|Python wrap for weary bodies
Lying on a massage table at a spa in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, Feri Tilukay closed his eyes and smiled as three large snakes slithered all over him.
He is one of a small band of customers brave enough to try the “snake massage,’’ where the gentle hands of a professionally trained masseuse are swapped for the cold, scaly skin of 1.8-meter pythons.
“It is a very unique sensation,'' Tilukay, 31, told AFP, adding the treatment “gives you an adrenaline rush.’’
Dressed only in a pair of shorts, he seemed completely relaxed as three reptiles named Jasmine, Muscle and Brown got to work on him.
They draped themselves over his neck, rolled around on his stomach and back and occasionally arched their necks and stuck out their forked tongues.
Two masseuses also attended the session to ensure safety and to encourage the snakes – whose mouths are kept shut with sticky tape – to move around, making sure they didn't just coil up and stay put in one spot.
Before the 90-minute treatment, which costs 480,000 rupiah (US$43), the snakes are taken out of the plastic boxes where they are kept and cleaned with anti-septic.
While many people who get the massage at the center, called Bali Heritage Reflexology and Spa, are thrill seekers or just looking for a new experience, a handful, like Tilukay, are trying to get over a life-long fear of snakes.
“I used to be afraid of snakes, I had a phobia. But after getting this treatment several times, the phobia started going away and now I like snakes,'' said Tilukay, an accountant, who has had three of the sessions.
Most customers are from Europe, Japan or South Korea, according to spa general manager Paulus Abraham.
The spa has five snakes fed on live rabbits.
The snake massage is just one of 300 treatments offered by the center – and many others are equally off-the-wall.
In one a staff member dressed in a gorilla suit performs a massage and in another, the customer sits in a bathtub of beer receiving a massage while enjoying a Lager.
However, animal rights groups have raised concerns. The Jakarta Animal Aid Network describes the snakes massage as “exploitation.’’
“We are angry to hear about any kind of animal exploitation, including snakes,'' group spokesman Benvika told AFP.