First-time in Sentosa, Singapore
Sentosa is an island in Singapore that has been home to the tiny state’s major recreation spots. The once fishing village island was formerly known as “Pulau Belakang Mati” which literally means as “island”, “behind” and “death” because so many people died at the other side of the island during the World War. It was a British military fortress until 1967 which was turned over to Singapore a year after. To rid itself of the negative image, Singapore renamed it as Sentosa, meaning “peace and tranquility” in Malay.
Despite its not so colorful past, the little island has become an attraction to tourists and locals alike. They get to enjoy the fun rides, the high technology entertainment and the lush, green environment. In the mornings, when the sun is up, people cool it off at the various man-made beaches of Sentosa. And at night, the island is transformed into a magical retreat from the urban ambiance with its colorful musical fountain which draws locals and foreigners to Sentosa.
For a number of tourists, the island resort is a getaway from the malls and buildings in mainland Singapore. A number of hotels and spas are built on the island. Talks have been going around that it is developing a part of it into an exclusive village with privately-owned homes that cost millions of dollars. With its beautiful beach front and abundant flora and fauna, living in Sentosa is like being in paradise, with convenience and comfort just a bridge away.
One of the most-visited parts of the island is the Imbiah Lookout located near Mount Imbiah. It has a cluster of attractions and eateries that make the island very tourist-friendly. Found at the Imbiah Lookout are the Images of Singapore, The Merlion, Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom, Singapore Cable Car, 4D Magix, Skytower, and the Luge and Skyride. Most of these attractions have local souvenir shops where one can purchase souvenir items. Also at the Lookout are restaurants like the Delifrance Merlion, Sarpino’s Pizzeria, SKYBAR that offers the popular Singapore Sling, Subway Restaurant, and the Tastes of Singapore. Other attractions are Dolphin Lagoon, Fort Siloso and Underwater World, to name a few.
Images of Singapore
It’s like a museum, a magical show and an adventure trail molded into one. Our visit at the Images of Singapore started with a short multi-media show that explains the history and early beginnings of the city-state. Colorful lights, smoke machine, and moving portraits that reminds you of Harry Potter delights a small audience that is seated in a cargo-ship inspired theatre.
After a while, we were ushered inside the Singapore Adventure part of the exhibit. Human-sized wax figures of historical personas are displayed in every scene that marked Singapore’s milestones. Colorful backdrop and real-life settings, along with clothes that hint the era, bring the mannequins to life.
We passed through small corridors, mini forests, stairs and bridges to get to the next era which was about the Singaporean celebrations. Indian, Malay, Chinese and Eurasian holidays and events are depicted in the wax exhibit. It also included religious celebrations of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Christians.
Then the last leg of the exhibit was about modern Singapore. Funny because there were some live people who mix with the wax mannequins and they bring thrill, and shrills, from visitors. The last one is a large studio-type room with a small stage at the center and a Singaporean soldier who poses with anyone who wants their photos taken. Then it exits to the souvenir shop and the Tastes of Singapore restaurant.
The Images of Singapore is just across the Skytower at the Imbiah Lookout. Entrance costs S$10 for adults and S$7 for kids age 3 – 12 years old. If it’s part of the Imbiah Lookout package, you get an instant prize and a 20% discount at the Tastes of Singapore. It is open daily from 9:00 am with its last admission at 6:30 pm.
Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom
It was such a pity that it was raining when we went to the Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom. The compound has an open area in the middle but covered with a net to keep the butterflies and the insects inside the park. But the covered part displays colorful butterflies from around the world.
Live insects are also placed in a glass and in wire cages that are exhibited indoors. Some are placed inside small holes on the wall that imitates caves and trees. Apart from butterflies and caterpillars on display, there are also crickets or grasshoppers, bugs, fireflies and centipedes that are available for viewing. About a thousand more roam freely in the outdoors which is open to visitors if the sun is out.
A souvenir shop is also found in the basement of the museum. The Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom is found near eateries and beside the 4D Magix Theatre. Admission is S$10 for adults and S$6 for children who are 3-12 years old. Though the last admission is at 6:00 pm, it is more advisable to visit this attraction in the mornings when the sun is up.
Singapore Cable Car
One way to get to Sentosa is through the cable car from Mount Faber or at the HarbourFront Centre. But since we got to Sentosa by a tour bus, we still went for a cable car ride just to get the feel of it. If it were a regular trip we would have paid S$9.90 (it’s only S$4.50 for a child) for a one-way trip from HarbourFront Tower 2 or S$10.90 (that’s S$5.50 for kids) for a return trip. But since we availed of the Imbiah Lookout Package, we just showed our pass and we hopped in and took the trip to Mount Faber. It is even much more expensive if we were to take the glass cabin because the return trip would cost S$15 per adult & S$8 per child.
The Cable Car ride took us about 60m over the Singapore sea to the middle of the HarbourFront Tower 2. Then the ride continued to the Jewel Box atop Mount Faber. Mount Faber is filled with greens and trees. Some houses with red brick roofs are seen from above. They are far from each other and are very costly given the location.
The cable cars are safe and reliable. The cables, which are purchased in high-quality materials, are good to last for five years but the operators change the cables every two years to maintain its high standard.
Both the Mount Faber and Sentosa Cable Car Stations have souvenir shops where one can get miniature cable cars and other interesting items. They also have dining places near them that makes it convenient and comfortable for visitors to relax and grab something to munch after an adrenalin-rush ride. The cable cars are operational from 8:30 am to 11:00 pm, enough time for you to spend a whole day at Sentosa. For more info on Mount Faber, visit www.mountfaber.com.sg.
Admission costs S$16 for adults and S$9.50 for children. Quite expensive you might say but the 30-minute show in this state-of-the-art theatre is one of a kind! Good thing it was still part of the Sentosa package we took at the entrance. It’s not just the surround sound that makes it almost so real. It’s also the images popping out of the screen (with the help of some spectacles) and some effects that will keep all your senses on red alert. It’s the first four-dimensional theatre in Singapore and the largest in Southeast Asia.
Seats bring you the motion as it happens on screen. Shown at that time was “Pirates!” You’d be surprised to feel some motion at your feet as air is blown down below and to your neck from the headrest. And much more interesting is to actually feel the water being squirted at your face during the cinematic ride as the characters in the movie jump into the water.
The 4D Theatre is right beside the Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom and near the bus stop. It is open daily from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm with the last show commencing at 8:30 pm. You can check details of the Sentosa 4D Magix at www.sentosa4Dmagix.com.sg.
If the cable car is not enough to give you a view of Singapore, the Carlsberg Skytower will definitely take your breath away. It ascends 131 meters from sea level, the Skytower is the best ride that will give you a majestic picture of Singapore and its outlying and neighboring islands.
The Skytower can carry more than 70 people in its glass-window air-conditioned cabin. Moreover, it rotates 360 degrees in a smooth motion which doesn’t give you any of the seasickness you’d get from a roller coaster ride.
As it goes up, it gives you a wonderful view of the Imbiah Lookout and the Merlion. Then the beaches and the ships come into view until it unveils the skyscrapers of Singapore and the territories of Indonesia and Malaysia.
For admission, prepare S$10 for adults and S$6 for kids. It is fully operational from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm with the last ride taking place at 8:45 pm. It is very near the Images of Singapore, the Cable Car Station and the Sky Bar. Across it are the Luge and Skyride. For more info, visit www.skytower.com.sg.
Here I’ve come face-to-face with the Dugong and about thousands of fishes at the Underwater World oceanarium. But that’s jumping the gun. At the entrance, the first stop is the touch pool where there are several fishes, turtles and small sharks waiting for visitors to pet them.
Then small and medium-size aquariums come into view in the first room. Schools of fishes of various colors swam inside their own little worlds. Then at the far end room is the Angel Fish, which is a tiny glowing marine species.
Below is where crabs of different sizes and shapes are displayed. Further below, the clownfishes and jellyfishes are glowing in round-shaped aquariums. Then, we rode the travelator that took us in an acrylic tunnel as if we are at the bottom of the ocean. It was the best part of the Sentosa experience as I watched sharks and large fishes swim over me and stingrays gliding at my side.
We paid S$19.50 which included an admission to the Dolphin Lagoon. Unfortunately, with the bad weather, we weren’t able to visit the dolphins. It would have been a lot more fun if the sun was out that day. Apart from that, the Dolphin Lagoon is a bit far from Underwater World, which is near Fort Siloso, and the night was slowly creeping in. We still have to catch the Musical Fountain that night and have to hop on the bus before it leaves us stranded on the island. Nevertheless, the fishes kept us in good company that day despite the rains. Try to visit www.underwaterworld.com.sg and see the wonders it offers.
Drenched at the Musical Fountain
There we were waiting for the rain to stop at the bus station and hoping that it would be anytime soon before the magical show would start. But with no signs of ever getting a dry night, we opted for the S$2 thin plastic raincoat sold at Sentosa and marched our way towards the amphitheater at the fountain.
A number of people were seated with their umbrellas blocking our view. We tried to stand up at the far end of the section but we were told that we have to be seated. With just a few centimeters of plastic protecting us, I didn’t think it would be a good idea to sit on a wet surface.
The rain continued and we were almost soaking wet. “This must better be good,” we told ourselves. A few minutes more and we are becoming restless especially that we have to catch the bus before the show would be over. Preparing for the worst, we inquired how we can get back to the Visitor Information Center. We were told to walk to the bus stop and wait for the blue line that will take us to several stops before reaching the information center. I was thinking it wouldn’t be a wise idea, I inquired if we can walk towards the information center itself. Well, guess what? It’s just at the opposite side of the bus stop. My friend and I already made up our mind that we will walk and we situated ourselves right at the entrance/exit of the amphitheater.
Finally, the voice over announced that the show will start. A magician came in full view giving us a short tale of Sentosa. Suddenly, the fountains splattered and out came Kiki, Sentosa’s mascot, in laser display. The fountains indeed danced but the dancing was done more by the laser lights.
Fishes and an octopus came out and various special effects were employed. It truly takes one to a magical spell, with all those beautiful lights and the sound of water. But with the rain continually dropping on our heads, we have to cut short our enjoyment to catch our bus. It was short but it was a nice one. No wonder the amphitheater was still full. We probably missed a lot of things at the remainder of the show but catching Kiki is enough to know how magical Sentosa come alive at night.