The Luxury Brand Putting the Planet and People Before Profits: Six Senses Zighy Bay

Sustainability and Travel

The more we travel, the more we see travellers of all types and budgets uniting together through one common desire - to explore our beautiful planet consciously and with care. In the past, you hardly ever heard the words “luxury” and “sustainability” uttered in the same breath. Instead, you might have been labeled a “tree hugger” if you professed to being green or eco-conscious.

But caring about the way we travel and how that impacts the earth shouldn’t pigeon-hole us into some old stereotype.

The Caviar Spoon ReBelle is making big moves towards focusing on brands and people who are making efforts to seamlessly mesh sustainability with luxury because there’s no reason why those two worlds can’t exist together. Not only will we look at it from the consumer’s side but we’ll also share insights from a business perspective because, believe it or not, you can still be profitable and of a luxury calibre whilst practicing sustainability!

And don’t just take our word for it. Harvard Business Review reported that 64% of people base their loyalty on shared values with a brand. Of course, that also means walking the walk and talking the talk to garner that loyalty…which is where Six Senses comes in because they are nailing it in the sustainable luxury realm.

So on that note, we’d like to round up all our travel-loving #rebelleboss humans who wish to lap up luxury whilst giving the planet one big bear hug and introduce you to Six Senses!

About Six Senses

The Six Senses brand has always been one of our favourites so when the team invited me back to Oman 2.5 years later, there was zero hesitation apart from wondering how the recent IHG take-over would affect the uniqueness of what the brand has built up over the years.

I had already had the most electrifying conversation with Nikhil Mohan, the Marketing Head, who reeled off the initiatives that had been implemented since the last time I had visited. That alone was enough for me to move my diaries and for Anna to do the same - we weren’t going to miss out on this chance to see the sustainable side of Six Senses with our own eyes. (You can read all about the gorgeous property in our latest review here!)

Pra and Anna Royall-Smith with Marketing Head Nikhil Mohan

Pra and Anna Royall-Smith with Marketing Head Nikhil Mohan

Sustainable Tourism: What You Should Know

We’re here to talk travel, not business, but the renewed energy in the sustainable tourism movement is inspiring and the initiatives being put into action are quite compelling.

If you want to go down the rabbit hole, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recently published “Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals – Journey to 2030”, which outlines how tourism stakeholders (everyone from governments to the private sector) can help contribute to a more sustainable future in tourism.

The long and short of it is, we all need to work together to support the tourism economy given the numbers of people travelling domestically and internationally each year are on the rise. As travellers, we have the power to show how desirable sustainable travel is across the board. And those tourism stakeholders mentioned above have the chance to make significant impacts, from creating more jobs to protecting the environment through to empowering local communities.

Let’s say a business chooses to replace plastic straws with paper ones. It might seem like a drop in the ocean from the outside but up in corporate, you can bet there were months of number-crunching and debates before that decision was put into action. After all, it’s likely going to put a significant ding in the annual budget. But if we show we’re still willing to spend the money and support the brand (perhaps even more so because of that tiny change), that little drop becomes a ripple which becomes a wave.

Which brings us back to Six Senses Zighy Bay. Sustainable travel in countries such as New Zealand, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, and Norway are the norm…but how does that translate in the usually over-the-top GCC?

With superstar Sustainability Manager Nachiketa Tuteja at the Earth Lab

With superstar Sustainability Manager Nachiketa Tuteja at the Earth Lab

Sustainability at Six Senses

Hands down, Six Senses Zighy Bay is an incredible retreat for those seeking quiet luxury. You’re isolated with the mountains on one side, a pristine blue ocean on the other, and layers of top-notch service and five-star amenities in between. It’s truly one of the shining stars in this region that makes me want to come back again and again. (You can read more about the leisure side here.)

But although the leisure side of Six Senses was an attractive lure, it was Nikhil’s excitement about their sustainability initiatives that really drew me back.

Soon after Anna and I paraglided in and settled into our villa (and did a proper swooning over the space), we embarked on a tour that revealed how committed they are to sustainability. The Six Senses brand isn’t phoning it in with surface-level actions that look good on paper but don’t do much else. The entire brand has been built around taking care of the planet and its people…not simply raking in the profits.

Stop 1: The Organic Garden

Before you get too cosy in your villa, coax yourself out because it would be dire for you to not spend a couple of hours experiencing what the 400+ strong SSZB team are doing. Just throw on some shorts, jump on your bicycle (or ask your GEM to pick you up in a buggy), and start exploring the property.

Our first stop was the Organic Garden. With Nikhil leading the way, we wound our way through produce of every shape, size, and colour. Anna and I walked around plucking lemongrass and mint leaves, attempting to lift a massive 15 kg calabash, warily eyeing oversized chilis, and drooling over the freshest, plumpest tomatoes. In between these moments, Nikhil explained they try to grow as much as possible within the Bay and source locally for everything else, keeping it within a 3-hour flight to ensure maximum freshness.

It was incredible seeing firsthand what a bit of sweat, dedication, and patience can create. If there’s anyone who still believes you can’t grow fresh produce in the UAE or that everything has to be imported, get over to Zighy Bay ASAP for some inspiration.

And just to show there really are no pesticides used on the property, Omani bees also call Zighy Bay their home. These special bees, known to produce some of the best honey in the world, prefer plants like basil and chili rather than regular flowers, and they wouldn’t be around here if there were any chemicals present. (By the way, the honey is absolutely delicious with a unique taste - keep an eye out for it at breakfast.)

Knowing exactly where your food is coming from makes a huge difference in how you enjoy your meals…which may be why I had no problem enjoying extra helpings of the homemade ice cream, made with fresh cows milk from the farm.

With Chef James Knight-Pacheco

With Chef James Knight-Pacheco

Stop 2: The Farm

As we stopped in to learn more about the farm, Executive Chef James Knight-Pacheco was bursting to tell us more about the farmland, which has expanded to 6.2 acres over the years. When he first arrived in 2012, the property had fresh figs, pomegranates, limes, cabbages - nice but nowhere near what was needed. Today, there’s a huge farm which, at only 2.5 years old, has Jersey cows and goats producing enough milk for SSZB’s divine farm cheese and ice cream, and chickens popping out the freshest eggs. Also, since we’re talking about animals, don’t forget to stop in and say hi to the family of camels on the grounds!

James explained the time and strategy behind the farm’s efficiency. It’s not about buying seeds, throwing them in the ground, and simply hoping for the best. It takes time to understand the soil, learning what can and can’t be grown, and allowing the ground to mature. The property has been around for 11 years now and although they may have harvested nearly 20 tonnes of dates this year, that hasn’t always been the case.

SSZB’s commitment to local foods goes beyond dairy and produce - they’ve switched from Canadian lobsters to Omani ones for the freshness and locality. They also get their oysters from the region’s first shellfish farm, which is about 15 minutes away by speedboat in Dibba Bay and run by Ramie Murray, who has dedicated the past few years to perfecting sustainable and environmentally-friendly oyster farming in the region. (These oysters are probably some of the largest ones I’ve ever seen!)

And because things come full circle at Six Senses, there is a composting machine which speeds up the compost process to help scale their growing initiatives. Normally, it would take 6-8 months to turn food and organic waste into compost but that’s now completed in 24-48 hours instead.

Luckily, all of this lovely food isn’t just there to be admired. You can embrace the farm-to-table lifestyle and pick your own farm breakfast. Grab a couple of eggs, herbs, tomatoes, and then the chefs will cook it up for you. This hit particularly close to home for me, having grown up on a farm, and it ticked so many boxes. As my grandmother would say, there’s no better taste than when you pick the food yourselves, whether from the ground or the chicken hut!

For all of you gourmands and home cooks who dream of becoming Master Chefs, here’s something for you: immersive cooking classes in Arabic, Thai, and Indian. James revealed they’ll be launching these classes soon, which will be broken down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced and include delicious pickings from the garden and farm offerings. In fact, you may even have the chance to pick your own produce! 

If you’re interested in staying up to date with this development, just email me here.

Stop 3: The Water Plant

What hotel actually has their own desalination plant?

Six Senses produces all of their own water for the property, so think about that when you’re taking a sip or a dip! From the bottles in your villa to the water stops all around the property, everything comes from the ocean. To take things further, instead of tossing all of that salt stripped during the desalination process, it’s used for the salt water pool (which is the only one in the GCC, by the way)!

Not a drop is wasted here and it’s amazing to see how much thought has been put into every single process.

Stop 4: Earth Lab

The Earth Lab is an exciting brand-wide initiative to support Six Sense’s zero-waste policy. This is the hub for the property’s recycling and repurposing. Anna and I were utterly blown away with the creative efforts! While a bulk of Zighy Bay’s Earth Lab is still in the process of being built, they already have a good start. Any glass that can’t be recycled, for example, is crushed and/or repurposed into new products. 

A Bombay Sapphire bottle, once its contents have been thoroughly enjoyed in a round of crisp G&Ts, might be turned into a Christmas star. And that wine you enjoyed with your sumptuous dinner at Sense on the Edge the other night? The bottle will be slumped down to create a unique cheese platter.

Beyond glass, Earth Lab is also where the spa and bath and body goodies are made. I spotted homemade soaps resembling cupcakes that look good enough to eat, as well as a range of other heavenly products to pamper yourself with. Just when you think you’ve discovered all of Six Senses sustainability secrets, you learn about something else and how it all ties together.

Word is they’re still working on a growth plan that will bring guests and children together. And, on the opposite end of that spectrum, is another huge development with the kids and teenagers clubs that will cleverly combine fun and education (and so you can conveniently get a bit of adult time).

CSR beyond the property

Six Senses also spreads their passion for sustainability to the surrounding areas through various social and environmental responsibility initiatives. Their efforts are varied and widespread, from supporting the local Dibba Girl's School, Sharjah Charity International and Sukarina bin Al Husain School, to working with local communities in the Musandam Peninsula and mainland Oman to protect the reefs, through to supporting local women by providing scholarships to the Dibba women’s association.

You can learn more about all the different ways Six Senses Zighy Bay is contributing to the sustainability movement here.

Six Senses Zighy Bay has the perfect balance of sustainability and luxury  (Swimwear by Jets; Jewellery by Denise Manning)

Six Senses Zighy Bay has the perfect balance of sustainability and luxury

(Swimwear by Jets; Jewellery by Denise Manning)

Final Thoughts

Six Senses could truly be the hospitality leader in beautifully melding together sustainable tourism with luxury. Being eco-conscious doesn’t mean giving up creature comforts for no-frills accommodations. Wanting to enjoy luxury doesn’t mean being wasteful or uninformed. 

The Caviar Spoon ReBelle gives them five (unofficial) gold stars for choosing to put the planet and people before straight profits. This is the future, folks. The savviest of travellers are looking at how they can enjoy luxuries whilst minimising their impact on the earth. If you’re a business that can deliver on this, you’re going to see just how positively impactful you can be while still being profitable.

Keep watching this space because The Caviar Spoon ReBelle is only just getting started. We have so much more to come on sustainable tourism!

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