Sentosa turns 50 this year and it has grown and continuously refreshed its offerings, transforming into a leading leisure destination and attracting millions of visitors annually. However, while many may know that the island was once a British military base, there are many other facets of Sentosa and its history that may be less well known to some.
As Sentosa kicks off celebrations for its Golden Jubilee, here are some interesting fun facts about the island that might surprise you!
1. Old Sentosa Ferry Terminal
As part of plans to attract more visitors to Sentosa back in the 1980s, a ferry terminal was constructed to enhance accessibility. Completed in 1987, guests could take a four-minute ferry ride to Sentosa.
2. Raffles Sentosa Resort & Spa Singapore
Sentosa is home to a diverse range of hotels, from the family friendly to the luxurious and indulging. Soon, Sentosa will be home to Singapore’s first villa-only hotel to be called Raffles Sentosa Resort & Spa Singapore.
3. Fantasy Island
Over the years, Sentosa has continuously rejuvenated and refreshed its various leisure experiences. For instance, before the Adventure Cove Waterpark, there was another waterpark that attracted guests to Sentosa between 1994 and 2002. It was most known for its huge, eight-lane water slide. The water park was known as the Fantasy Island.
4. Sentosa Master Plan
The landmark Sentosa-Brani Master Plan will transform the islands into a game-changing leisure and tourism destination in the coming decades. The Master Plan covers:
- Bringing in world-class attractions
- Enhancing last-mile transport connectivity
- New spaces and concepts that are authentic and environmentally sustainable
- Five distinct zones progressively taking on a more leisurely character as guests travel farther from the city into the islands
5. Hawksbill sea turtle
Sentosa is home to a variety of coastal marine habitats and lush rainforests. The thriving biodiversity in these areas is testament to Sentosa’s commitment to sustainability.
In 2021, a Hawksbill sea turtle, critically endangered turtle, nested on Sentosa’s beaches, in a nod to how the Sentosa community has protected and maintained the island’s beaches over the years.
Sentosa welcomed its first pair of peafowl in 1980 as part of earlier efforts to enrich the island’s flora, fauna and rustic charm. There are over 60 peafowls in Sentosa today.
7. Southernmost Point of Continental Asia
Tucked away at the southwestern coast of Sentosa is a tiny islet accessible only via a suspension bridge.
Following enhancements to Sentosa’s beaches in the 1990s, two viewing towers were added, providing guests with breathtaking views of the surrounding waters.
This iconic location can also be considered as Asia’s closest point to the equator, thus it got the name the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia.
8. Oil Refinery
In September 1967, Sentosa island was returned to the Government, following the closure of British military bases in Singapore. Thanks to a proposal by Albert Winsemius, then chief economic advisor to Singapore, as well as his team, Sentosa transformed into a leading leisure destination, instead of becoming an oil refinery as earlier planned.
9. Capella Singapore
While we now know Sentosa as a multi-faceted leisure destination with its sandy beaches, attractions, dining experiences, nature trails and resorts, the island was previously used by the British as a military base. Among the historical buildings that have been preserved is one which used to accommodate officers of the British Royal Artillery and their families.
Today, this building has been integrated into a modern resort called Capella Singapore.
10. Old Musical Fountain
The Musical Fountain on Sentosa was a spectacular ballet of dancing fountains, colours and lights. The outdoor fountain was then the largest of its kind in Asia. The dancing water jets first dazzled the public in 1982.
11. Sentosa Jetty @ Cove
As part of sustainability advocacy and education efforts under the Sustainable Sentosa strategic roadmap, Sentosa Development Corporation will pilot new low-carbon leisure experiences in the Southern Islands, as it extends the Sentosa getaway to the nearby islands and help you better appreciate the islands’ rich flora and fauna.
As part of these efforts, you can now take a the Sentosa Jetty @ Cove ferry from Sentosa to the Southern islands on Fridays, weekends, and public holidays.
Under the Sustainable Sentosa strategic roadmap, Sentosa is targeting to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and become a globally recognised, certified tourism destination. Inaugural initiatives under the strategic roadmap include new sustainability- and heritage-themed tours called SentoSights.
13. Sentosa’s name origin
In 1968, the Government decided to develop Sentosa into a holiday resort for locals and tourists, and the public was invited to suggest a name for the island. ‘Sentosa’ was eventually selected translating to “peace and tranquility” in Malay.
14. The Coralarium
Over the years, Sentosa has refreshed and rejuvenated the island’s offerings, as it transformed into today’s leading leisure destination. The Coralarium, which opened in 1974, was Sentosa’s first attraction. It housed rare and colourful live corals, marine life associated with coral reefs, and a collection of 2,000 seashells from around the world. The highlight was an 18m-tall coral tower.
15. SMBC Singapore Open
Sentosa Golf Club (SGC) has hosted numerous renowned tournaments throughout the years, such as the HSBC Women’s World Championship and the Singapore Open men’s tournament. On January 2022, SGC hosted the SMBC Singapore Open.
16. Sentosa Sandsation
Over the decades, Sentosa has been home to a variety of novel events that showcase the island’s range of unique offerings, such as Sentosa Sandsation at the beach, which featured larger-than-life sand sculptures. Sentosa Sandsation was Southeast Asia’s largest sand festival that made its debut on 1999.
17. Old Sentosa Monorail
The former Sentosa Monorail brought guests around the island and later made way for a more advanced transportation system, the Sentosa Express. The Sentosa Express, which began operation on 15 January 2007, now connects Sentosa to the mainland via VivoCity.
18. New Attractions
As part of its expansion plans, Resorts World Sentosa will extend Universal Studios Singapore, which opened on 28 May 2011, to include two new attractions – Minion Park and Super Nintendo World. These upcoming offerings are set to add to the diverse range of leisure experiences in Sentosa.
19. 2024 Marine Expansion
Sentosa is home to a wide array of marine life, including those at its natural coastal habitats, as well as the S.E.A. Aquarium. The S.E.A. Aquarium will be rebranded to Singapore Oceanarium in 2024 and be expanded to 3 times its current size, with interactive installations.
20. 1st-Generation Cable Car
Did you know that at the time of opening, the first cableway, the Mount Faber Line, was the first in Southeast Asia and the first in Asia to straddle a stretch of water? It first commenced operations in 1974.
21. Fort Siloso
Among the gazetted structures at Fort Siloso are its casemates, which are strong underground chambers built to provide accommodation, office and storage space. They were designed to be shell-proof and faced away from the sea to protect it from naval attacks. The walls between the rooms are About 90 cm thick!
22. Train System
The Sentosa Monorail opened in 1982, with an initial nine trains each capable of transporting up to 90 guests at a time. The system started and ended at the Ferry Terminal, looping a distance of 6km around Sentosa and passing by offerings such as the then Apollo Sentosa Hotel, Fort Siloso and the cable car station at then Carlton Hill.