Last Monday afternoon one of my colleagues and I left the office a little early and went down James Gichuru Road to feed some fish. Now, not in the ordinary sense of feeding, you’ll understand, like scattering powdered fish-food by hand. No, it was a matter of dangling our feet in a tank of water and letting the fish nibble away at the dead skin.
My feet certainly needed a treat, after a few weeks recovering from a hip operation, which meant they had to cope with weakened thigh muscles and wobbly legs, adjust to the competition of a crutch, and being encased in tight elastic stockings to prevent ungainly swelling.
Not that I was quite sure the experience would actually be a treat – despite the enthusiasm and assurances of another colleague who had done the thing a few weeks ago. I mean, wouldn’t it be very ticklish – and what’s the guarantee that the fish wouldn’t have a go at the non-dead skin?
No; as Shakespeare said in one of his plays, present fears are less than horrible imaginings. Ticklish, yes; but only slightly so – and actually it was a very pleasant sensation when I learnt to sit back and enjoy it. And the risk of the fish being too hungry or too adventurous? No, Evans, who attended me so expertly, assured me confidently that it never happens. These Garra rufa or ‘doctor fish’ are no piranhas; anyway, they are very small – the size of minnows and at most about three centimetres long.
There are fish spas all over the world now, especially in South-East Asia but they have also grown in popularity in Europe. The toothless Garra rufa are also known in some places as nibble fish, because they suck and gently nibble away at the dead and also dry skin. They are called doctor fish because they are credited with leaving your feet not only refreshed but also healthier.
But I have raced on without telling you what this place is and where it is. The Euphoria Fish Spa is the name, and it is on the slip road at the Gitanga Road end of James Gichuru Road and next to La Palanka restaurant. It’s been there since January of this year.
And it is much more than a fish spa. It provides numerous massage therapies, body waxing and mud-mask treatment, manicures, pedicures and facials. It offers steam sauna therapy, which promises a powerful relaxation, healing and (I must go back for this) rejuvenating experience. It is also a hair dressing salon and a barber shop.
The setting is good, too. It occupies a large, many-roomed house and spills over into a very pleasant garden. The equipment is high-tech; the decor is high-end – but somehow the place has an ambiance that is welcoming, informal and comfortable. Maybe this is down to the enthusiasm and friendliness of the staff.
… But back to the fish therapy. The dangling of your feet in the water and the nibbling of the fish lasts for thirty minutes. Oh, I should have said that before this your feet are carefully washed, while you are gently pummelled and stroked in a massage chair. And afterwards you have a choice of a foot massage or a pedicure. The skin the fish have reached is left as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
The prices at Euphoria are very reasonable. For the ‘full natural fish pedicure’ (what my colleague had) the cost is Ksh.2,500; the ‘express fish pedicure’ (what I had) is Ksh.1,500. A ‘whole holistic’ massage is Ksh.3,500; a ‘truly, deeply, madly’ one (I must try that) is Ksh.4,000. Mind you, there are also some packages; the most expensive, the Euphoria Cloud 9 is Ksh.16,000. For that you get the Matis rebalancing facial, full body wrap, Thai herbal massage, and a full steam sauna. I guess, after all that, you really do feel born again – at least in a physical sense.