Zighy Bay

<em>Time Out</em> handglides into Oman’s Six Senses resort at Zighy Bay to discover eco-aware luxury and goats

The Knowledge

Paragliding down to a luxurious hotel from a craggy mountain top, landing windswept, slightly dishevelled and cool as a shaken martini. It’s all a bit James Bond, isn’t it?

But that’s exactly how some guests arrive to the Six Senses Hideaway Resort, at Zighy Bay on the Musandam Peninsula.

You don’t have to paraglide, but it’s a fitting entrance, as are the two alternative transport modes: a speedboat from Dibba, and for the less adventurous, a voyage across the mountains in a BMW 4x4. And, if you have your own yacht, plans for a marina are underway.

It may sound over the top, but Zighy Bay is movie star material. Wedged in a secluded cove and hidden behind the peaks of the Al Hajar mountains, it’s not hard to imagine a bikini-clad Ursula Andress striding out of the ocean towards one of the beachfront villas. Or Halle Berry, depending on your taste in Bond babes.

The resort is so exclusive, it even created its own time zone – one hour ahead of Oman and the UAE. Though putting the clock forward doesn’t really make sense to me as we sit in the foyer, sipping fruit juice and trying to shake the memory of Sheikh Zayed Road traffic. ‘Doesn’t it just mean we lose an hour?’ I ask the receptionist, puzzled and slightly peeved. She smiles sweetly and tells me that the resort created ‘Zighy Time’ – an MC Hammer-esque moniker – to ensure guests enjoy a maximum amount of sunlight and rest during their stay.

I still can’t grasp it, and never do, but my mutterings are quickly dispelled when we meet our beaming butler Fayez, dressed in a crisp cotton tunic.

‘Welcome to Zighy Bay,’ he says, with a grand sweep of his arm. ‘I am your butler Fayez. If there’s anything you need, you can call me anytime.’

He escorts us to the back of a golf buggy and we set off, whizzing across sandy, date palm-lined pathways to our villa – smack bang on the beach and equipped with its own infinity pool.

Despite the megastar entrance, private butler, infinity pools, personal espresso machines, world class Six Senses spa, (this list could go on) the resort is actually all about understated and eco-savvy luxury.

Fashioned to resemble a traditional Omani village, each of the 82 villas is rustic chic – think chunky wooden furniture, rattan baskets, and, somewhat disappointingly for product junkies, no bottles of plastic toiletries – only solid stone jars filled with shampoo and conditioner (to minimise waste, naturally).

Our villa has not one but two outdoor showers and, adjacent to the infinity pool there’s a daybed overlooking the beachfront and sparkling Strait of Hormuz. It’s all blissfully beautiful. And very, very Bond.

Of course Bond wouldn’t stay in our villa, which is a little too close to our holidaying neighbour and his rasping cough. Bond would choose an extra special, 3,000-sq m Private Reserve villa – splashing around with his femme du jour in the oversized infinity pool, indulging in a couple of massages in the attached spa treatment room and summoning his live-in butler to mix up a martini. After some more pampering at the mountain-top Six Senses spa (perhaps a men’s facial with flower essences and plant extracts?), his butler could arrange any number of ways to explore the coastline or mountain villages in a dhow or a Hummer, but Bond could just as easily launch off the beach in a rocket propelled backpack. Or perhaps make do with Zighy’s preferred mode of transport: his and her bikes.

There are two parked outside each villa, and we take them for a spin the next morning, pedalling along the sandy pathways, past two Omani men who smile and wave as they rake the sand into a more agreeable state.

We finish up our morning on the beach. We’ve been gazing at the water for some time when we notice the first goat. It wanders past, brazenly nibbling at some grass near our feet before meandering over to the pool area. We watch in disbelief as it trots boldly past the two sand-rakers, who don’t even seem to mind.

It’s yet another example of how Zighy Bay is different. There are goats – many of them. And they are allowed to roam the resort freely, chewing on grass undisturbed. In fact, upon checking out, guests are required to fill in a questionnaire that asks, with deadpan sincerity, ‘How were the goats?’

For a five-star resort it’s a pleasant surprise and it shows just how the owners value their host country. They accept furry, four-legged Omanis. They preserve the local environment. They source local craftsmen and materials, and they respect their neighbours – a local Omani fishing village, nestled down one end of the beach.

Of course there is the question of whether the villagers wanted a hotel next to their previously undisturbed settlement. But at least there is some attempt to straddle the great divide between luxury and environmental harmony. Bond would almost certainly approve of the luxury part of the deal, and the goats seem happy enough with their lot in life.

Six Senses Hideaway

From January up until May 10 (excluding Easter period April 5-12) Six Senses Hide-away Zighy Bay is offering a two-night stay for the price of one for all GCC residents. Terms and conditions apply, and residence card needs to be shown upon arrival.

Getting There: Take Emirates Road towards Ras Al Khaimah.

Take exit 119 and drive east towards Dibba. Go straight through the RAKDhaid Road roundabout and follow the road leading up to the mountains.

Upon reaching Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Road, turn left at the first round-about, leading to the Oman border post.

Follow directions to the Sultan Qaboos mosque and look out for signposts to Zighy Bay. Then, relax, and soak up your few days of Zighy.

Zighy Bay, Musandam Peninsula, Sultanate of Oman Tel: +968 2673 5555, Fax: +968 2673 5887 Email: reservations-zighy@sixsenses.com, www.sixsenses.com

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