Singapore's Sentosa Island is a fantasy land with something for everyone, especially families, including beaches, a huge aquarium, Fort Siloso from WWII and a theme park.
Sentosa means “peace and tranquility” in the Malay language, but getting to Singapore’s Sentosa Island can be anything but if you take a cable car.
Mount Faber tower, the originating point from Singapore to Sentosa, is 225 feet above mean sea level. My husband and I went early and were the only two in our car, which was a relief. If there were more people, they might bounce around and I would have felt threatened. Though we surely were secure, there appeared to be only one cable attachment for the car — we were hanging by a strong metal thread in my opinion — though Wikipedia calls it a bicable. In learning this, I also found out that the cable car had a disaster in 1983, though apparently nothing since.
The cable car to Sentosa Island
Warning: the cable car is not for those who are claustrophobic or afraid of heights. There are multiple other ways to get to the island. These include monorail, bus, taxi, train or even walking across the newly opened Sentosa Boardwalk. If you decide to walk, early in the day would be more comfortable as Singapore is not only hot, but humid. The temperature and humidity change little throughout the year.
The fee for the cable car is 29 Singaporean dollars ($23.17) per person, round trip. One way fares are not available. I think I know why: the company wouldn’t be making as much money because a lot of people wouldn’t purchase a return trip — myself included.
Sentosa is a fantasy land with something for everyone, especially families.
The South East Asia Aquarium in Resort World on Sentosa is said to be the largest fish tank in the world. The viewing area is so enormous that there are food stops along the way with a formal restaurant is near the middle. These facilities are needed if the visitor is going to take as much time as she or he desires.
In fact, we had to leave because of hunger, not because we wanted to. The formal restaurant was already seated to capacity so we ate at the more modest Fish & Crab Shack above ground, just outside the aquarium exhibit area. The disadvantage was that we had to leave the fish tank and there was a substantial line to get back in. However, a plus was that the food at Fish & Crab Shack was surprisingly good. I had the Zhang He rice (also known as olive rice) with a fried egg on top.
Zhang He was an ancient Chinese nautical genius. While eating his signature dish, I could even watch a video of him and his exploits on the open-sided theater adjoining the restaurant. My husband had the fish and chips.
The Seafarers Exhibit
Before going to the aquarium, it is possible to view the Seafarers exhibit on the second level, which largely explains visually the early trade in Southeast Asia. For those who like tactile plus olfactory and pictorial experiences, this is the place. It is, of course, a child’s paradise. Seeing, smelling and touching the objects, including trading vehicles such as spices and porcelain, is a stimulating and fun experience, not only for children, but also adults. Photo opportunities are abundant.
We also visited the “Images of Singapore,” which is a history of the island presented in dioramas. The first part is especially informative, the last part less so in that it covered Peranakan history, something many will already have mastered in visiting other Straits cities (Malacca and Penang) or the Peranakan Museum in Singapore itself. Peranakans are largely male Chinese immigrants to the Straits cities who married Malay women.
On the west side of the island stands Fort Siloso. The fort’s reminder of the tragedies that played out in Singapore during WWII stands as a stark contrast to the island’s pleasures. The city was occupied by the Japanese between 1942 and 1945. In fact, the island was bombed by the Japanese on Dec. 8, 1941, just a day after Pearl Harbor. A brief visit to the fort is a solemn reminder that so many have given so much to preserve our freedoms today.
We entered the massively reinforced underground barracks where prisoners of war were housed without ventilation during the Japanese governance. With the weather 88 degrees Fahrenheit, high humidity, no breeze and little light, conditions must have been unbearable. The prisoners were starved and suffered from protein malnutrition.
Still, there were a few circumstances of the human spirit arising above physical conditions. One prisoner managed to put together a makeshift chapel so those who chose to pray could do so in a special place.
A view of Singapore from Sentosa Island
There is a free bus that transports island visitors between major attractions on the island. While on the bus, we met adults our age going to the movie theme park Universal Studios Singapore,. There are also beaches and the area known as Imbiah Lookout has rides. We spent three quarters of a day at Sentosa but could easily go back for a second.
For additional information, please see Sentosa Attractions.