What it’s all about?
Hydrothermal therapy is anything beneficial that involves water and heat: almost every world culture in history has splashed around in hot and cold water in the hope of rejuvenation and detoxification. The Greeks were at it in the fifth century BC, the Japanese started it even earlier and Islamic cultures have enjoyed it for millennia.
Dubai may be chock-full of luxury hammams and saunas, but the new Banyan Tree resort in Ras Al Khaimah now has a USP: the UAE’s first hydrothermal circuit. Unlike your usual exercise circuits involving endless push-ups and squats, ‘The Rainforest’, as they call it (despite there being no trees in sight) is a calming space dedicated to hydrothermal healing and relaxing.The experience involves different ‘stations’ (we counted 16) and takes about 90 minutes in total, with each numbered station offering a different water-based treatment. Here’s the breakdown.
1 Rain walk corridor: A cleansing path of different rain showers to get you started.
2 Sole corridor: Wade through a tiny pebbled pond that features a mix of hot and cold water pockets: novel, but a little bewildering.
3 Aroma steam: The two steam rooms offer alternate scents. The steam isn’t very strong, but this meant we had no problem sitting there for the recommended 10 minutes.
4 Nature’s glow and touch: The Rainforest is still in the soft-opening stage and this station wasn’t ready on our visit, but it looked to be a salt scrub station: lush.
5 Bucket drench shower: Post-steam, the ice-cold bucket drench shower certainly wakes you up. We squealed and had to be pushed in, but felt brand new afterwards.
6 Sensory shower: This shower blasts from above and the sides: it’s certainly comprehensive.
7 Affusion shower: This has both a warm and cool setting and features lightning effects – kitsch but fun.
8 Brine cavern: A salt-infused steam that opens up the lungs.
9 Grotto steam and hammam: The hammam wasn’t open on our visit, but it’s a beautiful exposed concrete room (our favourite space in the spa). We found a whirlpool bath and a shower head that released soap suds: naturally, we had a soap war.
10 Ice igloo and rain shower: A mountain of ice greets you – it takes a brave spa-goer to cover themselves in ice, but it woke us up.
11 Herbal sauna: We sat in the sauna for 10 minutes, glad of the heat after the ice igloo.
12 Sauna: The same as above, but minus herbs.
13 Tropical rain shower: This has a warm and cool setting. We chose a cold post-sauna fix.
14 Cross-current walk: A small pool where you walk against the water flow: didn’t do much for us.
15 Vitality pool: Save time for this huge indoor pool, which boasts different jet massage stations. This was our favourite stage.
16 Heated origami lounges: These wooden seats are perfect for relaxing after the circuit.
As the largest spa in the UAE, the Banyan Tree is impressive, and this circuit is perfect for people who prefer after-treatment down-time to pampering itself. It took us a while to get into it, but when our 90 minutes were up we realised we’d never laughed so much. It’s a perfect bonding experience for couples or a great beat-the-heat day out with the girls, although we wouldn’t fly solo on this one unless you take your hydrothermal therapy very seriously.
The Rainforest costs Dhs77 an hour for day visitors; resort guests get an hour free. Call to make a two-hour spa treatment and you’ll get an hour in The Rainforest. Call 07 206 7777 for info. Spa opens in June, 2010.
The new Banyan Tree Al Wadi is only an hour from Dubai: the drive into the resort involves camel spotting and winding desert roads, and the architecture is subtle and true to the landscape. The interiors follow a local style and are less understated than the exterior design, as are the prices (rooms start from Dhs2,610 and a prawn curry will set you back Dhs200), but catching a glimpse of a gazelle or oryx from your villa’s private pool is priceless.