The name Sentosa translates as "peace and tranquility" in Malay, which was in turn derived from the Sanskrit term Santosha (संतोष, IAST: Saṃtoṣa), meaning "contentment, satisfaction". Sentosa was formerly known as Pulau Blakang Mati which in Malay means the "Island of Death from Behind". 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" or "after"; mati means "dead". It is also called the "dead island" or the "island of the dead" or perhaps "island of after death".
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 tranquility", from Sanskrit, Santosha. Through the 1980s and 1990s, a number of pay-to-get-in tourist destinations 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". The island was renamed "Sentosa" in 1972, which means peace and tranquility in Malay (from Sanskrit, Santosha), from a suggestion by the public. The Sentosa Development Corporation was formed and incorporated on 1 September 1972 to oversee the development of the island. Since then, some S$420 million of private capital and another S$500 million of government funds have been invested to develop the island.
In 1974 the Singapore Cable Car system was built, linking Sentosa to Mount Faber. Finally, in 1975, the Republic of Singapore Navy had moved out from the Sentosa to Pulau Brani Island. 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. The Sentosa Monorail system was opened in 1982 to transport visitors across seven stations located around the western side of the island. On 16 March 2005, the monorail service was discontinued to make way for the new Sentosa Express, which commenced operations on 15 January 2007. An environmental assessment conducted by the government of Singapore concluded that the construction of an integrated resort on Sentosa would result in a high likelihood of high scale biodiversity loss, habitat destruction, soil erosion and climate change, as well as several other destructive ecological impacts.
Therefore, over two hundred trees and plants from the area that was to be cleared for the construction of the resorts were replanted elsewhere on the island to minimize negative environmental impact. 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 Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on 29 January 2011, provides visitors with an alternative mode of travel to reach the island. Sentosa Boardwalk, designed by Aedas, was named Best Leisure Architecture in Asia Pacific and 5* Best Leisure Architecture in Singapore, at this year's Asia Pacific Property Awards.
The island has an area of close to 5 km2 (1.9 sq mi). 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 was covered by secondary rainforest, the habitat of monitor lizards, monkeys, peacocks, parrots as well as other native fauna and flora, also, when the construction of Resorts World Sentosa commenced, environmental impact was kept at a minimum when over two hundred trees in the designated area were replanted elsewhere on the island. Further development has significantly impacted on the biodiversity of the island that much of the fauna and flora has been lost. The island also has 3.2 km (2.0 mi) stretch of white sand beach, this has impacted on the reef . Significantly large portions of land are currently being added to Sentosa due to land reclamation.
Sentosa offers a variety of attractions, museums and other facilities to provide a variety of experiences, recreation and entertainment to visitors. These include the world renowned Universal Studios and Madame Tussauds chain of attractions, as well as a Marine Life Park, which consists of a water park and an aquarium. Many attractions on Sentosa are located in Imbiah Lookout, which contains 11 attractions. Tall Ship Royal Albatross is a unique 47m class A luxury Tall Ship (pirate ship) that is berthed behind the SEA Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa. The ship has 4 masts, 22 sails and is the largest charter yacht in Singapore with a capacity of 149 passengers. It is owned and operated by Tall Ship Adventures Pte Ltd and can be chartered by the hour or day for private and corporate events. The company also sell tickets for short cruises via their website. The ship is frequently visited by royalty and celebrities and was featured as Bruce Wayne’s luxury yacht in the Batman movie “A Dark Knight”.
Tiger Sky Tower (previously known as the Carlsberg Sky Tower) is a free-standing observation tower. At a height of 110 m (360 ft) above ground and 131 m (430 ft) above sea level, it offers visitors a panoramic view of Sentosa, Singapore, and the Southern Islands. It has a lifting speed of 1.2 metres per second and weighs 200 metric tonnes. On a clear day, the view extends to parts of Malaysia, Johor Bahru (30 km / 18 miles), Indonesia, Pulau Bintan (45 km / 28 miles) and Pulau Bantan (43 km / 27 miles). At ground level, visitors enter a large disc-shaped air-conditioned cabin fitted with glass windows all around. The cabin then revolves slowly as it ascends the column of the tower. The cabin has a capacity of 72 visitors. The Sky Tower now sits at the very spot of what was formerly known as the Dragon Court. It had a dragon statue as the centerpiece with water spouting from its mouth. In one of its claws, it held a previous logo of Sentosa which was used in the early 1980s. Its tail ended at the Dragon Trail in the northern part of Imbiah Lookout. The statue was demolished a few months before the groundbreaking ceremony of the Sky Tower. The Sky Tower was officially 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, the Sentosa Express or by internal bus.
Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom 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.
Sentosa Merlion is a gigantic 37 metre-tall replica of the Merlion which was completed in 1995, housing two viewing galleries and a souvenir shop. The Merlion statue once played a role in the world-famous Magical Sentosa show, but had to drop the part after the show was discontinued in March 2007 to make way for the construction of Resorts World Sentosa. Both the now defunct Sentosa Monorail and the Sentosa Express pass closely by the statue. Unlike its predecessor by the Esplanade, Sentosa Merlion distinguishes itself as the only Merlion in Singapore where you can learn about the urban myth within its attraction trail.
The Wings of Time show, created and produced by events company ECA2, is a multimedia extravaganza performance which started its run on 17 June 2014, replacing "Songs of the Sea" which ended its run on 4 May 2014. A series of triangular projection screens 120 m (390 ft) long sits propped up on the water surface while the rest of the equipment (water jets, water screens, lasers and projectors) is hidden at the back. Wings of Time features pyrotechnics displays, water fountains, water screens, laser projectors, flame bursts, a live cast and an open-air viewing gallery which can comfortably accommodate 2,500 visitors. The show runs twice nightly every evening. Tickets are purchased at all Sentosa ticketing counters or online.
Sentosa 4D Adventureland contains Singapore's and Southeast Asia's first four-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. Currently, there are several attractions in Sentosa 4D Adventureland: An immersive 4-D movie - "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, The 4-D Experience"; A virtual 4-D roller coaster - "Extreme Log Ride"; An interactive 4-D Shoot-Out game - "Desperados"; A new 4-D experience ride - "Green Lantern - Fight Against Fear".
Fort Siloso is located in the west of the island, with the guns of this preserved fort still standing. Fort Siloso was built by the British in 1880s to guard the narrow western entrance to Keppel Harbour. It was later modernised. The fort guarded the western approaches to Singapore during World War II. By 1939 it was armed with two 6-inch (150 mm) 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 are on display to depict life at the fort. Fort Siloso is home to the nation's largest collection of World War II memorabilia, including photographs, documents and film clips. The fort also served as the place of internment for the Singaporean political prisoner Chia Thye Poh in the period 1989-1993. This attraction was once served by the Fort Siloso Monorail Station of the discontinued Sentosa Monorail. After the monorail closed in 2005, the station was repurposed to add on to this attraction. An elevated walkway, called the Fort Siloso skywalk, was opened in 2015, giving visitors an aerial view of the fort and its surrounding foliage.
MegaZip Adventure Park, located at the top of Mount Imbiah, is Singapore's first adventure park with one of the longest and steepest zip wires in Asia (MegaZip), a 3-level, 40 feet-high aerial rope course (ClimbMax), a 50-foot high free fall simulator (ParaJump) and a challenging 16 metre-high rock climbing wall (NorthFace). At over 450 metres long and 72 metres above sea level, MegaZip is Asia's most extreme zip line. Guests descend at speeds of up to 50kmph from the jungle canopy of Imbiah Hill to the sands of Fox Finishing Point at Siloso Beach. This attraction was visited on the sixteenth season of the American reality show, The Amazing Race.
Madame Tussauds Singapore is the newest wax attraction situated at Imbiah Lookout. It connects to Images of Singapore, an award-winning historical museum that exhibited the culture and history of Singapore. After the opening of Madame Tussauds, Images of Singapore was turned into a live show. Images of Singapore and Madame Tussauds Singapore has eight fully themed interactive zones, a new "Spirit of Singapore" boat ride, and the Madame Tussauds wax museum zone.
Wave House Sentosa is located at Siloso Beach. The 70,000-square-foot (6,500 m2) Wave House consists of the Double FlowRider and the 10-foot (3.0 m) FlowBarrel, Singapore's first artificial barreling wave.
The Skyline Luge & Skyride features a self-steering, gravity-driven three-wheel cart. Invented in New Zealand over 27 years ago, this non-motorised cart allows riders to speed down a hill choosing between the 688 metre-long Dragon trail or the 628 metre-long Jungle trail, both ending at Siloso Beach. At the foot of the hill, guests can board the Skyride, a chairlift which affords a bird's-eye view of Sentosa Island, the Singapore city skyline and the South China Sea.
iFly Singapore - Measuring 16.5 feet in diameter with a flying height of 56.5 feet, iFly Singapore is the world's largest themed vertical wind tunnel. Visitors will receive professional training and guidance from certified instructors and complimentary skydiving gear rental on top of the actual skydive experience.
Sentosa Nature Discovery aims to educate and allow guests to appreciate the various species of flora and fauna that are unique to Sentosa's environmental landscape. Housed in a former monorail station that has been creatively adapted, it features interactive and colourful exhibits as well as a 1.8 km-long nature walk on an elevated boardwalk that was once the monorail's tracks.
Kidzania Singapore opened in 2016 at Palawan Beach, adding to the Mexican franchise's global outposts. Kidzania is an interactive indoor theme park combining inspiration, fun and learning through realistic role-play for children aged 4 to 17. MOSH! was also opened in the same premises as Kidzania. It is Singapore's first interactive digital family edutainment park, which showcases state-of-the-art multimedia technology from Japan.
Sentosa will also soon open Singapore's first bungee jump, in conjunction with New Zealand franchise AJ Hackett Bungy. There is also further planning for 2 new attractions, one of which will be nature-based, in the vicinity of Imbiah and Siloso Beach. A section 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 to come. Fantasy Island was a water-based theme park. Opened in 1994 at a cost of S$54 million, it had numerous water slides and other features. A very popular park at the time of its opening, it was unfortunately plagued by several accidents that resulted in several people getting injured as well as two fatalities. All these accidents led to the eventual closure of the attraction on 2 November 2002.
Adventure Asia Park, adjacent to Fantasy Island, was a separate gated attraction housed within the Asian Village themed area. At least one roller coaster operated at this location. The park closed permanently before 1998. Sentosa Monorail circled the western half of Sentosa until it closed in March 2005. Most of the island monorail was dismantled though several of the stations were repurposed for other uses and parts of the original track structure still remain. The monorail was replaced by the three internal bus lines and the current Sentosa Express, which operates from the main island of Singapore to Sentosa. Volcanoland featured an artificial volcano along with Mayan motifs and scenery. It was closed down to make way for the new integrated resort, Resorts World Sentosa.
Musical Fountain, when opened in 1982, was the star attraction at that time. It underwent three extensive renovations in 1972 (construction), 1992 (upgrading project) and 1999 (major restoration and upgrading). In 2002, world-renowned creator of multimedia shows, Yves Pépin (who also designed Songs of the Sea and Wings of Time) replaced the musical fountain show with the extremely popular and well-received Magical Sentosa Show which lasted for 5 years, from 2002 to 2007. After operating for 25 years, the fountain itself eventually shut down to make way for the integrated resort. Its last show was staged on 25 March 2007.
The Sentosa Ferry Terminal opened in 1973, and was the first cruise center in the region. For some time it was a popular attraction which ferried 9 million passengers to and from Sentosa, but passenger traffic started to decline steadily after 1998 when cars were allowed into the island for the first time. The Ferry Terminal Monorail Station of the now defunct Sentosa Monorail once connected tourists to the western half of the island, but it no longer does after the station closed in 2005. The ferry terminal itself was demolished along with the Sentosa Musical Fountain and the Fountain Gardens that connected the terminal to the musical fountain in 2007 to make way for Resorts World Sentosa which would occupy the area. The demolition was watched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the media, and the general public.
Underwater World and Dolphin Lagoon was an oceanarium located on the western part of Sentosa at Siloso Point. Opened in 1991, the living museum had more than 2,500 marine and fresh-water animals of 250 species from different regions of the world. The oceanarium was underground and included an 83-metre long travelator that moved visitors along a submerged, glass-windowed tunnel from which they could look at an array of marine life including a coral reef, stingrays, moray eels, turtles, sharks, and other fishes. In the 'Dive with the Sharks' programme, visitors could scuba dive in the large oceanarium, even if they are not scuba qualified. Underwater World also included a Dolphin Lagoon which is home to some Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins, also known as the Pink dolphins. For some time the aquarium was also one of the few places in the world to display captive dugong.
The Underwater World Monorail Station of the now-defunct Sentosa Monorail once connected visiting tourists to the western half of the island, but it no longer does as the monorail was discontinued in March 2005. Because of competition from the new aquarium attraction, SEA Aquarium, which is integrated with the transportation and boardwalk, Underwater World closed on 26 June 2016. Sentosa has a stretch of sheltered beach of more than 2 km (1.2 mi) 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 a beach patrol lifeguard team who are easily identified by their red and yellow uniforms.
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. There are several bars along the beach offering food and beverage options to visitors as well as Beach Station of the Sentosa Express. Palawan Beach was once served by Central Beach Monorail Station, but this station closed in 2005.
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, skimboarding, mountain biking and rollerblading. There are also dining and shopping outlets along the beach. The beach underwent a SGD$3 million facelift in December 2012. The Rasa Sentosa Resort is located at the western end of Siloso Beach.
Tanjong Beach is located on the relatively more secluded eastern part of the coast. The crescent-shaped beach is sometimes used for special events or parties. The beach bar 'KM8' used to be located here, but it closed down on 28 March 2009. The Tanjong Beach Club is now the main draw on Tanjong Beach.
Barclays Singapore Open was held yearly at the Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course from 2006 to 2012. The event was co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the European Tour. In 2013, the Sentosa Golf Club began hosting the annual HSBC Women's Champions golf tournament, also played at the Serapong Course. Sentosa Balloon Hat Festival began in 2004. It is a gathering of local secondary school bands who would do display marches 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 own unique design. At the end of the event, all the students would pop their balloons followed by the releasing 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. It was discontinued after 2006.
Beach parties: Hed Kandi, one of the world's best selling dance music labels and owned by Ministry of Sound began a monthly dance party on Siloso Beach in 2011, drawing over 14,000 visitors over a seven-month span. The Hed Kandi events and Ministry of Sound events are produced by SEAM in Singapore. 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's Eve party, Siloso NYE Splash (later rebranded as Siloso Beach Party), is also held annually at Siloso Beach. On 31 December 2005, the party attracted some 15,000 people.
Sentosa Flowers: Running from 2005 to 2013, the annual Sentosa Flowers event showcased rare and special blooms unique to the spring season. The event, which coincided with the Chinese New Year or "Spring Festival" celebration in Singapore, hosted other activities including mural painting and photography competitions and a festival market for gardening enthusiasts.
The Swatch FIVB World Tour 2007 for beach volleyball was held on 24–27 May 2007 at Siloso Beach. This was the first ever Women's World Tour event and was the biggest-ever beach lifestyle event hosted on the island. This was also the first time Olympic-level athletes competed on Singapore soil for Beach Volleyball.
Experience Mars was held on November 12 and 13 at Palawan Beach as part of National Geographic's promotion of its six-part TV series "MARS". This is a family-oriented Integrated Resort with a casino at its core. A resort developer and operator was chosen on 8 December 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 was financed privately at a cost of $SGD5.75 billion and it does not receive any government subsidies. The proposal for a casino was met with extensive opposition from many conservative critics. Nevertheless, the government has constantly reassured the public 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. It is also home to several celebrity chef restaurants, including Joel Robuchon, and the Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora, which faces the open ocean display of the S.E.A. Aquarium. It also has a concert venue known as the Hard Rock Colosseum, which has played host to musical acts like Of Monsters and Men, Jimmy Eat World and Bastille. On 14 February 2010 at exactly 12:18 p.m., which was also the first day of the Chinese New Year, Resorts World Sentosa was opened to the public. In Cantonese, "1218" sounds like "prosperity", hence the opening time. The resort's main attractions include Universal Studios Singapore, Adventure Cove water park, S.E.A. Aquarium, and a Trick Eye Museum.
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 at Imbiah Lookout. In 2015, Sentosa opened an intra-island Cable Car to facilitate travelling within the island. Dubbed the sky network, the Cable Car has 3 stations, in Siloso, Imbiah and near the Merlion, and is not linked to the original Cable Car. The island is also accessible by the Sentosa Express monorail, which replaced the old Sentosa Monorail that operated from 1982 to 2005. The Sentosa Express has three stations on Sentosa and one on mainland Singapore. The northern terminus of the line, which opened on 15 January 2007, is located at the VivoCity shopping mall on the mainland and the southernmost terminus, Beach Station, is located on Sentosa Island. In Vivocity, the mainland MRT is in turn served by the HarbourFront of the North East Line and the Circle Line.
Within Sentosa there are three bus services, identified as Bus 1, Bus 2 and Bus 3, and a tram service called the Beach Tram. Since 1998, passenger cars have been allowed to enter the island. Visitors can also access the island via the 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 SGD 1 admission fee into Sentosa is charged. From 7 June 2014 to 4 January 2015, walk-in entry into Sentosa via the Sentosa Boardwalk is free on weekends and public holidays. Walk-in entry is also free for SG50 weekend. The Sentosa Boardwalk hosts frequent bazaars on weekends.