Travel: Singapore, fantasy island

By Mike Yardley

No place better exemplifies Singapore's souped-up array of attractions than Sentosa Island. What was formerly a languid, tropical retreat has been given a makeover.

Alongside the forest walks, manicured gardens and white, sandy beaches, Resort World Sentosa has revved up the island's offerings, with some multi-billion dollar drawcards.

Taking top billing is Universal Studios Singapore. Comprising 24 rides and attractions in seven themed zones, Hollywood's master magicians have pulled out all the stops. This is not an imitation of Universal's backlot theme park in California. The sparkling new park at Sentosa boasts a slew of experiences.

Shrek fans are in for a thrill with the world's first Far Far Away Castle and the 4D fairytale adventure ride. Sci-Fi buffs are spoilt, with the world's first Transformers 3D ride and the world's tallest duelling roller coasters, in the spirit of Battlestar Galactica.

Take my word for this - these roller coasters will leave you as white as a ghost for some time afterwards. Full-throttle terror and exhilaration in equal measure.

Once your pulse rate has recovered, treat yourself to the world's first Madagascar ride, plus check out the fabulous array of Sesame Street shows and attractions. Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and Elmo sure know how to work a crowd!

In fact, one of the signature attractions of Universal Studios Singapore is the sheer abundance of meet-and-greet opportunities with big-screen characters. From Shrek and Marilyn Monroe to Woody Woodpecker and Optimus Prime, the all-star cast provides plenty of photo-ops.

Even if you're a theme park veteran, Universal Studios Singapore is packed with holiday magic.

When you've had your fill, immerse yourself in the oceanic splendour of the sparkling new Marine Life Park. Housing more than 100,000 marine animals, spanning over 800 species, in more than 60 million litres of water, this is the world's largest oceanarium.

Sticking with the nautical theme, check out the Maritime Experiential Museum. Designed to showcase the heritage of seafaring and the importance of the Silk Route, a variety of interactive experiences are housed within the museum. The Typhoon Theatre takes you on a perilous voyage aboard a 9th century Chinese junk laden with cargo and which runs into a storm. The 360-degree multimedia theatre experience gives you a taste of the sea's wrath, as your ship rolls, turns and finally sinks. The climax involves realising you're in the depths of the ocean, up close with the shipwreck. An unnerving spectacle.

Be sure to set aside some time to explore the enchanting Souk gallery, replete with timeless goods that were traded and collected along the Maritime Silk Route. And survey the five life-size replicas of historic ships, berthed in the museum's harbour.

- Hamilton News

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