Are you ticklish?
I sure am. Somedays you only have to brush my arm and I’m in hysterics. Getting my fert massaged requires immense self control to not kick my therapist in the face. This being the case, the last place I ever though I’d find my feet was in an aquarium being nibbled by little fish.
A fish pedicure begins with the client’s feet being submerged in an aquarium with garra fish, sometimes known as ‘doctor fish’ so they can nibble at their feet to remove dead skin cells. A typical pedicure then follows.
The red garra are fresh water fish native to parts of Western Asia.
My travel buddy and I were exploring Sanur, Bali and came across Hardy’s, a department store similar to Big W or Kmart. After a bit of window shopping we were about to leave when my friend spied a large, retangular aquarium surrounded on 2 sides by lounges. “It’s the pedicure fish!”
So we wandered over to have a look. The aquarium was about a metre long and and about half a metre deep and filled with little fish. Pretty soon we were shoeless and sitting on one of the couches surrounding the aquarium having our feet cleaned by the shop owner. She just used plain water and a wash cloth. Once our feet were clean she directed us to turn around and put our feet in the water.
My friend proceeded to do this immediately with no problwm. I, on the other hand, felt thw hysteria begin to rise in my chest, anticipating the tickling sensation that was sure to come. I lowered the tips of my heels into the water and immediately felt the fish begin to nibble. It felt like hundreds of tiny bubbles bursting against my skin. Shriek-laughing I yanked my feet out of the water.
Giggling hysterically I lowered my heels back into the water, my bidy shaking with the effort it took me keep my feet in the water. The giggling continued but was joined by those of the shop owner and her employees as they enjoyed my reaction. Clearly I was the afternoon entertainment!
“Are you ready to lower your feet a bit more now?” My friend asked. With her hand providing steady pressure my feet were slowly lowered and completely submerged in the water. My laughter continued as the fish began to move between my toes and up my shins.
After about 15minutes the shop owner asked us to withdraw our feet from the tank so she could dry them. She offered us pedicures and hair braiding at an extra cost which we declined in favour of making it back to our hotel in time for happy hour.
This wasn’t an original item on my bucket list and wasn’t something I’d planned to do while I was in Bali. It was one of those opportunistic experiences, and it was only after I’d taken my feet out of the water that I did a bit of research about this beauty treatment. I discovered that fish pedicures have been banned in multiple European countries and US states on account of various health and animal cruelty concerns. This certainly set off my anxiety whed I came across PETA headlines such as “Woman had toes amputated after fish pedicure.”
Would I do this again? Probably not. Upon reflection I have some concerns about the health and treatment of these fish. There wasn’t anything in the tank to provide the fish with any sort of stimulation besides our feet, and I don’t know if those fish lived in that specific aquarium all the of their lifenor if they were rotated out. Throw in the fact that I’m a slight hypercondriact and anxiety abounds.
While I have my own questions and concerns about this experience, I certainly won’t judge you if you decide to give it a try. I would only recommend that you do your research before hand and make an informed decision.
Location: There are many fish pedicure salons down the streets of sanur away from the beach.
Price: Expect to pay 50,000 IDR for the fish experience and between 60,000 and 100,000 for a pedicure.
You need to bring: Clean feet. Even though your feet will be cleaned before you put your feet in the tank, don’t put any sunscreen, lotions or massage oil on your feet and legs before you go if you can help it.
Have you had a fish pedicure before or is it on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below.