Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sentosa Island

On Friday, February 23rd, our class traveled to Sentosa Island - Singapore's Official Tourist Resort Destination. Sentosa, the Malay word for Tranquility, was apparently once known as Pulau Belakang Mati, which in Malay means the "Island (pulau) of Death (mati) from Behind (belakang)". Not to sure about what that means. Not sure I want to know. But if I had an even more up-to-date name for the island, it would be the Malay word for "Expensive".

What is there to see on Sentosa? you may ask. Well, in case you didn't get enough out of the Merlion statue on mainland Singapore, go to Sentosa to see a giant replication of the famous mascot. If staring at a giant statue isn't your cup of tea, why not try the Butterfly Park, Insect World or learn how to fly on the Flying Trapeze - and have your checkbooks ready.

But even if Sentosa is a tourist trap, I must admit that it was worth every penny to see the Underwater World - Singapore's aquarium. There were creatures in that place that I have never seen alive before, including the African lungfish, the coconut crab, the dugong and the sea dragon. The aquarium has a "travellator" that ferries you through an 83-meter long acrylic tunnel that is surrounded by a few species of sharks, rays and countless fish - my new favorite being the "sweetlips". We took a ride on the travellator just as the fish were being fed - perfect timing.

For the rest of the day, a few of us went to one of the islands' beaches to catch some rays. Even though the landscape was pretty manufactured, it did feel like a little piece of luxury. Singapore is one of the biggest ports in the world, a fact that is unavoidable – especially from the coastline - the ocean view consisted of no less than 10 tankers. But the resort owners are clever and advertise the tankers as providing beautiful lighting at night - apparently making the beach one of the most romantic spots in Singapore with the help of some artificial ambiance.

Sentosa Island proved to be a very entertaining day. But, as seen all over the world, tourism comes to the tropics at a high environmental cost. This island was once surrounded by corals. With no regulations or protected measures for Singapore’s reefs, these corals have disappeared and replaced with sand imported from Malaysia.

Emily (the older) B.

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