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Anna Selby visits the Ocean Spa at the Acapulco Resort in North Cyprus and experiences a traditional Turkish hamam, a Balinese massage and a high-tech facial with icy oxygen that delivers sensational results.

Fire and Ice


The Ocean Spa in North Cyprus is part of the Acapulco Beach Club and Resort. When you come to the spa, you can also enjoy the golden sands edged with palm trees, indoor and outdoor pools, restaurants and all the other facilities the hotel has to offer. So it’s easy to spend a day – or several – here.
In the spa itself, there are soothing natural colours – wood, sand and the local golden, glowing stone – and a wide range of treatments.You’ll find such exotics as Ayurveda therapies from India – they have a special room devoted to this, complete with copper bowls hanging over the two beds for Shirodhara – that mesmerising treatment that trickles a stream of oil back and forth from temple to temple across the forehead. It is said to induce a state of bliss. There are special baths for thalassotherapy, packages for couples and groups (there’s a wonderful hen party in the hamam, complete with belly dancer) and all kinds of massage from hot stones to Thai as well as an impressive array of beauty treatments.I decided, though, to start with their signature treatment – a peel and foam massage in the hamam.
Shirodhara at Ocean Spa
From the spa’s relaxation room you can see the mountains of mainland Turkey on a clear day, so the Turkish hamam tradition is strong here and it’s one that is all about heat. It may seem odd in what is already a hot country that its foremost therapy makes you even hotter! But this is a therapy that goes back a very long way and is close to the baths of ancient Rome where, on a daily basis, you would sweat, clean and scrape the skin to leave it in prime condition to be massaged and oiled. It was seen as the very basis of good health. The underlying principle is that the heat makes you sweat out dirt, impurities and toxins while simultaneously relaxing taut muscles. And if I had ever thought that the powerful benefits of heat and water might be exaggerated I was about to find out the truth! I started off in a swimsuit. My therapist for the hamam peel and foam, Muazzez, installed me in a very warm steam room. After about 10 minutes, she came to inspect me. ‘Good sweat,’ she said with approval and moved me into an equally hot sauna for another five. We then moved into the hamam where I disrobed entirely for the main part of my treatment. The hamam here is modelled on traditional Turkish baths. I have been in an almost identical one in Istanbul – except that dated back to the sixteenth century. Essentially, this is a marble room – walls, floor and a massive raised central dais, all marble. This dais is heated to a temperature that is just bearable to touch and on it Muazzez had laid out a cloth for me. The whole room was literally steaming – before we’d even started, Muazzez, the dais, the cloth and I were all soaked. We were, though, about to get even wetter.

Once I am lying on the dais, Muazzez throws a couple of buckets of water over me and gets to work with a loofah-type mitt, very gently on my face then with more vigour as she sets about removing all that dirt, sweat and the toxins making their way to the surface in the heat. They knew they were beat. Every now and again, I am sluiced down again with a couple of buckets of water and, when the heat gets too much for her (frequently), my therapist pours a couple over her own head.The peel over, the next stage is the foam. Imagine being in the bubbliest bubble bath – then take away the bath. Using a long cloth, Muazzez wrings foam over me until I am invisible under all those bubbles. Then she massages me through the foam, the heat still penetrating upwards from the dais below. Rendered helpless by the massage and the heat, my muscles start to dissolve. It must be affecting my mind, too. Part of me would giggle (if I were able to do something so exhausting) at feeling rather like a baby in its bath. My ears (inside and out), in between my toes, my face are all washed. I dimly remember applying mascara this morning – there’s no trace of it now.Muazzez helps me across to the marble seat next to the basin – I’m not sure I’d have made it on my own – and throws a few buckets of cooler water over my head. In spite of momentary feelings of drowning, I am strangely grateful at this antidote to the heat. She then sets about washing my hair sluices me off once more and I’m done. She wraps me in a dressing gown and leads me outside to a lounger where I collapse and drink water. I am limp with the heat and it takes about two hours, I think, before my body regains its normal temperature. My skin and my muscles have softened in the process and I am, without doubt, the cleanest woman in Cyprus.

So I am still quite warm when my next therapist, Marta, arrives to take me for a Balinese massage. She is herself from Bali and from the moment she begins, as she stretches out my leg from ankle to thigh in one smooth movement, I know this is going to be an expert massage.


Balinese massage contains so many different elements. There is that wonderful cat-like tread as Marta uses her body weight to move up and down my legs or back. Her thumbs separate and open up the bones of my hands and feet. She generates heat between her palms and applies it to my spine that seems to open up under the touch. And while she can attack knotty muscles across my shoulders, she can swiftly change to a movement so subtle it feels like a flower unfurling against my skin. At turns she works through a towel, on dry skin and then with oil, scented with orange – a fragrance that fills this whole island in season. Sweet, with citrus notes that mean it can never be cloying, it is the final blissful layer to my massage.

My final session was a facial and, if I’d spent all morning having the most traditional imaginable body treatments, things were about to change. This was certainly the most high-tech innovative facial I have ever experienced. My therapist, Ozlem, is a regular on Turkish television and is famous for her remarkable results. Now, I’ve heard a lot of promises when it comes to facials and, frankly, except for looking more relaxed after being pampered for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that, while it’s going to be a lovely way to spend an hour, it would be foolish to expect too much.

Ozlem does not go for the relaxation approach. Instead she has an army of machines spread over a couple of rooms, vials, serums, potions, vitamins and probes. She explains that there are no chemicals involved and that what she applies to my face is all completely natural – albeit very high tech. After a close inspection – she points out the skin over my cheeks is very dry, there are sensitive patches – and she decides I need her anti-ageing treatment. This does not, though, imply that this is a one-size-fits-all formula. Depending on the state of your particular skin, she treats what she sees. Ozlem does not speak a lot of English, but in my case, she decides to focus on hollows in the wrong places (she blew out her cheeks to demonstrate plumping out mine) and unevenness of tone (very ageing!), which I realised referred to my under-eye circles, something I’ve hated for years. Halfway through the treatment she notices two age spots on my left hand. ‘Black!’ she cries in alarm and slathers them generously.


And so we begin. She cleanses and tones as normal but after that, everything is different from a normal facial. She applies an icy spray that takes my breath away (‘Oxygen,’ she explains) and then vitamins in the form of fluids over my face, my throat and chest, around my eyes – all different for different areas – then pushes them deeper into the skin using a combination of her hands and an electronic pulsing probe. More vitamins and serums are applied in quick succession, again massaged in with hands or machine. Eventually she applies a mask – in the usual sense – and over it an actual mask with holes for eyes, nose and mouth. ‘Very lifting’ she says. When that is removed, we go to another room for another session with a different machine and after that, she tells me, it will be time for ‘Mirror’.

During this final stage, Ozlem explains that a course of five session of her treatment is as effective as an aesthetic procedure (I think she means Botox). I listen politely but, as claims go, this seems pretty far-fetched. But when we get to the mirror, I look and am astonished. After just over an hour of Ozlem’s potions and machines, the fine lines around my eyes have disappeared. The dark circles under my eyes have receded as the colour and tone of my skin has become more even. My cheeks look plump and toned. This may not be a pampering treatment but the results are sensational – and this after just one session. This really is the most effective facial I have ever had and I will be going back. Botox, fillers – who needs ‘em? Five sessions with Ozlem sounds to me like a very appealing alternative.

Acapulco Beach Club and Resort Hotel
Catalkoy, Kyrenia
North Cyprus
Tel: +90 392 650 45 00
For rates, packages and special offers visit www.acapulco.com.tr
For further details on treatments in the Ocean Spa email: oceanspa@acapulco.com.tr
or visit www.acapulco.com.tr/ocean-spa/html-en

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