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Anniversary Getaway: Six Senses Zighy Bay

I recently had the pleasure of (finally) staying at Six Senses Zighy Bay. And by pleasure I mean my six-year anniversary with the boyfriend was approaching and I said, “what shall we do?” and he said, “don’t worry, I’ll think of something” and I replied, “sure, sounds good”. Then probably less than 30 minutes later, I said, “Nevermind, I’ll sort it” because internally I had already made the decision to stay at Zighy Bay days before.

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The resort preps for your pampering before you even arrive, asking you to fill out a guest profile, which lets them know all sorts of details, including what sort of pillows you would like (even bath pillows), how you’d like you pillow to smell (I chose chamomile), how you’d like your villa to smell (frankincense, please) and if you’re celebrating a special occasion during your stay. Once you arrive, you’re assigned a “GEM” (guest experience manager), who is there to help you with any whim that may come to mind.

The drive from Dubai is pretty easy, taking around two hours, and the entrance to the resort is only about 20 minutes from the Dibba border crossing (which UAE residents can only cross if they have a hotel booking; nationals and those on tourist visas can cross freely). Don’t wash your car before you go – the last bit of the drive is on a dusty track and your car will become filthy pretty fast. From the entry at the base of the mountain, you can decide to either leave your car in the (very cramped) parking lot or drive over the mountain to the beach on the other side yourself. For the latter you will require a SUV that’s fairly far off the ground. We almost drove ourselves but decided why not accept a hotel SUV? The drive up and over the mountain is really steep with a lot of hairpin turns and we were glad we decided against driving after getting on the road. Alternatively, you can arrive by paragliding from the mountaintop, or on a speedboat from a nearby port.

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The resort’s main pool (there is also a saltwater pool, which was being renovated during my visit). The bar is on the right, and the summer house restaurant is on the left.

Six Senses is known for its sustainable luxury resorts that compliment and blend into the local environment and community. The natural materials used to create the grounds and accommodation are locally sourced and result in a destination that is the very definition of “rustic luxe”. In Zighy Bay’s case, the all-villa resort resembles a traditional Omani village, each villa made from stone and wood, with private sand gardens shaded by date palms. 

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a sheltered majlis area in the villa’s garden

Even the “standard” accommodation is far from modest. A spacious villa is roughly separated into three spaces: a living room, bedroom and bathroom. A sound system is wired throughout and there’s even an outdoor shower in addition to your indoor one. The just-the-right-amount-of-plush bed was quite possibly the most comfortable one that I’ve ever slept in. But it’s the outdoor area that really impresses: a spacious terrace with plush sun loungers and a dining table lead to your private infinity plunge pool. Ours was L-shaped, with the shorter side being more shallow with a sloped end, perfect for lounging. The pool itself was nicely chilled, a plus considering it was around 105-degrees the weekend we were there. That being said, it was much less humid than Dubai, and the evening was surprisingly comfortable – we ate outside. Beyond the pool there’s a cushy seating area with a ceiling fan as well as an enclosed sort of outdoor majlis that was very cosy. All this is surrounded by tall walls made of wood and cobblestone for total privacy (if you’ve got a beachfront villa, one length of wooden walls opens up directly to the sea). Whimsical little touches were found around the villas, like a sliding “do not disturb” sign, a message jug at the front gate, ceramic pots with spoons to wash your feet at the front door and pool, and a doorbell (literally a bell) on a drawstring that ran from the front gate to inside the villa.

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villa interior

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outdoor shower

For the most part (okay, the entire part) the weekend was spent faffing about in the pool and lounging with a book. The Six Senses spas are some of the best, but I decided against any spa treatments this time around (I will be back, though, and will look forward to checking out the spa then). As it was Ramadan, the signature restaurant located atop the mountain, Sense On The Edge, was closed, which would have been nice to try – but then again I wasn’t hugely interested in getting out of my bathing suit and into real clothes (the bar area by the main pool was also closed due to the holy month). The in-villa dining was fantastic: an Arabic mixed grill of perfectly-cooked meats was a standout dish. Breakfast in Spice Market was pretty impressive, too. A selection of fresh, organic fruits, yogurts, juices and Arabic mezze was available along with an à la carte menu of breakfast items, like sautéed mushrooms and eggs on muffins. It was almost certainly the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever had.

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the “do not disturb” sign

As we dined, the villa received its evening turndown service, which included (I think because I had mentioned we were celebrating our anniversary on the guest profile?) lighting candles around the pool. It’s a really lovely way to spend an evening.

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Given the name of the resort, yes, there is a beach as well. It’s a nice little stretch of soft (albeit crab-inhabited) sand with the rocky peninsula’s walls on either end. To be honest, we didn’t really bother with the beach much. Between the fact we had a private pool and it was 100+ degrees (so that ruled out sea activities like kayaking, which we would have loved to do) we simply took an evening stroll down the stretch to see what it was like.

In the end, it was both one of the least active, but most enjoyable resort getaways I’ve ever done. I went in with high expectations that were completely exceeded. If I had to complain about anything it’s that they have photos of goats on their website, but I didn’t see any on the property except in the parking areas, and that was kind of disappointing. I was also hoping to see some cute cats, as I think I recall seeing, maybe on their social media feeds, that they try to find homes for the local strays (although, I guess it’s nice if the local strays have been homed)? All I saw were (lots) of crabs. Six Senses Zighy Bay is a total treat and one that pulls off incredible luxury in a sophisticated and surprisingly understated manner. The ostentatious luxury seen around much of the rest of the GCC could certainly take a tip or two from Six Senses, but I suppose the brand’s careful taste is what also makes it stand out as so excellent.

It’s going to be a stark contrast to the tent I’ll be setting up in during my trek in Turkey in a month’s time.

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the beach at Zighy Bay dotted with little hills of sand built by the burrowing crabs

On a completely unrelated note, the boyfriend is currently playing Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and the coat the main character wears is incredible. If any costumer feels like taking up the task of making that coat for me, that would be amazing, thanks. I promise, I would wear the shit out of that coat. Even in 115-degree heat.

For the full photo album, click here.

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Wild parrots! In my yard!

Technically they’re rose-ringed parakeets (males have a black ring around their neck; females, as in the photos here, do not have the ring). And they’re not native to this region (shock), and apparently not very welcome, but I am thrilled to have them as my guest!

I noticed them flying around my community several months ago – three of them – and from that very moment I knew that I just had to have them in my yard (I fully believe that every outdoor experience is better with parrots, peacocks, nachos, and bellinis). So, I invested in various bird items to make my yard more enticing and I did attract a lot of birds (warblers, finches, hoopoes, mynas (aka screaming birds), red vented bulbuls)…but never the parakeets.  Continue reading

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OTT Mykonos & sacred Delos

The day we were scheduled to leave Naxos for Mykonos, we woke up to to pretty strong winds and an angry sea. Conditions were rough, and our ferry arrived two hours late to the port. Apparently it was waiting for the wind and sea to calm down, which I don’t think it ever did. Pretty frustrating when the journey from Naxos to Mykonos was only supposed to last 30 minutes, but at least it wasn’t canceled entirely. We were on Sea Jet 2, a high-speed catamaran that fit less than 400 people, so much smaller than the ferries we had previously taken, and more susceptible to the motion of the ocean. And once we departed it was almost immediately apparent why it was so late/hesitant to arrive. As the thing jetted straight through waves and massive swells, it flew into the air, falling heavily on one hull then the next, people yelling as we crashed back onto the water. It did not exactly feel like a safe trip. Before long, passengers were pulling out their sick bags for a bit of a vom, and this lasted for the vast majority of the trip. Thankfully, I didn’t get sick, but I was torn as to how I felt about the journey. On the one hand, it was a bit frightening, but on the other hand it was super fun like an amusement park ride; in the end, I enjoyed it more than I didn’t. I had hoped that this windy weather would be a one-off thing (if for no other reason, it was killing my ability to make my hair look nice), but not the case. Mykonos proved very windy until the day we left to return to Dubai, so I’m not sure if it was a seasonal thing, or if we just had a bit of bad luck with the wind at the end.

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Crisp white and blue streets of Little Venice.

I was actually arriving to Mykonos with a bit of hesitation. Continue reading

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Naxos, the peaceful retreat

I don’t think I’ve ever felt like a caged beast more than I did while waiting in Santorini’s poorly-ventilated and overcrowded departures building in the ferry port. Hundreds (if not more) of people shoving themselves inside to escape the midday sun and wait for a ferry that would arrive to the port 15 minutes after we were scheduled to depart. It could be worse, I thought, as I figured we’d be hopping on to the ferry in a just a few minutes. Nope. We had to wait a further 45 minutes while the massive ferry heaved several hundred to a couple thousand people, and a long line of vehicles from its bowels. The ferry, the Blue Star Delos, was much larger than I was expecting (it fits 2,400 passengers and over 400 vehicles), but otherwise was more in line with what I was expecting from a ferry ride. Not a high speed catamaran as we’d previously taken, it would take about two hours to cover the less than 50 miles distance to Naxos. It was a much more enjoyable journey than the previous ferry however, as there was plenty of outdoor seating where you can relax and watch the neighboring islands pass by.

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Welcome to Naxos Chora!

Arrival in the ferry port deposits you directly in the island’s main town of Naxos Chora. The old town is watched over by the large 13th century Venetian Kastro (castle/fort) that sits at the apex of a small hill on which the old town district inhabits. Continue reading

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Santorini: a beautiful island to visit once

Our journey from Crete to Santorini was to be via ferry, and I was looking forward to it. As I would discover, each ferry ride would be quite different from the others. In this case, we were on a large (800 person) high-speed catamaran, the creatively-named “Highspeed 5” from Hellenic Seaways. This high speed ferry would get us from Heraklion, Crete to Santorini in just under two hours. I was expecting to waltz around the boat and look outside, etc., but I was wrong. This was not terribly different from a plane ride in that we were basically stuck in our seats, away from windows, with no access to the outdoors (I was thinking/hoping there would be outdoor seating). So it was a pretty dull two hours, and there’s not much to be said for it. The people watching was OK.

Brown Santorini (and the town of Oia).

Brown Santorini (and the town of Oia).

Upon arrival in Santorini, I wasn’t sure what to think. Continue reading