Yes, I did manage to make it rain in the desert again. This time round in Zighy Bay we had 1 overcast day and one night of actual rain. But I am told that, in fact, a few drippy days are common in February. Usually compared with the sleet and misery of a UK February half term that’s fine, but it seems like the UK was bathed in summer weather all week while we were away.
A few notes on Zighy Bay! For those who are curious.
Fly to Dubai, which takes about 7 hours. It’s closer to ZB than the capital of Oman, Muscat. The hotel driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you the two hours to the hotel across the border. The advantage of flying into Dubai is that there are a lot of flights and you can get them on air miles more readily than somewhere like, say, Cape Town.
Oman is four hours ahead of the UK. That just means when you are there you wake up and goes to bed very late. We more or less kept on UK time. Going back is less fun as it’s an eight hour flight back and when you arrive back you still have an awful lot of day to slog through.
Ha ha! THE WEATHER. See above. It’s spring-like, about 27 degrees and coolish at night – with occasional rain.
Who goes there
In the UK school holidays ZB is absolutely rammed to the beams with the dirty English posh. You know exactly who I mean. It’s you. It’s me. A little tubby round the edges, no flash clothes to speak of. Maybe a Do Do Bar Or dress if we’re feeling really racy. Kids in Boden. Yes, okay, you do not feel very adventurous holidaying side by side with your actual kin, but by gum it’s a lovely scene; everyone’s kids playing football, no-one snooty or stand-offish. Some nice man who seemed to be holding a baby for his entire holiday offered to take a cross-legged Sam to the loo at dinner one night when I was waiting in line for a lady to make my Thai pancakes.
Don’t hate me, okay, but it was sort of paradise.
Out of the UK school holidays there is a more blingy, international crowd who really like playing loud music on their phones while they eat. Also some older people – and couples with no kids. But that’s obvious, isn’t it.
Is sensational. SENSATIONAL, DO YOU HEAR? Breakfast is a massive buffet with stuff like ready-made bircher muesli in pots, a full fry-up if that’s your thing, exotic marsala omelettes, good pancakes and pastries for the kids. One morning Giles had a breakfast laksa, but he does things like that, you need not be so reckless.
You can have lunch in either the main restaurant or the bar, which is sort of standard European stuff and slightly less good – or over at the Beach Club you can get amazing Arabic mezze and these mini-Shawarmas. OMG. Endless chips for the kids. A lot of people go mad for the breakfast and then don’t eat again until dinner, which is a perfectly workable strategy.
Dinner is usually also a buffet – we were there for Asian night, Curry night and Arabic grill night and it was just knock-out, fall-down stunning. There were niche Pakistani dishes I’ve only ever heard tell of and the best Bao Buns this side of Soho. Sorry, I meant Taiwan. It is also easy to be super-healthy, with salads and turmeric juices everywhere you turn. You could probably be vegan for a week and not really notice.
There are three fully-stocked bars, the cocktails are insanely good and quick, there is free ice-cream all day. Sometimes they come round the pool with a juice at around 11am
The staff are fantastic: engaged and seemingly a genuinely happy team. There are millions of them.
What to do
Sunbathing and reading aside, there is a well-staffed kids club and a teenagers club with a full list of robust activities for all ages. You can also borrow a 4 or 2-man kayak and go for a paddle in the calm, clear sea, or do some terrifying-looking thing where you whizz about in the sky on a motorbike attached to a paragliding thing, which I would never do in a billion years but people claimed was fun. I there was also water skiing and a day out on a Dhow. And a “Crazy Couch” – whatever the hell that is.
There were also paddle boards, which looked quite easy as I didn’t see a single person fall off (and as you can imagine I live for stuff like people falling off paddle boards).
The beach is a mile long and really nice to swim in if you are a massive scaredy cat and a bad swimmer, like me.
What room to get
The hotel is small. At a guess, about 100 rooms – and when I say rooms they are more like bungalows. There are some that are actual two-storey houses. I suppose you could say that the rooms right on the beach are the best, but I was really happy with our little house set one row back. I guess I’d be less delighted with a room up in the 70s and 80s, which were quite out of the way next to the spa, but who am I kidding? I’ll take anything.
Each bungalow is open plan, with a bathroom at the back, a main bedroom in the middle and a living room, which can be converted to a kids room, at the front. Each room has its own terrace and good-sized plunge pool. We have stayed in room 55, which is right next to the main pool, (great if you have little kids who can’t walk far), or room 67, which was further along the beach, but made for a nice shady stroll up to breakfast. There are bikes supplied to get around.
There are mosquitoes, but not many and they do a pretty half-hearted job. There are anti-mosquito burning coils and insect repellant provided in the rooms. They also make their own Aloe Vera from plants in their organic garden for dabbing on sunburn and bites. Sam got two mysterious massive bites from something on his arm, but he always does, wherever we go. A lady got stung by a jellyfish on a swim and this Australian guy found a snake next to his plunge pool. He made it sound like it was no big deal – snakes never are to Australians – but I checked under all the beds and everywhere before turning in for the night for the rest of the stay. I am now going to have a panic attack about the time 20 years ago I think I went for a wee in the Outback and may or may not have turned to see what was possibly a huge snake slithering away in the undergrowth about three feet away.
Astronomical. We get special dispensation for all sorts of reasons, not least because it rained for the entire week we were there last time, but we were by no means on a free roll. I’m told you can get better rates if you book in advance but basically the extras may bankrupt you as food and booze are expensive and the OMR-GBP exchange rate is awful. Don’t even think about going to the boutique.
But I know that some of you are loaded and can well afford this place. (Occasionally I will be approached by a Spiker in the street and I am stunned at the diamonds and the hair-dos and the designer trainers.)
It’s silly to talk about “value” as what does that really mean, but if you are look for the perfect resort for February half term, flying from the UK, this is for you. A lot of you will be allergic to resort life and feel like the idea of a themed buffet and a daily changing cocktail of the day is naff beyond words and to you I say: do please enjoy your exotic walking holiday in Bhutan or your working break in a Nepalese Ashram. But, I think resorts – good resorts – have their place in the world. And If I had to design my dream beach resort, it would probably look a lot like Zighy Bay.
This is not a sponsored post or quid pro quo for the stay.
Click here to be directed to the Zighy Bay website.
As usual excellent , honest objective and another big word I can’t remember.
THERES NO NEED TO BE SARCASTIC NANA xxxx
This. Sounds. Lush. X
it is FAULTLESS
Really enjoyed reading that Esther – it sounds a really nice place.
I love your writing so much Esther. How I would love to sit by you watching people fall off their paddleboards while drinking a themed cocktail!
Claire Kay says
We went to Zighy Bay last Easter for a week and loved it. Weather was hot and sunny and no rain! Our children are slightly older (12 and 14) and great for them too. Agree with everything Esther says (natch). I also did the Pilates and Yoga classes at the spa which were fab (but no paddle boarding as would definitely have fallen in….).
This sounds dreamy. Elaine x
We are here right now (did see you at the end of last week but didn’t want to disturb you!)
Our second visit- we absolutely love it- but compared to Scott Dunn the kids club for little ones is pretty bad. However we learnt tonight they are building a huge new kids club area with water play etc etc. Will be ready by next September. Great news! Also recommend visiting and feeding the camels.
Oh and on rash vests (bit late I know) I cannot recommend the brand indikidual enough- small independent mum brand with really nice swim stuff.
Anita Johnson says
We went to Zighy Bay when it first opened -they were literally just planting the palm trees – they obviously grew! Just wondered, as the flight is into Dubai, do you also need a visa for Oman? We have been to Oman 8 or 9 times since then but have stayed at the Shangri la Barr al Jissah in Muscat (3 hotels in one ) absolutely brilliant, and the new airport in Muscat is absolutely amazing, (no long journey after the flight) the only downside of the pre holiday arrangements is the newly introduced Visa requirement ….. getting one is a positive nightmare, the police portal never seems to be at all straightforward – maybe this is what retirement does to one!! After reading your blog we may now return to Zighy Bay, but NOT in school holidays!
Anita that’s a good question – we didn’t seem to need a visa… how new is the visa requirement? This is terrible.
i think its two or three years ago, we used to get the visa at the airport on arrival (i think like Dubai – straight onto your passport) but now they require that you apply before travel – we have used the Travel Visa Company this year, paying them to do it for us – we just couldn’t cope!!! You definitely don’t need to do this for Zighy Bay (according to the internet at the moment anyway) Glad you all had such a great time.
Glad you had a good time. For anyone looking for something similar without the £££ I can really recommend the martinhal in sagres Portugal xx
Hi Anna Yes I have heard such great things about Martinhal! Can you say more about it? I find the website a little confusing, can you explain the layout and recommend the best place for a room?
Anna Walker says
Oh yes! There is the main hotel and villas in a variety of sizes, the two bed ocean view villas are lush. There are pools, a spa, loads of kid’s playgrounds. Out of season the kids club is free and you can get a good deal on half board. The food is really good, restaurant views lovely but the absolute best thing is that there are staff from the kids club to play with your kids while you eat! They have a table with toys, drawing etc so you can take your time over your meals while your kids play. Clientele is a mix of UK and European. Lots of hot Austrian dad’s baby wearing! It’s all quite chic and understated (to me anyway). I don’t know anyone who has only been there once! Out of season it’s about £1800 for a family of 4 half board which I think is v reasonable. Hope that helps xx