By Heather Rath
Many, many small fish attack my feet and feverishly nibble at my ankles, toes, and soles. I gaze into the tank of water into which my legs are dangling and watch with great interest, because the Dr. Fish attendant assures me the fish are only cleaning my feet. “There is nothing to worry about,” she says in English. “This is safe and hygienic and does not hurt.”
I am in Crete. Life appears to be more laid back here than in my home country of Canada, where a resort on the west coast was ordered to close down its fish cleaning spa on the basis of its being unsanitary.
Imagine my surprise when we landed in Crete and I came across many Dr. Fish spa treatments for both hands and feet. The Garra Rufa (a member of the carp family) fish cleaning craze has spread from the town of Kangal in Turkey, where the tiny fish live in hot springs. With a light sucking — they have no teeth — the tiny creatures remove the dead cells from your feet (or hands). At the same time they secrete diathanol, an enzyme that helps rejuvenate your skin.
Before entering the sterile water I must wash and dry my feet so as not to contaminate the tank and tiny fishes. I will do the same when my thirty minutes (about US$22) are up. Fascinated, I watch schools of these little fish attack my poor, weary, travel-tired feet. The tank faces the street and suddenly I am the center of attention as throngs of onlookers watch the frenzied feeding on my feet.
While the fish do their work I am transported back to a cool lake of my childhood where I could see minnows in the clear water. Sometimes, if I was quiet and still, the minnows would come to investigate my feet and I would feel light little nibbles. It is the same sensation from these throngs of little fish in Crete, half a world away.
The brochure claims that after only one session I will feel my legs relieved and relaxed. The fish supposedly trigger various acupuncture points on my legs “which balance the nervous system and help the circulation of blood.” Personally, I did not experience these benefits — but perhaps I need more treatments.
The brochure also claims that fish therapy is a favorite of celebrities like Rihanna, Naomi Campbell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakira, Johnny Depp, and more …
Well, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.
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