Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 11/26/07 12:18 PM

Travel: Fish Reflexology Spa, Singapore


A piscine pedicure

The Fish Reflexology Spa at Sentosa is a whole new experience


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.

This ran in THE HINDU of 26 Nov 2007.

Related Links:

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Travel: The Singapore Flyer

Travel: Singapore Spas

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African spa fishfish reflexology spagarra rufaSentosaSingaporeUnderwater World Fish Reflexology Spa

Sheila Kumar • November 26, 2007

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