Zighy Bay is about three hours drive from Abu Dhabi, through the glittering Disneyland of Dubai and then on through some fairly flat and uninspiring desert terrain. Shortly before we reached the boundaries of this Six Senses enclave, we exchanged our BMW 7 series limousine for a chunky Range Rover, which gave us some indication of what was to come. An innocuous dirt track turned into a rocky switchback trail which suddenly crested, giving us a view of sparkling sapphire sea, a miniature marina, and within the protective semicircle of bone white cliffs where we now stood, a string of stone villas, date palms, and the odd wandering goat. This was Zighy Bay.
The resort provides for entry by 4WD, boat, or more adventurously, by paragliding in from the clifftop. My husband chose the paragliding option, and was duly strapped into his harness with a wiry instructor. Being a little over his fighting weight, he pronounced the trip “spectacular…..but short”.
The service, although warm and extremely welcoming, needed some polish. Staff seemed to be a little thin on the ground, and on departure, the credit processing facilities (or staff training) didn’t come up to scratch, resulting in our bill being processed numerous times by several different reception staff and managers over the course of half an hour or so. We had not been as generous with our transfer timing as we should have been and very nearly missed our flight.
For all that, we loved our time there. Our villa comprised a large sleeping and lounge area, and generous rustic-luxe bathroom, all timber and stone and muslin and linen. We stepped out onto a stone terrace fronting a small plunge pool, beyond that a large cube made of twigs open to one side and scattered with signature bright linen cushions to form a kind of bower, and beyond that the ivory sweep of beach. Each villa has wooden gates fronting the beach, presumably for privacy although the most common visitor to our patch of beachfront was an entirely unintimidated goat.
The beach, crowded by lunar cliffs, is spectactular but if you’re looking for the crystalline waters of the Maldives, or even our own glorious beaches in Australia, they are not here. There was a green algae bloom present during our visit, which although quite pretty and apparently harmless, wasn’t inviting to swim in.
We did get out on the ocean though, and the surrounding coastline was beautiful – rocky, wind sculpted cliffs in different striations. Those who were diving enjoyed it immensely, whilst I sat contentedly on the dive boat partly reading and partly watching a nearby colony of gannets. I looked up at one stage and saw the most amazing thing. A large shadow shot up vertically through the water, startling the gannets. After a moment of confusion at seeing a bird rocketing out of the water, I realized that that it wasn’t a bird at all. A huge black stingray had catapulted itself fully three metres out of the water. You don’t see that every day.
We arrived back at the resort in time for me to take in a cooking class with Chef Ali, learning how to make garlicky chicken shashliks, hommous with lemon, and a fantastic fattoush made with fresh herbs, tomatoes, lemon capsicum and pomegrante molasses. It remains a staple throughout barbecue season in our house. Chef Ali was organized, enthusiastic and a good teacher. When we left, he had sent to our villa a copy of the Six senses cookbook as a gift. Thoughtful and unexpected.
We left relaxed and, after a few days exploring the coastline both above and below the surface, with a new appreciation for a landscape we were quite unfamiliar with. Well worth a stop if you are in the area.