktails you would expect, they offer a changing menu of small plates and tapas. Sense on the Edge, a fine-dining restaurant, is open several nights a week for dinner and serves a 3-to 9-course tasting menu. Sense on the Edge is the most formal of the restaurants on property and asks that you not wear flip flops or bring children under seven-years old. While the food is excellent, and certainly a very exciting option if you don’t regularly have access to amazing gourmet tasting menus, for me the views were the best part. Perched on the mountains high above the resort you eat while gazing out over a beautiful vista. While you cannot see the sunset (it sets on the other side of the mountain), I would highly recommend making an early reservation so that you can enjoy the changing colors over the water.
Several evenings a week, depending on how busy the resort is, they offer a traditional Omani feast of roasted lamb in the beach restaurant, Shua Shack. If anyone in your family is up for sampling the local food, I recommend going to this. The chef and his staff put on a great show of opening up the lamb which roasts in a traditional underground oven all day. After the lamb is carved a variety of Arabic dishes are brought to your table. While there is also a kids’ buffet for the less adventurous, in-villa dining is happy to deliver anything off the room service menu. We did this for my son who is very picky, and it was no problem at all. The Shua Shack is very relaxed with children running around the beach and was a dining experience we all enjoyed. To offer additional dining choices, the hotel holds several specialty buffet nights each week. While we were there, we got to enjoy the International Buffet, Arabic Buffet, and Indian Buffet nights, all of which I thought were great. Again, at each of these evenings, we were able to order off the a la carte menu of the Spice Market or Summer House and there is a kids’ buffet. That makes it a great way for more adventurous eaters to sample a variety of items while those with milder tastes are still quite satisfied. Furthermore, the in-villa dining service provides an extensive 24-hour service. If you are on half or full board package, you have a generous allowance if you choose to eat in your villa. Additionally, you have the option for an Arabic BBQ to be set up in your villa to make dining-in a much more memorable treat.
GREAT DESTINATION FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
For families based in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, or Africa, Zighy Bay is an excellent intergenerational family getaway. Whether your party chose to stay in one of the larger retreat villas or get interconnecting villas, everyone should get a good mix of relaxation, luxury, and fun. There are also a range of options for group activities and experiences to do together as a family. Younger children are well cared for and the babysitting and kids club allow adults plenty of alone time. But the gorgeous pools and beaches make it great for just relaxing all together. Each morning and evening I would sit at the edge of my villa enjoying coffee or wine and a sunrise or sunset while my children played in the sand and splashed in the gentle waves, often still in PJs. Pure heaven.
WHO SHOULDN’T CHOOSE ZIGHY BAY
My biggest complaint about Zighy Bay is that sand seems to get everywhere. With soft sandy paths throughout the resort and many villas opening up to the beach, it seemed impossible to keep places 100% sand free. However, if you can deal with that issue, I would whole-heartedly recommend Six Senses Zighy Bay to everyone, with the following exceptions: -If you really seek out nightlife or urban culture, Zighy Bay is not for you. For me it is blissfully slow- paced and relaxing, but if that doesn’t sound fun to you, go elsewhere. -If you are in a wheelchair or have difficulty walking in sand, I think it would be difficult to get around. Almost all the resort paths and walkways are sand, quite deep soft sand in some parts. The staff always seemed very happy to send a golf cart to get you to another part of the resort, but I believe you would still have difficulty as there are numerous stairs. I suggest calling the resort and having a discussion with someone on site to talk through any mobility issues you might have before you book.