Not to be confused with Sentosa Development Corporation.
Sentosa Island

Sentosa's logo
Slogan Asia's Favourite Playground / Singapore's Island Resort / The State of Fun
Location Sentosa Island
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
Theme Fantasy, Adventure
Opened 1975
Name transcription(s)
  Chinese 圣淘沙
  Pinyin shèngtáoshā
  Malay Sentosa
  Tamil செந்தோசா
Country  Singapore
The Tallest Merlion statue on Sentosa
View from Imbiah Lookout to Mainland Singapore

Sentosa is a popular island resort in Singapore, visited by some twenty million people a year.[1] Attractions include a 2 km (1.2 mi) long sheltered beach, Fort Siloso, two golf courses, the Merlion, 14 hotels, and the Resorts World Sentosa, featuring the theme park Universal Studios Singapore.


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".[2][3] Sentosa was formerly known as Pulau Blakang Mati[4][5] 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:

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".[6]



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.[4][7]

The western end of Pulau Belakang 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 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 armoured piercing shells for shipping 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, 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 Belakang Mati was one of the killing fields.


Pulau Blakang 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 Confrontation took place. A significant parade took place on the island during 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 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. It became part of the Republic of Singapore Navy.

In the 1970s, the government decided to develop the island into a holiday resort for local visitors and tourists. A little discussed fact is that many generations of Malays and Chinese who had lived harmoniously on the island were relocated into high-rise apartments on Singapore, the idyllic island life was lost and not by choice.


The island was renamed "Sentosa" in 1972, which means peace and tranquility in Malay (from Sanskrit, Santosha), from a suggestion by the public.[5] The Sentosa Development Corporation was formed and incorporated on 1 September 1972 to oversee the development of the island.[5] Since then, some S$420 million of private capital and another S$500 million of government funds have been invested to develop the island.[5]

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.[8] 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.[8]

The Sentosa Monorail system was opened in 1982 to transport visitors across seven stations located around the western side of the island.[8]


On 16 March 2005, the monorail service was discontinued to make way for the new Sentosa Express, which commenced operations on 15 January 2007.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12][13]


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.

Aerial panorama of Sentosa facing south
Aerial panorama of Sentosa facing north



A 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.

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.

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.


Operating attractions

Main article: Imbiah Lookout

Sentosa offers a variety of attractions, museums and other facilities to provide a variety of experiences, recreation and entertainment to visitors. Many attractions on Sentosa are located in Imbiah Lookout, which contains 11 attractions.

  1. An immersive 4-D movie - "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, The 4-D Experience"
  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 - "Green Lantern - Fight Against Fear"

Defunct attractions


Siloso Beach in Sentosa, with the Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa resort overlooking the bay
View on Tanjong Beach.

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.

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.[18]


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

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



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.

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.[21]


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.

See also


  1. "Sentosa Annual Report 2012/2013". External link in |website= (help);
  2. Apte, Vaman Shivaram. "The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-08-15.
  3. Peter H Van Ness, Yoga as Spiritual but not Religious: A Pragmatic Perspective, American Journal of Theology & Philosophy, Vol. 20, No. 1 (January 1999), pages 15-30
  4. 1 2 Victor R Savage, Brenda S A Yeoh (2003), Toponymics — A Study of Singapore Street Names, Eastern Universities Press, ISBN 981-210-205-1
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Sentosa Then, Sentosa Today". About Us > Sentosa Island. Sentosa Leisure Group. 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-01. Looking at Sentosa today, it's hard to imagine the island was once a fishing village known as Pulau Blakang Mati; The public was invited to suggest names for the island and "Sentosa" – meaning peace & tranquillity in Malay — was eventually chosen for the island resort. Tasked with overseeing the development, management and promotion of the island, Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) was incorporated on 1 September 1972 as a statutory board under the purview of the Ministry of Trade and Industry; Since the island's inception in 1972, S$420 million in private investments and another $500 million from Government funding have gone into developing the island.
  6. "Singapore On A Roll", Business Traveller Asia-Pacific, 31 March 2010, retrieved 2010-09-05
  7. National Heritage Board (2002), Singapore's 100 Historic Places, Archipelago Press, ISBN 981-4068-23-3
  8. 1 2 3 4 "Milestone". About Us > Sentosa Island. Sentosa Leisure Group. 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 1974: The cable car transport system, linking Sentosa to Mount Faber, was inaugurated; 1992: A 710-metre long Causeway-Bridge, linking Sentosa to the mainland, was opened for traffic; 1982: Sentosa's monorail system transported its first passengers; 2005: Singapore Open, one of Singapore 's most celebrated sporting events, will be held at Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course from 8–11 September with a massive US$2m prize purse, making it the richest national Open in Asia. Monorail ceases operation in March; 2007: The $140,000,000 light-rail Sentosa Express system opens, enhancing access to the island within four minutes and connecting to Singapore's public train network.
  9. "Environmental Impact Assessment of Sentosa Integrated Resort". Retrieved 2010-01-18.
  10. "Sentosa Boardwalk". channelnewsasia. 29 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-01.
  11. "Sentosa Boardwalk2". straits times. 29 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-01.
  12. "Sentosa Boardwalk named Best Leisure Architecture Asia Pacific". Asia One News. 13 May 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-01.
  13. "Sentosa Boardwalk Named Best Leisure Architecture". Asia One News. 13 May 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-01.
  14. "The "Main Fleet to Singapore" Strategy". National Archives of Singapore. Archived from the original on 2006-09-10. Retrieved 20 January 2006.
  16. "Welcome to Sentosa". Retrieved 2010-01-18.
  17. "Palawan Beach". Sentosa. Retrieved 30 January 2006.
  19. Palumbo, James. "How I risked my life kicking the drug gangs out of my club, by Ministry of Sound boss James Palumbo". Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  20. "ZoukOut draws record 18,000 party-goers from Singapore and region". Channel NewsAsia. 11 December 2005.
  22. "Sentosa Recognized as One of the World's Leading Sustainable Tourism Destinations"
  23. NParks Heritage Tree Register
  24. BCA Green Mark Scheme
  27. "New Sentosa Boardwalk Poised to Boost Island Resort's Infrastructure and Transportation Network"
  28. "NTU and Sentosa launch Singapore's first tidal turbine system at Sentosa Boardwalk"
  29. "The State of Fun Gives Back"

External links

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