While sensory deprivation tanks certainly aren’t a new fad in the self-care world, they do seem to be becoming more mainstream and are no longer just for the elite. Mind you, they’re certainly not as cheap as taking a bubble bath or reading a book outside (some of our personal favorite ways to unwind), but their devotees promise big benefits like a boost to the immune system and creativity, a reduction of anxiety and stress, and a deep meditative, restorative experience.
90 minutes in a tank is also said to help reset your circadian rhythm to allow for better sleep and fight jet lag (while, alternatively, on a more metaphysical level, we’ve also heard of people going into tanks in search of some transcendental experiences).
When we travel, think of spa time as the ultimate self-care treat, especially in Bali, an island full of amazing spas promising luxurious facials, massages, and other pampering treatments. But, since Bali now has two places to try the tank experience — Ubud Float Garden in Tampaksiring and Solace in Canggu — we figured why not see what all the fuss is about?
So, one Friday evening, we booked ourselves into the “space cadet” experience at Solace, a 90-minute float in the sensory deprivation tank for IDR650k (US$46) to see what being locked up in the dark, floating around naked in a bunch of salt would do for us.
Read on for a breakdown of what we experienced during our first-ever floating session.
Walking into Solace Float in Canggu actually feels like entering any spa in Bali. There’s a reception desk with comfy furniture in a waiting room where you can chill until your appointment and settle your bill. Things start feeling a little different from the typical spa walk-in, however, when they hand you an iPad with a release form for you to sign.
Proper preparation matters
As you’re taken upstairs to your chamber, expect a thorough orientation from staff on the dos and don’ts of floating and a rundown of the process.
Each flotation chamber has its own private room, where there’s a shower — you’re meant to shower before and after. Before, so you don’t bring all your grime into the tank; after, to get off all the residual salt.
A big don’t: peeing in the tank. Get up, put your robe on and walk down the hall to the toilet at any time during the session if you need to go, the staff told us. Obviously, we wouldn’t want to stew in our own pee for 90 minutes, but you’d be surprised, some people have actually relieved themselves in the tank, she explained.
While floating, you’ll be instructed to wear earplugs provided in your room, so water doesn’t seep into your ears. Put the earplugs in before taking your initial shower so they can seal in dry ears — we totally forgot this step and didn’t put in the earplugs until going into the chamber, which turned out to be a mistake since we definitely had leakage problems in the beginning of our session.
After you do your initial shower, get into the tank, shut the door, switch off the light (from inside the chamber) and let the experience really begin.
Lost in space
The staff told us that if at any time we felt scared, to feel free to turn the light on, or leave it on. Or even leave the tank door open too. “But wouldn’t that defeat the whole purpose of sensory deprivation?” we wondered.
As soon as we closed the door and shut the light off, we could see how people who are claustrophobic might panic — after all, you are shut into a confined space, but for us, it was more of a feeling of being infinite, almost like being lost, floating in space (but thankfully with plenty of oxygen). Having the earplugs in and our head in water, it almost felt like the best noise cancellation headphones were on. As it’s pitch black in the chamber once you’ve shut the light off, it’s pretty wild how you can have your eyes closed or open and you’d literally be seeing the same thing: nothing.
It might take you some time to find the most comfortable floating position. The staff recommended putting our hands overhead, but we felt best when they were by our side, even though that seemed to sink us a little deeper into the 12-inch deep water.
We can definitely see how floating would be beneficial if you’re in need of some muscle recovery. This feeling of weightlessness, as you float, means no strain to hold yourself up, allowing for pure relaxation. The water is kept at skin temperature, around 34.5 degrees celsius, at Solace. We found this temperature to be quite comfortable at first, but noticed that we got cold towards the end of the session.
As for the mind — we didn’t find it particularly easy to quiet our minds in the beginning of the session. It was almost like a meditation session where you just need to relax and not assign any value to any passing thoughts, or else you’ll find yourself going down a spiral of thoughts like “should I have done that stupid thing I did six years ago?” sort of thing.
Eventually, however, we somehow managed to chill-the-heck-out and just focus on deep breaths. A lot of benefits of floating don’t even take place until 45 minutes in, Solace claims on their website — something that we could definitely see from our own time in the chamber. It felt as if only maybe 30-45 minutes had passed when the music came on during the last 10 minutes of the session, a signal that we must have fallen asleep without even realizing it — all floating sessions at Solace are 90 minutes long (though you can feel free to get out whenever).
Wind down even more
After you do your post-float shower, Solace has a lounge room where you an unwind even further and sip some loose-leaf tea off their impressively extensive menu. Bask in the post-float glory, if you will.
Their lounge has very comfy cushions, games, and books (and of course items for sale like any place in Bali), so you can chillax and just enjoy the post-float feeling — which for us was a nice combination of contentment and calmness.
While we can’t say we had a transcendental experience in the sensory deprivation chamber and we wouldn’t say our off-kilter sleep cycle was fully reset from the session, we definitely did the see the benefits of reduced stress and anxiety that evening, as we ended the week and headed into the weekend.
For those that are really into floating, Solace has a number of packages, so you can buy more sessions for a reduced rate. The single experience is IDR650k (US$46), while you can buy three floats for IDR1.8 million (US$128), eight floats for IDR4.16 million (US$295), or a yearly membership including 52 floats for IDR20.8 million (US$1,477).
10 Jl. Subak Sari no. 11
Editor’s Note: this review is based on the personal experience of Coco Travel’s editor, who booked and paid for the 90-minute float session on her own dime.
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