Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Thursday, Nov 29, 2007

Metro Plus Hyderabad

A piscine pedicure

The Fish Reflexology Spa at Sentosa is a whole new experience

A nibbling session and a 
massage for your feet

There’s a little Chinese girl in pigtails standing by my shoulder,
 staring fascinated at my feet. Every few minutes, she lets out a
squeal in which apprehension is mixed with delight. When I look
down at my feet, I see what the little girl sees, and I nearly let
out a squeak myself. My feet, you see, are being smothered by
 tiny little fish.

I am at the Underwater World Fish Reflexology Spa at Sentosa
 in Singapore, situated just next to the perennially popular Underwater
 World. The spa opened last winter and has grown in popularity by
 leaps and bounds. Tourists and spa-addicts alike come here for a
 wonderfully refreshing and oh-so-different feeling, before they head
 to gape at the hammerhead shark or touch a manta ray, next door.

It’s a lovely spa, this one, all blues and greys, with thick cream,
candles burning in wall alcoves, the low gurgling of water taking
the place of piped music, and glimpses of the well-manicured
vegetation of Sentosa Island from the big picture windows of the
 spa. Fish reflexology spas are very popular in China, the Koreas
and parts of Japan, and very soon, I realise just why. As the ad
goes: it’s different, it really is!

There are two shallow pools of water and I’m told to immerse my
 feet into the first, smaller one, after having washed them first.
 The moment my tootsies are in the water, dozens of little fish come
 swarming all over them, around the big toe, at my heels,
investigating my shin bone.

The contact is like a million infinitesimal pin pricks all over
your feet. Not unpleasant, just a bit startling. And soon, it actually
 starts to feel good.

The fish are the Turkish spa fish or garra rufa, also known as
 doctor fish, and they have been doing what they are doing,
since the 1950s. What they do is, basically, nibble at your feet,
 eating the dead skin, leaving the feet soft and clean as a newborn’s.
 Okay, this is a squeamish fact to absorb but when you see the
end result, it’s one great feeling, I promise you.

After about ten minutes of immersing your feet in the small
fish pool, it’s time to upgrade, to immerse one’s feet in the
larger pool. Here, the fish are bigger, and more aggressive,
 I’m told, albeit with a smile that makes light of my decidedly
apprehensive face.

These fish are African spa fish from east Africa. And yes, when
 they first make contact with your feet, you do feel a jolt… thank
 heavens the little Chinese girl has gone away, she’d have
screamed the place down. However, one gets used to this all
 too soon, and I realise this piscine lot is far more efficient at
 what they do than the minnow-like critters in the other pool.
 Here, it isn’t being kissed by fish; it’s a very definite
 nibbling session.

The session concludes with a 20-minute foot reflexology massage
 done by thorough geniuses who use generous lashings of
lemongrass oil infused with ginger. My feet are given a real
 work-out and all the kinks are coaxed out gently.

At the end of it, I am positively afloat on waves of well-being.
The spa also offers an additional 10-minute head and shoulder
 massage but I pass on that, for the time being. And when I finally
 walk out of the spa, I’m still floating.


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