Sentosa
1 sentosa aerial 2016.jpg
Official logo of Sentosa
Nickname: 
The State of Fun
Location in Singapore
Coordinates: 1°14′53″N 103°49′48″E / 1.248°N 103.830°E / 1.248; 103.830Coordinates: 1°14′53″N 103°49′48″E / 1.248°N 103.830°E / 1.248; 103.830
Country Singapore
Government
 • MayorSouth West CDC
 • Members of ParliamentWest Coast GRC
Area
 • Total4.71 km2 (1.82 sq mi)
Rail servicesNorth East Line and Circle Line at HarbourFront Station
Sentosa Express
Major landmarksResorts World Sentosa
Universal Studios Singapore
Fort Siloso
Capella Hotel
Sentosa Island
Sentosa logo.svg
Sentosa's logo
LocationSentosa Island
Opened1975; 48 years ago (1975)
ThemeFantasy, adventure
SloganAsia's Favourite Playground / Singapore's Island Resort / The State of Fun

Sentosa Island, known mononymously as Sentosa, and formerly Pulau Belakang Mati, is an island located off the southern coast of Singapore's main island.[1] The island is separated from the main island of Singapore by a channel of water, the Keppel Harbour, and is adjacent to Pulau Brani, a smaller island wedged between Sentosa and the main island.

Formerly used as a British military base and afterwards as a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, the island was renamed Sentosa and was planned to be a popular tourist destination. It is now home to a popular resort that receives more than twenty million visitors per year.[2] Attractions include a 2 km (1.2 mi) long sheltered beach, Madame Tussauds Singapore, an extensive Cable Car network, Fort Siloso, two golf courses, 14 hotels and the Resorts World Sentosa, which features the Universal Studios Singapore theme park and one of Singapore's two casinos, the other being in Marina Bay Sands.

Sentosa is also widely known as being the location of the 2018 North Korea–United States Singapore Summit, where North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump met at the Capella Hotel located on the island. This was the first-ever meeting between the leaders of North Korea and the United States.[3]

Etymology

Sentosa is marked as “Blacan mati” (left, above Singapura) for "belakang mati" in this 1604 map of Singapura by the Malay-Portuguese cartographer Manuel Godinho de Erédia. The Malay Peninsula (Ujontana) is to the right.
Sentosa is marked as “Blacan mati” (left, above Singapura) for "belakang mati" in this 1604 map of Singapura by the Malay-Portuguese cartographer Manuel Godinho de Erédia. The Malay Peninsula (Ujontana) is to the right.

The name Sentosa translates as "peace and tranquility" in Malay, which was in turn derived from the Sanskrit term Santosha, meaning "contentment, satisfaction".[4][5] Sentosa was formerly known as Pulau Belakang Mati[6][7] which in Malay means the "Island of Death Behind".[8][9]

The name Belakang Mati is old; an island was identified as Blacan Mati in Manuel Godinho de Erédia's 1604 map of Singapore. Other early references to the island of Belakang 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 Belakang Mati from the adjacent island of Pulau Brani, so it is uncertain to which island the seventeenth century place names referred.

The island has changed name several times. 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 Belakang 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"; belakang 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".

There are a number of different suggestions on how the island came to acquire such an unpropitious name:

View from Imbiah Lookout to Mainland Singapore
View from Imbiah Lookout to Mainland Singapore

In 1827, Captain Edward Lake of the Bengal Engineer Group in his report on public works and fortifications had proposed an alternative name for Belakang Mati as the "Island of St George". However, the island was seen as too unhealthy for habitation and his proposed name was never realised.

The Tallest Merlion statue on Sentosa which has since been permanently closed
The Tallest Merlion statue on Sentosa which has since been permanently closed

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.

History

Early period

Pulau Belakang Mati

Pulau Belakang Mati was once home to the native Malays who were relocated to the mainland, together with the Pulau Brani villagers, due to urban redevelopment in the late 1970s. 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 four forts built on the island were Fort Siloso, Fort Serapong, Fort Connaught and the Mount Imbiah Battery.[6][10]

Fort Siloso and Sarang Rimau

The western end of Pulau Belakang Mati, the place where Fort Siloso is now, used to be called sarang rimau (the tiger's den). Selusuh is a kind of herb used as a remedy in childbirth,[11] 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.

Fort Connaught

Fort Connaught, on eastern side of Sentosa island, was earlier called Belakang Mati East Battery which was constructed in 1878. It had ammunition similar to Fort Siloso, with three Mark I 7 Inch RML Guns of 6½ Tons and two RML 64-pounder 64 cwt guns. In 1890 it was renamed the Fort Connaught to mark the visit of Duke of Connaught. In 1930s, fort was rebuilt and three Mark X 9·2-Inch Guns on 30° Mark VII Mountings with better range replaced the older firepower. On Mount Serapong, an underground Battery Plotting Room on northern side and a Battery Observation Post on top of mountain the were constructed. In 1942, during WWII, British forces at this fort exhausted their ammunition, and guns were tempered with and disabled before the British surrender to Japanese forces. A significant part of Mount Serapong was removed and it made way for the present day Tanjong Golf Course, due to which a major part of the fort was destroyed. Presently few remains of the fort can still be seen in the extreme east corner of the Tanjong Golf Course, namely observation tower in the northeast corner of golf course near Allenbrooke road, then to the south of it are gun number 3, gun number 2 and engine room, and finally gun number 1 - all short distance from each other.[12]

Fort Serapong

Fort Serapong, Fort Siloso, Fort Connaught and Imbiah Battery were constructed on Sentosa island in 1870 to form the southern defence of Singapore. Presently only 20% of the original fort has been discovered. [13] Ruins are reachable via Fort Serapong Road, then walking on a forested ridge which has several "Danger: keep out" type of signs.[14]

Second World War

During the Second World War, the island was a British military fortress. The British set up large-calibre gun fortifications at various points along the island that were aligned to the south, facing the sea in expectation of a seaward Japanese assault. The myth that the guns were incapable of pointing north developed after the War but this was wrong, they could swivel to point north but they were only equipped with armour-piercing shells for ships which made the shells ineffective against land based forces. The Japanese 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 15 February 1942, Fort Siloso became a prisoner of war camp, housing Australian and British prisoners of the Japanese.[15] 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. 300 bodies, riddled with bullet wounds, washed up on the beach of Pulau Belakang Mati, and were buried by the British prisoners.[16]

1945–72

Pulau Belakang Mati map, 1945
Pulau Belakang Mati map, 1945

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 Mount Imbiah became a religious retreat and a Protestant church house respectively. Fort Connaught was left in ruins. Fort Serapong became a secure communications and listening station.

In the early 1960s, during the Indonesian Confrontation, the 2/10th occupied the island. Even though Indonesia was in close proximity there were few amateurish attempts of direct action by the Indonesians against Singapore. The Gurkha battalion rotated on a six monthly basis to Borneo where most military action during the Confrontation took place. A significant parade took place on the island during the Confrontation to announce the award of the Victoria Cross to Rambahadur Limbu for an action in Borneo. With the end of the Confrontation in 1966 and the withdrawal of the Gurkha battalion 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 Belakang 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. It became part of the Republic of Singapore Navy. Also in 1967, Pulau Belakang Mati became the military base for the School of Field Engineers, which relocated there from Pasir Leba Camp. The Field Engineer School trained the 1st Batch of Combat Engineer Commanders who in turn trained the 1st batch of Full Time National Servicemen who were enlisted in 1968. The 1st operational Combat Engineer Battalion was also raised here. The Engineer Headquarters (EHQ) was established here 1970 before moving to Gillman Camp in 1971.

By 1967, the Singapore government had reached an agreement with Esso to build an oil refinery on the island with the intent to eventually turn the island into a petrochemical complex. However, the then-chief of the Urban Renewal Unit (the forerunner of the Urban Redevelopment Authority), Alan Choe, wanted to somehow preserve the greenery of the island. With the support of Dr Albert Winsemius, he managed to convince then-Finance Minister Goh Keng Swee and then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong to turn the island into a tourism destination, and shift the planned Esso refinery to Jurong Island instead.[17]

1970s

Aerial perspective of Sentosa's Bridge
Aerial perspective of Sentosa's Bridge

In the late 1960s, the government began to set out proposals for developing the island, and a contest to find a new name for the island was held in November 1969.[18] The island was renamed "Sentosa" in September 1970, which means peace and tranquility in Malay (from Sanskrit, Santosha), from a suggestion by the public.[7] In March 1971, the government announced plans to develop the island into a holiday resort for local visitors and tourists, and a S$124-million plan for developing Sentosa was unveiled in March 1972.[18]

The Sentosa Development Corporation was formed and incorporated on 1 September 1972 to oversee the development of the island.[7] Since then, some S$420 million of private capital and another S$500 million of government funds have been invested to develop the island.[7]

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.[19] 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.[19]

The Sentosa Monorail system was opened in 1982 to transport visitors across seven stations located around the western side of the island.[19]

1989

The former political prisoner and Nobel prize nominee Chia Thye Poh spent three-and-a-half years in internal exile on Sentosa after he was freed from 23 years in jail in 1989.[20]

2005

On 16 March 2005, the monorail service was discontinued to make way for the new Sentosa Express, which commenced operations on 15 January 2007.[19] 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.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23][24] Sentosa Boardwalk, designed by Aedas, was named Best Leisure Architecture in Asia Pacific and 5* Best Leisure Architecture in Singapore, at the 2014 Asia Pacific Property Awards.[25][26]

2018

The island hosted the 2018 North Korea–United States summit between the United States President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea on 12 June 2018, at the Capella Hotel.[27] Sentosa island was gazetted as a 'special event area' by the Singapore Government and the Capella Hotel was chosen as the venue by the White House, a week prior to the summit.[28]

In his 2018 autobiography, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong revealed that, when the tourism sector was suffering, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew made an attempt to allow a nudist resort to be built on Sentosa in order to attract tourists, but the motion was ultimately vetoed.[29][30]

Geography

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 the biodiversity of the island, resulting in the loss of much of the native fauna and flora. The island also has a 3.2 km (2.0 mi) stretch of white sand beach, which has impacted the reef. Significantly large portions of land are currently being added to Sentosa due to land reclamation.

Facilities

Transport

A retired Volvo B7RLE on the Blue Line. Buses currently serve as the main means of getting to and around Sentosa. It is fitted with Twin Vision EDS.
A retired Volvo B7RLE on the Blue Line. Buses currently serve as the main means of getting to and around Sentosa. It is fitted with Twin Vision EDS.
Beach station of Sentosa Express monorail at Sentosa island
Beach station of Sentosa Express monorail at Sentosa island

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 now-closed Merlion, and is not linked to the original Cable Car.

Public bus services are available to connect Sentosa Island to the mainland. Tong Tar Transport service RWS8 operates between VivoCity/ HarbourFront station to Resorts World Sentosa during peak hours only. On 30 July 2017, SBS Transit Bus Service 123 was extended to enhance connectivity to Resorts World Sentosa, Merlion Tower (now closed), and Beach Station Bus Terminal.

Prior to COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore, SMRT had operated Express Bus Services 188R and 963R between Choa Chu Kang and Woodlands towards Resorts World Sentosa respectively on weekends and public holidays. These bus routes were withdrawn on 7 April 2020 due to low demand.

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 A, Bus B, and Bus C. Bus C duplicates Bus A's service entirely but both are operating.

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, an 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 has been free of charge since the end of SG50 celebrations. The Sentosa Boardwalk hosts frequent bazaars on weekends.

Sentosa Beach Tram is a tram that serves Palawan Beach, Siloso Beach, and Tanjong Beach, using four vehicles including 2 Volvo B12BLEAs, in which the second carriage is an open-top and another one with green and blue liveries. The Volvo B12BLEAs were manufactured by ComfortDelGro Engineering bodywork. The connection is at Beach Station.

Separately, a 3 car tram used to serve Underwater World.

An Autonomous Bus Trial was also conducted from mid-2019 to the end of 2019.

Attractions

Aerial of Sentosa Island Singapore
Aerial of Sentosa Island Singapore
The tall ship, Royal Albatross
The tall ship, Royal Albatross

Operating attractions

Sentosa offers a variety of attractions, museums, and other facilities. These include Universal Studios and Madame Tussauds chain of attractions, as well as a Marine Life Park, which consists of a water park and an aquarium. Most of the attractions on Sentosa are located in either Resorts World Sentosa, Imbiah Lookout, or the Sentosa Beachfront.

  1. An immersive 4-D movie - "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island", based on the film starring Dwayne Johnson
  2. A virtual 4-D roller coaster - "Extreme Log Ride"
  3. An interactive 4-D Shoot-Out game - "Desperados"
  4. A new 4-D experience ride - "Haunted Mine"

Defunct attractions

Beaches

Siloso Beach in Sentosa, with the Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa resort overlooking the bay
Siloso Beach in Sentosa, with the Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa resort overlooking the bay
View on Tanjong Beach
View on Tanjong Beach
Aerial of Siloso Beach Singapore
Aerial of Siloso Beach Singapore
Palawan Beach Singapore
Palawan Beach Singapore

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 guarded by a beach patrol lifeguard team who are easily identified by their red and yellow uniforms.

Other facilities

The Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) newest fire station officially commenced operations on the island of Sentosa at 8am on Monday (6 June 2016). Sentosa Fire Station, which is located at 37 Artillery Avenue, has a fleet of five emergency vehicles: two fire engines, a fire bike, an ambulance and an aerial firefighting and rescue support vehicle. It is strategically placed to provide emergency services within the island and the immediate vicinity such as the HarbourFront and Telok Blangah areas.[42]

Hotels

There are several hotels and resorts in Sentosa (excluding Resorts World Sentosa accommodations):

In addition, there are six hotels in Resorts World Sentosa:

Spa

Events

Trump and Kim in the summit room during the DPRK–USA Singapore Summit
Trump and Kim in the summit room during the DPRK–USA Singapore Summit

Resorts World Sentosa

Main article: Resorts World Sentosa

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 Joël Robuchon, and the Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora, which faces the open ocean display of the S.E.A. Aquarium.

The Adventure Cove waterpark offers water rides (including the Southeast Asia's first hydro wet coaster), and marine experiences like swimming with dolphins, sharks, manta rays, as well as snorkeling in an artificial reef.

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.[52] The resort's main attractions include Universal Studios Singapore, Adventure Cove water park, S.E.A. Aquarium, the Maritime Experiential Museum, The Royal Albatross and the Trick Eye Museum Singapore.

In 2019, Resorts World Sentosa is listed as a winner in TripZilla Excellence Award[53]

Sustainability

Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) has developed a sustainability plan to safeguard the environment and to conserve Sentosa's heritage assets. In fact, many parts of Sentosa still retain her original tranquil and lush environment - driven by the corporation's land-use policy of maintaining 60% of the island as green and open spaces (natural area reduced to about 25% by 2014).

Efforts are made to raise awareness among both visitors and staff of the island regarding environmental issues and sustainable tourism. This is done via regular campaigns and educational talks.

Key sustainability-related achievements include:

A collage of Sentosa, with labels next to attractions pictured
A collage of Sentosa, with labels next to attractions pictured

See also

References

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