Getting Zighy at Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman
Leading luxury travel and food writer Mary Pratt, founder of The Caviar Spoon, explores the luxury eco-retreat Six Senses Zighy Bay, located on Oman’s Musandam Peninsula.
What we’re talking about: Six Senses Zighy Bay
If ever there was a place that embodied The Caviar Spoon’s strapline that indulgence isn’t a dirty word, Six Senses Zighy Bay would be it.
This glorious barefoot haven, nestled within the natural beauty of Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, is only a 2.5-hour drive from the hustle and bustle of Dubai. Rooted in the school of sustainability, the focus is on blending into the environment and simply enhancing upon the existing luxury of nature. Six Senses Zighy Bay is high-end but not in the typical 5-star fashion; it is impeccably designed but with an understated sophistication that creates a blissful eco-friendly vibe.
Getting There & First Impressions
Getting to this idyllic getaway will involve a bit of maneuvering in a 4WD vehicle. Since you’re coming here to unwind, just let a driver from Six Senses come collect you in a super comfy GMC so you don’t have to worry about making the trek. Make note that you’ll need your passport to cross the border and border control does check your car so leave any fermented grape beverages at home! Besides, Six Senses has a gorgeous selection of their own—I promise you won’t be disappointed.
On our drive to the resort, we passed a few goats with serious suicidal tendencies before climbing up a road on colossal mountain terrain that is not for the fainthearted. In fact, if you have a fear of heights, take Pra’s advice and don’t sit on the right-hand side! We stopped at a lookout point to admire the view before heading down to the property. (This spot, I was told, would be where I’d be having a Zighy Experience, aka paragliding!)
Once on the resort grounds, you’ll find yourself chancing upon manmade wadis, nurtured fig, apple, lime, and neem trees, and even a vegetable garden. Wander around and let yourself feel the blissful indulgence of nature and get lost in a world removed from anything and everything that might stress you out.
Staff & Service
Throughout our entire stay, the service and staff were nothing short of brilliant. Don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot here as it’s not that kind of place. Six Senses provides impeccable service but it’s all about the vibe of feeling relaxed and chilled, not rigid and hectic. I met with the resort manager Greg Kocsis, formerly of the elite Sandy Lane in Barbados and Four Seasons Hotels around the world, who described the property as authentic, organic, and natural, and how the non-regimental style is part of the DNA. It was this philosophy and company culture that drew him here in the first place.As a group, Greg explains, they create an environment where ideas are always encouraged and the staff have space to move and grow, which allows them to be emotionally engaging, a distinct feature of the property. When I chatted with Chef du Cuisine Ron McKinley later on, he backed this up, praising the group for giving him the freedom to be creative with his menus.
Greg continued to talk about the property itself, saying that the concept of Six Senses is for the extreme traveller. As in, well-travelled guests will truly appreciate the aqua chic vibe and I have to agree. Being a seasoned traveller myself, I was converted in a heartbeat as the relaxed location trumped the traditional military 5-star vibe. Understanding exactly just how much work goes into maintaining this eco delight gave additional clarity to the group’s commitment to the location, the resort, and their values.
“Our brand is all about wellness and our holistic treatments are part of the company’s DNA. Six Senses help people reconnect with themselves,” Greg told me.
Where You’ll Sleep
The property is home to 80 private pool suites, 2 retreats, and one stonking Private Reserve that, with its 4 bedrooms, 17-metre pool, and live-in butler, is the largest in the Middle East. The 2 retreats are equally jaw-dropping with an in-villa gym and spa and sun loungers the size of double beds. For a truly luxurious wellness retreat, I wouldn’t think twice about splashing out on one of these abodes…if I had the budget.
Our 48 hours were spent in a one-bedroom suite which was sensational in its own right. We were escorted here by our GEM (Guest Experience Manager) Manoj who made sure we knew about everything we needed to make the most out of our stay, like the two bicycles available should we wish to pedal around instead of stroll.
Inside the villa, the simplistic design elements like the stone floors and whitewashed walls created the feeling of a remote, peaceful haven. But don’t worry—there’s super fast wifi throughout the resort so you can still stay connected whilst unwinding. Amenities are bountiful with Six Senses bath and body products, unfathomably soft cotton sheets, a bathtub that could qualify as a small swimming pool, and even an outdoor shower for those who want to embrace nature in their most natural state. There were also complimentary soft drinks, coffee, and an espresso machine, and what could only be described as an in-house wine larder with the most impressive wine selection I’ve set eyes on!
Upon seeing the outdoor space, surrounded by reed fences, we ran over like small children to revel in the two comfy sun loungers, plunge pool, cabana-like seating with big, plush cushions, and a quaint traditional Omani summer house. This separate little structure was filled with cushions to plonk down on and a tiny opening looking out onto the magical ocean. The fences, by the way, likely require constant maintenance—just another indication that authenticity is more important than convenience or cost to the resort.
At night, we slept with the doors flung wide open, dozing off to the sounds of the waves gently rolling and crashing onto the Omani shores. It was pure perfection.
Where To Unwind
You can sink into villa’s plunge pool or stroll ahead another five metres to take a dip in the ocean on a private stretch of beach where you can watch the sand crabs scuttling about. If you fancy some mingling, head to one of the two main pools where you can be in the company of others whilst soaking up the beautiful surroundings. There’s a large saltwater lagoon (the GCC’s only one) which is great for families as there’s also a children’s club here.
Parents, take note. You can catch a few moments to completely zen out whilst your wee ones occupy themselves in their own slice of utopia with activities ranging from archery and arts and crafts to slacklining and various water sports.
Where To Eat
The food here is phenomenal and if you fancy some romance alongside your meal, you’re in luck because it oozes from every millimetre of the property with some of the finest destination dining. Moonlight suppers on the beach, dining in the epic wine tower or even within your villa with your own seafood barbecue, which is what we had. We arrived back at our villa to find candles surrounding the property, a fabulously dressed table outside, the best array of seafood from lobster to calamari, and two staff members ready to delight us.
Zighy Bay’s Executive Chef Stephen Jones, better known as Chef Stevie, recently joined the team in July, motivated and inspired by Six Senses’s reputation as an industry leader. He’s been inspired by everything from the social culture to the people who work alongside him to the ingredients available in creating the menus here. He’s proud of the fact that Shua Shack, one of the resort’s restaurants specialising in authentic Arabic cuisine, has often been described as one of the best in the culinary world for the variety, taste, and simplicity in the preparations. In fact, Chef Stevie even stated that he’s not one for anything complex or “technical wizardry”. He wants Zighy Bay to be known for its food being as delicious as possible, and luckily, he’s part of a team of global culinary specialists who all know how to play to their strengths.
It’s not about having just one signature dish—it’s all about The Experience here.
And the ultimate dining experience can be found at Sense on the Edge, the mountaintop restaurant with an array of tasting menus served against a stunningly scenic backdrop. Here you’ll find Chef de Cuisine Ron McKinlay, who trained under Michelin-star Chef Tom Kitchin, ran the kitchen at two hats Melbourne restaurant Saint Crispin, and also worked at Estelle Bar and Kitchen (also in Australia) under Chefs Scott Pickett and Joe Grbac.
You can choose the 3, 5, 7, or 9-course tasting menus, with the freedom to mix and match. If you really want to heighten the experience and up the romance factor, go for the private table up a flight of stairs (never mind the poor server who has to go up and down those steps all night!).
Chef McKinlay’s global experience and talent come out in the menu, with dishes such as goat tartare with kabsa spice, goat cheese, beetroot, horseradish, and charcoal, and milk-fed lamb with caramelised yogurt, aubergine, basil, and whipped ricotta. This is the kind of place where all of your senses will be stimulated and delighted.
For more foodie delights, head to Summer House, where we enjoyed lunch both days, or Spice Market, the main restaurant with a Middle Eastern menu.
Treat Yo’ Self…At The Spa
The harmony that co-exists between the property, nature, and oneself is seamless and you can see how and why Six Senses is the market leader in wellness.
Rosalin Lau is Zighy Bay’s Director of Spa and Wellness and has a global career background includes the Ritz-Carlton DIFC in Dubai. The resort had been on her radar for a number of years and when she was given the opportunity to join the team, she jumped at the chance.
She said: “Years ago, I came across an article on how they took great lengths and changed the entire floor in order to protect and keep an ancient tree when building a new resort. I remembered I was in awe on the level of commitment Six Senses being a sustainable hospitality company by protecting and respecting the nature.”
Now that Rosalin is the one selecting therapists to join the team, she focuses as much on their enthusiasm and dedication as she does on them being internationally trained and certified. The therapists, after all, are the ones who really contribute to the success of a spa.
The resort and spa take a layered approach to wellness with treatments that go beyond the ordinary. Science and technology are woven together with holistic treatments to create personalised paths to reach the full potential of the mind and body. There are 11 therapy rooms (including two hammams) and they use face and body products by The Organic Pharmacy and Subtle Energies.
The Six Senses Signature Treatment is comprised of five types of massages (deep tissue, detox energizer, holistic, oriental) and the well-trained spa team will recommend one based on what you’d like to get out of your treatment. Pra being Pra, however, I opted for my favourite and general go-to—a relaxing Balinese massage (high five to Wayan who took fab care of me!).
With a huge assortment of treatments ranging from Foot Acupressure and the Bamboo Massage to the Prestige Collagen Facial and Green Coffee Body Sculpting, you won’t be disappointed. Couples might enjoy the Zighy Romance, which includes a bath, massage, and facial, and is accompanied by sparkling wine and chocolate!
The group also commits to hosting renowned visiting practitioners from all around the world, such as Sommai Phokamnerd from Thailand, a holistic therapist whose expertise includes the healing power of Tibetan Singing Bowls, and Dr. Gopal Govindasamy, a naturopathic doctor and yoga expert who specialises in Ayurveda.
The Six Senses Integrated Wellness program, which includes a full wellness screening, can take your experience to the next level. Here you’ll get a top-to-bottom report on all of your health stats, from the standard BMI and blood pressure to stress levels and oxygen distribution, along with advice on how to improve your fitness.
I was weighed and measured by Anil, the resident wellness manager, who hooked me up to some advanced equipment with metal plates and wires that delivered results on everything from BMI to stress levels, oxygen distribution to metabolism. Anil then took all of this info and gave me some super advice on the things I could improve. Resort guests can also get a personalised plan based on great things to eat and do so that you walk away from your trip feeling refreshed but not deprived. I loved how closely the spa, wellness, and food teams worked together for the benefit of the guests.
There’s also an upcoming initiative called the Six Senses Sleep Program which will include a consult with a Sleep Ambassador regarding your sleep patterns. A sleep tracker placed under your sheet provides feedback on your sleep so that your SA (Sleep Ambassador) can then assess and analyse the data to help you get better quality sleep. It starts at €150 for the first night (and €27 for the 2nd night onwards) which is a drop in the bucket if it means helping you get better zzz’s!
Whatever your definition of fun and relaxation, Six Senses is sure to have something that will fit the bill. I conquered my fear of heights on a mind-blowing paraglide that started 500 metres up and took me over the craggy cliffs and stunningly blue waters of Zighy Bay. It was both soothing and exhilarating and worth every heart-pounding second. Name a water sport you want to do and they’ll have it, along with cooking classes, sunset kayaking, and microlight flights. Don’t hold back—have a Zighy Experience!
Six Senses Zighy Bay is pure, natural hedonism at its finest and the only way to truly understand this is to simply pay them a visit.
P.O. Box 212
Dibba Bayeh, Oman