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Dipping my toes into the ticklish fish foot massage trend

If you’re up for something quirky and a little fear-factor then try this: a freaky fish-eating foot massage.

Fish spa therapy or fish foot massage is the next big thing in the quest to make us young and smooth of skin and I was keen to dip my toe in the water, so to speak, and try it out.

But if you are ticklish, it will take all your will power to manage this. (See my video at the end of this post!)

What is a fish foot massage?

Fish foot massage is a unique and trendy spa treatment that originated in Turkey and is now popular all around the world. In this treatment, a small school of fish called Garra Rufa is used to nibble on the feet. These fish are also known as “doctor fish” because they feed on dead skin cells and leave the healthy ones untouched.

During the fish foot massage, you put your feet into a tank filled with water and let the fish do their work. The Garra Rufa fish eat the dead skin from the feet, leaving them soft and smooth. It’s a ticklish and relaxing experience that many people enjoy, but it may not be suitable for those who are too ticklish.

The reason why it’s called a ticklish torture is that many people can’t stop laughing and squirming during the treatment. This is what happened to my reporter friend Matty McLean. The sensation of the fish nibbling on the feet can be overwhelming and ticklish, but it’s also a fun and unique experience.

My first ticklish fish massage

Freaky fish foot spa!
Freaky fish foot spa!

My first time having this quirky spa treatment happened in Malaysia, at a reflexology site called Kenko Fish Spa.

Kenko Fish Spa is located in the Pavilion shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, so our little party trotted in and dutifully took our shoes off.

We then had to rinse our skin, so we didn’t poison the hundreds of fish who were swimming (more like swarming) around waiting for fresh meat.

I lowered my feet into the pool in trepidation and hundreds of the little tiddlers immediately swam up and started sucking and nibbling on my heels, toes, arches and up my legs.

It felt like the whirring wings of a thousand bees under my feet, and that was enough to make me shriek and flick them out again to regain regular breathing. Fortunately, a fish did not come flying off in the melee.

Between big fish and small fish

They have two pools here with different fish sizes. I started in the pool with little fish only like 2cm long before I was ready to take on the big boys.

It doesn’t hurt, but is incredibly ticklish and very weird. The larger pool has bigger fish who really get stuck in and even manage to get between your toes. But this is far better than my agonising foot massage experience in Hong Kong.

Sometimes it feels like little electric shocks. Occasionally it’ll sting like the flick of a rubber band, but mainly it’s just so weird and that’s the hardest part.

Of course, you can lift your feet out at any time. But I’d soo hate to try the full body fish spas. Imagine how tight you’d want the elastic on your togs to be?

They ate off my blister!!
They ate off my blisters!!

Doctor Fish background

A little about these fish: The Doctor Fish species were discovered originally in Turkey, nibbling at the dead and diseased skin of bathers. Hmm, thought some entrepreneurial person, I shall make them into a spa treatment for scaly feet!

It’s supposed to be great for psoriasis and eczema sufferers, but having just done it, I’d stick to the little baby ones.

Matty’s ticklish torture

Here’s my video of my poor old companion and TVNZ reporter Matty McLean finding the whole thing too hard to handle!!

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!