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Sustainability is at the heart of six senses’ spectacular zighy bay resort, and the result is a haven of restful relaxation for responsible travellers

We’re pretty fortunate in the UAE that, if we’re struck down with wanderlust, there’s no end of spectacular short-haul destinations to tempt us. From the Maldives to Sri Lanka, Goa to Greece, great beach options abound. Which only serves to make the fact we’ve found an all-time favourite just a two-hour drive from home all the more surprising.

To say Oman’s Six Senses Zighy Bay is stunning would be an understatement akin to saying Brad Pitt is a little bit handsome, or Meryl Streep a tad talented. It is truly breathtaking, the sort of place that makes resisting clichés a challenge. With its back to the craggy burnt orange rock of the Al Hajar Mountains and its front to an otherwise deserted white sand beach, it’s real Robinson Crusoe territory, and an early morning stroll on the sand is more likely to turn up a host of hermit crabs than another human for company.

Dedicated to helping its guests leave feeling boosted in both body and mind, at the same time leaving behind as small a footprint as possible, the resort takes the little details very seriously indeed, from the organic toiletries and recycled packaging on the bathroom amenities to the coconut shell ladles at every entrance for foot washing. Accomodation comprises a range of spectacular individual villas and a handful of larger houses, hewn from local rock so that at some angles they seem to blend into their backdrop. Inside the one bedroom retreats, understated elegance is the key – think bleached organic linens and carved local wood accessories – while the outside spaces further the desert island feel with orange-cushioned majlis areas, airy, rustic wooden summer houses, large decked dining areas and granite-lined private pools ideal for lounging in. If you’re happy to remain in your retreat – and frankly, who wouldn’t be – you’ll find there’s really no need to leave. A quick ring to your allocated experience manager can get you anything you need, from personalised pillow scent to a yoga mat, organic soup using veggies from the on-site garden or a massage. For the more adventurous, a host of private activity sessions can be arranged on demand. Want to parachute into resort? No problem. Take a microlight flight from the sands for a bird’s eye view of your villa? But of course. Snorkelling, cooking lessons, a full day of pampering at the spa? Done, done and done. The resort even has its own luxury dhow, available for overnight adventures, while for kids, there’s everything from evening movies to cookie making, via some very exciting sessions on what is possibly the world’s most idyllically-situated bungee trampoline.

All that said, for us, simply walking around the resort, or cycling on our provided bikes, was activity enough given the setting. Simply soaking up the views could fill hours. Our little boy loved chasing crabs up and down the beach, and did a sterling job searching for coral, while the staff patrolling the beach on regular clean-ups were more than happy to introduce the idea of environmentalism to even their littlest guests. The main pool, ideally situated next to the kids’ club, is as beautiful as any we’ve seen, while the salt water pool, which we had to ourselves on every visit, is something truly special.

At the end of the day, tired out by all that relaxation, the resort’s restaurant options maintain the exceptional standards set across the resort. Spice Market, the resort’s buffet restaurant and home to the delicious breakfast spread each day, hosts regular-themed dining events in the evening. We were particularly impressed with the seafood BBQ evening, which made the best possible use of a host of sustainably sourced sealife, with some regional classics such as shawarma and balila thrown in for good measure. Across the bridge, Summer House’s menu boasts a wealth of light and healthy organic options, many from the hotel’s own garden and farm, and flavours often lean towards Asia or the Mediterranean. Kids, too, are well catered for.

Luxury like this, it is safe to say, doesn’t come cheap – even by UAE standards, Zighy Bay is an expensive option. But as our three days ended, we were already debating opening an Oman-specific savings account, such is our desire to return. As relaxing and rejuvenating as a resort can get, picturesque and seriously responsible to boot, this is a Middle Eastern staycation well worth the spend.

Six Senses Zighy Bay, Dibba, Mussandam, Oman, from Dhs2850
per night, including local taxes. Tel: (0968) 26735555. Taxi: Six Senses Zighy Bay. sixsenses.com

DOING SOME GOOD

Everything you need to know about Six Senses’ environmentalism in Oman

How does Six Senses’ global sustainability focus translate on the ground in Oman…

Six Senses has embarked on an ambitious Zero Waste initiative across the company – it’s not a numerical target but rather a concept focused on waste prevention, and can be applied to any resource consumption such as energy, water and food. We also have very stringent reporting required for our energy usage, production and consumption, which forces us to be more aware of our impact towards the environment and our oceans and marine life.

What environmental initiatives do you have on site?

Lots of the produce we serve is grown either at our on-site organic garden or our own farm in Dibba. All of our organic waste is composted for use there, and we now have worms and bees to assist in both composting and pollination. We’ve launched an initiative to reduce collateral damage from net fishing locally, and have stringent sustainable sourcing practices in place for our seafood. We also run a number of in-house initiatives to reduce waste, from making our own salt to making our own scent essences for cold towels from what would be discarded citrus. We make our own water, bottled in glass, use only energy-efficient LED lighting, collect waste water from our showers and basins for irrigation, run our own waste water treatment plant, and all of our villas have been designed to make use of passive villa cooling. We also follow Green Fins environmental standards with all of our diving and snorkelling activities.

You also have a number of community outreach and charity initiatives. Who benefits and how?

We’ve worked closely with Zighy Village which, until very recently, didn’t have any road access. We run numerous programmes actively engaging the women in the souq, we are soon to restart English lessons for the children, and we assist with medical and educational expenses for the village children. We’ve even recently brought in board-certified cardiologists from Cleveland Clinic, Ohio to conduct health screenings for the community. In Dibba, we’ve conducted a number of volunteer and fundraising activities over the years, from putting in playgrounds to planting trees, and we support a number of needy local families through our partner Dar Al Atta’a, providing food supplies for the month of Ramadan and assisting female students at risk of leaving education due to limited financial resources. We also want to ensure our guests are aware of our outreach and can get involved, from buying the Zighy Goats displayed in our villas, with funds going to the Oman Association for the Disabled and Dibba Girls school, through to joining us in our efforts to collect marine debris and remove ghost nets from our shorelines.

How big a draw do you think the sustainable aspect of the resort is for guests?

In our experience, Six Senses clients make informed, conscious purchasing decisions based on their environmental beliefs. We are lucky to be a part of those decisions. Many guests who choose us are genuinely interested in the efforts we make towards sustainability, participate in environmental clean ups and or do them on their own, and notice the little things, like our room amenities. Thankfully, awareness is trendy now, but this has been at our core for a long time.

What are the next steps in improving your sustainable record?

Sustainability never ends, it’s a way of life, and there are always new projects, new investments and new causes. We have huge plans for the next two to four years to reduce our footprint further. We also have great expansion plans for the Dibba farm, and we are hoping to soon open our Earth lab to better demonstrate to guests the efforts we are making.

Tiffany McGrath is Zighy Bay’s sustainability champion