I travelled to Crete with a friend who just happened to have a birthday whilst we were there. To celebrate she decided to get her feet eaten by fish. I have some weird friends.
There were a few places around Chania where, those so inclined, could pay to sit with their feet dangling in a fish tank and let the fish chew (or rather suck) the dead skin from their feet. I’ve seen these fish spas popping up all over the place in recent years as the experience is considered to be a spa treatment rather than a ghoulish way of serving breakfast to Goldie.
Up until the last moment I ummed and ahhed over whether to join her in being breakfast or settling for being food photographer. I always like the idea of trying something new, but usually shy away from anything involving my feet as they are SO ticklish.
In the end, I couldn’t resist trying and slipped off my shoes and rolled up my trouser legs. My lower legs and feet were soaped up and hosed down before I was sat on a bench with a gaping fish tank in lieu of a footstool.
|I was supposed to let them settle on my feet, not kick them away|
The fish, which are all freshwater fish imported from a river in Thailand, knew breakfast was about to be served and, piranha like, caused a mini-riot at the surface. I gingerly lowered my feet into the frenzy and squealed as a dozen or so tiny mouths started to pluck at my flesh with the sensation of couple of dozen mini electric hammer drills. At least this is what I imagine a wall must feel like when a hammer drill is used on it. I likened the feeling to a constant vibration; my friend to a series of tiny electric shocks.
Regardless of whether it was more akin to vibration or electrocution, it was definitely ticklish. Really ticklish. I struggled to hold my feet still, sometimes involuntarily kicking out to dislodge the fish. When the timer rang at the end of 15 minutes, I thankfully lifted my feet out making sure no fish were still attached. My non-ticklish friend opted to stay in for another 15 minutes and seemed to find the whole experience quite relaxing. Which I suppose is part of the point of a spa treatment. She was quite impressed with the results too, feeling her feet to be a lot softer afterwards.
I didn’t have much dry skin on my feet to start with and as I spent more time kicking the fish off than letting them do their job, I really didn’t notice any difference.
The fish used are garra rufa, also known as ‘doctor fish’. As well as sloughing off dead skin, the fish secrete an enzyme in their saliva (diathanol) which is thought to help heal skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. On the downside, concerns are sometimes raised about the hygiene levels of these salons (water is not changed between customers and additives such as chlorine can’t be used because they would harm the fish). It is also thought that there is a very slight chance of the fish passing on HIV or hepatitis, though there is no evidence for this. It is advised that if you have open wounds you pass on this treatment. The salon we chose seemed very clean and our legs were checked for cuts. The therapist found a tiny cut on my friend’s leg (so tiny she hadn’t noticed it herself) and this was covered with a plaster so the fish couldn’t get to it.
Another concern of course, is for the welfare of the fish. I was worried that the sunscreen I’d applied to my legs wouldn’t be good for them, and so was pleased with how well my legs and feet were washed before they were allowed into the tank.
We went to Doctor Fish and paid €10 for the first 15 minutes and €9 for the second 15 minutes.