Sentosa in Singapore
Sentosa, which translates to peace and tranquility in Malay (derived from Santosha in Sanskrit), is a popular island resort in Singapore, visited by some five million people a year. Attractions include a two-kilometre long sheltered beach, Fort Siloso, two golf courses and two five-star hotels, and the Resorts World Sentosa, featuring the theme park Universal Studios Singapore.
Sentosa was once known as Pulau Blakang Mati (Chinese: 绝后岛) , which in Malay means the "Island (pulau) of Death (mati) from Behind (blakang)".
The name Blakang Mati is rather old but may not have been founded in the nineteenth century as generally believed. In fact, there exists an island that was identified as Blacan Mati in Manuel Gomes de Erédia's 1604 map of Singapore. Other early references to the island of Blakang Mati include Burne Beard Island in Wilde's 1780 MS map, Pulau Niry, Nirifa from 1690 to 1700, and the nineteenth century reference as Pulau Panjang (J.H. Moor). However, early maps did not separate Blakang Mati from the adjacent island of Pulau Brani, so it is uncertain to which island the sixteenth century place names referred.
The island has gone through several name changes. Up to 1830, it was called Pulau Panjang ("long island"). In an 1828 sketch of Singapore Island, the island is referred to as Po. Panjang. According to Bennett (1834), the name Blakang Mati was only given to the hill on the island by the Malay villagers on the island. The Malay name for this island is literally translated as "dead back" or "behind the dead"; blakang means "at the back" or "behind"; mati means "dead". It is also called the dead island or the island of the dead.
Different versions of how the island came to acquire such an unpropitious name abound. One account attributed the ominous name to murder and piracy in the island's past. A second claimed that the island is the material paradise of warrior spirits buried at Pulau Brani.
A third account claims that an outbreak of disease on the island in the late 1840s almost wiped out the original Bugis settlers on the island. Dr Robert Little, a British coroner investigating the deaths, stumbled upon what was called Blakang Mati Fever, purportedly a type of fever caused by miasmastic fumes arising from decaying leaves and swampy water on the island. This event led to a controversy in medical circles at that time as to the causes of what was later recognised in 1898 as malaria spread by the Anopheles mosquito. The government's malaria research station was originally located here.
A fourth interpretation is that "dead back island" was so-called because of the lack of fertile soil on the hills. However, since the island creates an area of dead water behind it with no wind (hence "still behind" - still or stopped being an alternative translation of mati) it may be as simple as this — less romantic perhaps, but believable from a nautical viewpoint.
In 1827, Captain Edward Lake of the Bengal Engineers in his report on public works and fortifications had proposed an alternative name for Blakang Mati as the "Island of St George". However, the island was seen as too unhealthy for habitation and his proposed name was never realised.
In a 1972 contest organised by the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board, the island was renamed Sentosa, a Malay word meaning "peace and tranquillity", from Sanskrit, Santosha.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, a number of pay-to-get-in tourist designations were built on the island, most of which the local people found uninteresting. Consequently, there was a joke that the name Sentosa stood for "So Expensive and Nothing to See Also".
In the nineteenth century, the island was considered important because it protected the passage into Keppel Harbour. Plans to fortify the island as part of the defence plan for Singapore were drawn up as early as 1827, but few fortifications actually materialised until the 1880s, when the rapid growth of the harbour led to concern over the protection of coal stocks against enemy attack. The forts built on the island were Fort Siloso, Fort Serapong, Fort Connaught and the Mount Imbiah Battery.
The western end of Pulau Blakang Mati, the place where Fort Siloso is now, used to be called sarang rimau (the tiger's den). Salusuh is a kind of herb used as a remedy in childbirth, but there is no explanation of how the fort came to be so-called, the orang laut of Kampong Kopit only knowing the place by the name of sarang rimau. By the 1930s, the island was heavily fortified and a crucial component of Fortress Singapore, and the base of the Royal Artillery.
During the Second World War, the island was a British military fortress. The British set up artillery guns in Fort Siloso that were then pointed to the south, facing the sea in expectation of a seaward Japanese assault. However, the Japanese eventually invaded and captured Singapore from the north, after having done the same to Malaya (now known as West or Peninsular Malaysia). Following the surrender of the Allied Forces on February 15, 1942, the island became a prisoner of war camp, housing Australian and British prisoners of the Japanese.
During the Japanese Occupation, under the Sook Ching Operation, Chinese men who were suspected, often arbitrarily, of being involved in anti-Japanese activities were brutally killed. The beach at Pulau Blakang Mati was one of the killing fields.
After the Japanese surrender in 1945 and the return of Singapore to British rule, the island became the base of the locally enlisted First Singapore Regiment of the Royal Artillery (1st SRRA) in 1947. Other locally enlisted men from Singapore were sent to the island for basic military training before being sent to other units of the British Army in Singapore.
Ten years later, the 1st SRRA was disbanded and its guns dismantled. The coast artillery was replaced with Gurkha infantry units, first the 2/7th Duke of Edinburgh's own Gurkha Rifles and later the 2/10th Princess Mary's own Gurkha Rifles. Fort Siloso and Fort Serapong became a Catholic retreat and a Protestant church house respectively. Fort Connaught was left in ruins.
In the early 1960s, during the Indonesian Confrontation, the 2/10th unit defended the island against Indonesian saboteurs. With the end of the Confrontation in 1966 and the withdrawal of the Gurkha units from the island, the British handed over Sentosa to the Singapore Armed Forces of the newly independent Government of Singapore in 1967.
In 1967, Pulau Blakang Mati became the base for the Singapore Naval Volunteer Force, which relocated there from its old base at Telok Ayer Basin. The School of Maritime Training was also set up there, as was the first Naval Medical Centre.
In the 1970s, the government decided to develop the island into a holiday resort for local visitors and tourists.
The island was renamed "Sentosa" in 1972, which means peace and tranquillity in Malay (from Sanskrit, Santosha), from a suggestion by the public. A series of attractions were subsequently opened for visitors including Fort Siloso, Surrender Chamber wax museum, Musical Fountain, and the Underwater World. The causeway bridge was opened in 1992 connecting Sentosa to the mainland.<ref name = "Milestones"/>
The Sentosa Monorail system was opened in 1982 to transport visitors to various stations located around the island.<ref name = "Milestones"/> On 16 March 2005, the monorail service was discontinued to make way for the new Sentosa Express, which commenced operations on 15 January 2007.<ref name = "Milestones"/> An environmental assessment conducted by the government of Singapore concluded that the construction of the resorts on Sentosa would to result in high likelihood of high scale biodiversity loss, habitat destruction, soil erosion and climate change, as well as several other destructive ecological impacts.
In 2009, construction of a new foot bridge began. The S$70 million Sentosa Boardwalk includes themed gardens, shops and eateries. There are covered walkways and travellators along the boardwalk for rainy days. The boardwalk, officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on 29 January 2011, will provide visitors an alternative mode of travel to reach the island. In 2010 They built Universal Studios Singapore and Resorts World Sentosa which is now a place for both locals and tourists to enjoy themselves.
The island has an area of 5 square kilometres. It lies just half a kilometre (a quarter of a mile) away from the southern coast of the main island of Singapore. It is Singapore's fourth largest island (excluding the main island). 70% of the island is covered by secondary rainforest, the habitat of monitor lizards, monkeys, peacocks, parrots as well as other native fauna and flora. The island also has 3.2 kilometre stretch of white sand beach. Significantly large portions of land are currently being added to Sentosa due to land reclamation.
Sentosa can be reached from the Singapore mainland via a short causeway or Cable Car, which originates from Mount Faber and passes through HarbourFront en route to its final destination.
The island is also accessible by the SGD$140 million Sentosa Express monorail, which replaced the Sentosa Monorail in 2006. It has three stations on Sentosa and one on mainland Singapore. Opened on 15 January 2007, the northern terminus of the line is at the VivoCity shopping mall on the mainland and the southern one is Beach Station on Sentosa Island. In Vivocity, the mainland MRT is in turn served by the HarbourFront MRT Station of the North East Line and the Circle Line. The journey takes four minutes.
Within Sentosa there are three bus services, identified as Blue, Yellow and Red lines, and a tram service called the Beach Train. Since 1998, passenger cars have been allowed to enter the island.
Visitors can also enter the island via walking over the S$70 million Sentosa Boardwalk which is parallel to the causeway which opened on 29 January 2011. The first two days of its opening were marked with free entry into Sentosa for visitors who walk, and subsequently a S$1 admission fee into Sentosa is charged.
Sentosa offers a variety of attractions, museums and other facilities to provide a variety of experiences, recreation and entertainment to visitors.
Tiger Sky Tower
The Tiger Sky Tower (previously known as the Carlsberg Sky Tower) is free-standing observation tower on Sentosa. At a height of 110 metres above ground and 131 metres above sea level, it offers visitors a panoramic view of Sentosa, Singapore, and the Southern Islands. On a clear day, the view extends to parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. At ground level, visitors enter a large disc-shaped airconditioned cabin fitted with glass windows all round. The cabin then revolves slowly as it ascends the column of the tower. The cabin has a capacity of 72 visitors.
The Sky Tower used to sit at the very spot of what was formerly known as the Dragon Court.It has a dragon statue in the centerpiece with water spouting out from its mouth.In one of its claws ,it holds a previous logo of Sentosa which was used in the 1970s. Its tail ends at the dragon trail at the northern part of Imbiah Lookout.It was demolished a few months before the groundbreaking ceremony of the sky tower.It was opened on 7 February 2004, is situated in the Imbiah Lookout zone in the centre of Sentosa and can be reached by Cable Car, Sentosa Luge Chair Lift, by Sentosa Express or by bus.
Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom
The Butterfly Park is a landscape garden with over 15,000 live butterflies, representing more than fifty species. Housed in a cool outdoor conservatory, these butterflies range from the 25 millimetre (1 in) Eurema sari to the 150 mm (6 in) Papilio iswara.
The Insect Kingdom houses some 3,000 species of rare insects from around the world, including a 160 mm Dynastes Hercules beetle.
Underwater World and Dolphin Lagoon
Underwater World is an oceanarium located on the western part of Sentosa. Opened in 1991, the living museum has more than 2,500 marine and fresh-water animals of 250 species from different regions of the world. The oceanarium is underground and has an 83 metre long travelator that moves visitors along a submerged glass-windowed tunnel from which they can look at an array of marine life including a coral reef, stringrays, moray eels, turtles, sharks, and other fishes. In the 'Dive-with-the-Sharks' program visitors can scuba dive in the large oceanarium, even if they are not scuba qualified. Qualified scuba divers can also 'Dive-with-the-Dugong".
The Underwater World also includes a Dolphin Lagoon which is home to some Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, also known as the pink dolphins. Several "Meet-the-Dolphins" sessions are held daily to allow visitors to enter the waist-deep pool and interact with the dolphins at close proximity. A more involved "Swim-with-the-Dolphins' program, where visitors can interact extensively with the dolphins, is also available.
Songs of the Sea
Designed by Yves Pepin, the Songs of the Sea show, started on 26 March 2007, replacing the 25 year-old Magical Sentosa show. The Malay Kampung by the Sea or more commonly known as a Kelong, is 120 meteres long while the rest of the equipment (water jets, water screens, lasers and projectors) is hidden at the back of the kelong. It features pyrotechnics displays, water jets, laser show and flame bursts a live cast and an open-air viewing gallery which can comfortably accommodate 2,500 visitors. The show runs twice nightly.
Sentosa 4D Magix
The Sentosa 4D Magix is Singapore's first and Southeast Asia's original 4-dimensional theatre. Opened in January 2006 at the cost of S$3.5 million, the theatre is equipped with digital projection and a DTS 6.1 sound system. Guests are seated on a motion based chair in a typical movie theatre watching a 3D show with visual effects popping out of the screen coupled with environmental effects providing a life-like feel. The current show is the 'Pirates!' in 4D comedy, as offered in other theme parks around the world.
Opened in June 2007, Cineblast, which replaced Cinemania, is Singapore's only cinema ride. It features high definition wide-screen projection and a 6 axis motion system, and takes visitors on a log ride.
In the west of the island stand the guns of preserved Fort Siloso which guarded the western approaches to Singapore during World War II. Fort Siloso was built by the British in 1880s to guard the narrow western entrance to Keppel Harbour. It was later modernised and by 1939 was armed with two 6 in Mark2 guns and two rapid firing 12-pounder guns. Fort Siloso is now the only surviving coastal gun battery from the twelve such batteries that made up Fortress Singapore at the start of the war.
The ammunition bunkers, barracks, tunnels, and gun emplacements of the fort are now open to visitors, as a military-themed attraction. Also on display is a collection of artillery guns dating from the 17th century to World War II. Life-sized replicas of British soldiers and other people were on display to depict lives at the fort in the past. There is also an exhibition with a large collection of photographs, documents and film clips.
The fort served as the place of internment of the Singaporean political prisoner Chia Thye Poh in the period from 1989 to 1993.
MegaZip Adventure Park
Located at the top of Mount Imbiah, MegaZip Adventure Park is Singapore's first adventure park with one of the longest and steepest zip wires in Asia, a 12m high ropes course, a free-fall parachute simulator and a challenging climbing wall.
Azzura Beach Club
The Azzura Beach Club is a 2-level entertainment, dining and hydro sports facility. Some of the *Wave House Sentosa: Located at Siloso Beach, the 70000 sqft Wave House consists of the Double FlowRider and the 10 ft FlowBarrel, Singapore's first artificial barreling wave.
Sentosa Luge & Skyride
The Sentosa Luge & Skyride has a self-steering, gravity-driven three-wheel cart. Originally from New Zealand, the non-motorised cart allows rider to speed down a hill over a course of 650 m ending at the Siloso Beach. At the end of the luge, there is the Skyride that can allow rider to see from a high view. It also can be boarded at the start of the Luge.
Part of Imbiah Lookout closed down on 27 March 2007 to make way for Resorts World Sentosa. Note that some of the attractions listed here may have closed down earlier.
Sijori Wondergolf was a miniature golf park. There were 54 landscaped greens set in three different 18-hole courses. It eventually went under redevelopment and will re-open in the following years.
Fantasy Island was a water based theme park in Sentosa. Opened in 1994 at a cost of S$54 million, it had numerous water slides and other features. Once a very popular park, it was plagued by several accidents, including two fatalities, and was eventually closed on 2 November 2002.
The Sentosa Monorail circled Sentosa until it closed in 2005. Most of the island monorail was dismantled though parts of the original track structure still remain. The monorail was replaced by the red, blue and yellow bus lines. The Sentosa Express from the main island of Singapore to Sentosa still remains in service.
Volcanoland featured an artificial volcano along with Mayan motifs and scenery. It was closed down to make way for the new integrated resort that will feature a similar attraction.
The Musical Fountain opened in 1982 and was the star attraction at that time. It underwent three extensive renovations in 1972 (construction), 1992 (upgrading project) and 1999 (major restoration and upgrading project). In 2002, world-renowned fountain designer, Yves Pépin (who also designed Songs of the Sea) replaced all the musical fountain shows with the Magical Sentosa Show for a permanent basis but it did not last long. After operating for 25 years, it was shut down to make way for the integrated resort. Its last show was staged on 25 March 2007. It was replaced by the Songs of the Sea show.
Sentosa has a stretch of sheltered beach of more than two kilometres in length on its southern coast, divided into three portions: Palawan Beach, Siloso Beach, and Tanjong Beach. These beaches are artificial, reclaimed using sand bought from Indonesia and Malaysia. They are manned by the best beach patrol lifeguard team in Singapore. The lifeguards wear red and yellow uniforms and patrols the beaches of Sentosa.
Palawan Beach lies in the centre of the southern coast of Sentosa. There is a suspension bridge that leads to a small islet off the coast which is said to be the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia, or Asia's closest point to the Equator. However, inspection of any map, even those on Sentosa, show that this cannot be the case.
There are several bars along the beach offering food and beverage to visitors as well as Beach Station of Sentosa Express.
Siloso Beach lies on the west portion of the southern coast and it is known as the place for beach volleyball and other outdoor activities such as canoeing, skim boarding, mountain biking or rollerblading. There are also dining and shopping outlets along the beach. The Rasa Sentosa Resort is located at the western end of Siloso Beach.
Tanjong Beach is a relatively more secluded part of the southern coast. The crescent-shaped beach is sometimes used for special events or parties. The beach bar 'KM8' is located at the beach. KM8 had it`s last party and closed down on 28 March 2009.
There are six hotels and resorts in Sentosa (excluding Resorts World Sentosa accommodations):
- Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa has five-star hotel facilities, and 121 rooms to offer.
- Capella Singapore is a luxury resort with 111 manors, suites and guestrooms designed by Lord Norman Foster. It is developed by Pontiac Land. It was officially opened on March 2009.
- Costa Sands Resort operates a number of chalets and 15 kampung-like huts. It is located on a hill overlooking Siloso Beach.
- Rasa Sentosa Resort, Singapore is a beachfront five-star hotel located at the western tip of Siloso beach, with 459 rooms and suites.
- Siloso Beach Resort opened in July 2006. It has 172 rooms, 10 family suites, 1 treehouse and 12 Villas overlooking the sea. In line with ecologically friendly carbon credit practices, over 600 of the original trees that are native to Sentosa island were preserved. 1000 more fruit trees, flowering plants, exotic ferns, and herbs were planted. With the deliberate architecture of the Resort to circumnavigate and protect these trees.
- The Sentosa Resort & Spa is a five-star hotel with 214 rooms and suites.
- W Sentosa Cove Singapore is a 240-room five-star trendy boutique hotel renowned for its Whatever/Whenever service, connected to an adjacent 228-luxurious Residences at W Singapore located at the Quayside Isle collection - opening 30 April 2012.
In addition, there are six hotels in Resorts World Sentosa, namely:
- Crockfords Tower
- Hotel Michael
- Hard Rock Hotel Singapore
- Festive Hotel
- Equarius Hotel
- Spa Villas
- Fish Reflexology is a unique foot massage where Turkish spa fish or African spa fish nibble on the dead skin of one's feet, making the skin smooth. This is followed by a Reflexology session. This is available in the Underwater World.
- Health Club and Spa consists of three deluxe suites, one of which has a private whirlpool and steam facility, seven single treatment rooms with attached showers and a Thai Pavilion, which is a private, open air garden unit perched over a fish pond and water fall.
- Spa Botanica is set in the Sentosa Resort & Spa. It has facilities including mud pools and Turkish-styled steam baths.
Barclays Singapore Open
The Barclays Singapore Open golf event is held yearly at the Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course. It is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, and the European Tour.
Sentosa Balloon Hats Festival
The Sentosa Balloon Hats Festival began in 2004. It is a gathering of local secondary school bands who would do display marches along the beach from Tanjong Beach to Palawan Beach before a mass display event. The participants would wear balloon hats made by themselves and each school comes up with their unique design. At the end of the event, all the students would pop their balloons followed by a release of a large number of balloons into the air. The event began as part of an attempt to create the world record for the gathering of the largest number of balloon hats. But since then, it had developed into a full scale annual event with performances around the whole island before the marching event began.
The Siloso Beach in Sentosa is host to the annual ZoukOut beach dance party organised by Zouk nightclub. On 10 December 2005, some 18,000 people attended the event.
A new year eve party, Siloso NYE Splash is also held annually at the Siloso Beach. On 31 December 2005, the party attracted some 15,000 people.
Beginning in February 2005, the Sentosa Flowers event is held at the Fountain Gardens, exhibiting a variety of flora and herbs. The festival, which coincides with the Chinese New Year or the "Spring Festival" celebration in Singapore, hosts other activities including a mural painting competition, photograph competitions and a festival market for gardening enthusiasts.
SWATCH-FIVB Beach Volleyball
The SWATCH-FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour 2007 was held during 24–27 May at the Siloso Beach. This is the first ever Women's world tour event and was the biggest ever beach lifestyle event hosted on the island. This is also the first time Olympic qualification as well as Olympic level athletes compete on Singapore soil for Beach Volleyball.
Plans by the government for Sentosa aims to establish it as one of the world's most luxurious holiday locations, with a SGD$10 billion masterplan for the future involving the construction of private housing at the Sentosa Cove, the aforementioned partial redevelopment of Siloso Beach, and Asia's first tourism academy. These large scale island redevelopment projects are expected to complete in 2012.
Resorts World Sentosa
The largest impact is expected to be from a family-oriented Integrated Resort, with a casino at its core. This Integrated Resort is already fully completed. A resort developer and operator was chosen on December 8, 2006. The winning proposal was the Genting/Star Cruises consortium in their bid for Resorts World Sentosa. It has a Universal Studios Theme Park, known as Universal Studios Singapore which occupies nearly half of the resort space. Development of the resort is financed privately at a cost of $GD5.75 billion and does not receive any government subsidies. The proposal for a casino has met with extensive opposition from many conservative critics. Nevertheless, the government has constantly reassured that there would be stringent measures in place, to maintain the social fabric of the nation Singapore, and to prevent problems such as gambling addiction.
On the 14th February 2010 at 12.18pm sharp, which was also the first day of the Chinese New Year, Resorts World Sentosa was opened for the public. In Cantonese, 1218 sounded like "prosperity". The casino complex also includes a Universal Studios Movie Theme Park, which opened its door for sneak peek of videos for the first one week of operations from the 14–21 February, followed by full operations on the 22nd.
- Resorts World Sentosa
- Southern Islands