My Sentosa Heritage Tour

Tour Info

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Every second Saturday (Forts & Barracks Route) and Sunday (Memories & Nature Route) of the month
8:30am to 12:00pm (approximately). Please arrive at 8:15am, 15mins before the start time for registration.
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Harbourfront Bus Interchange Berth A1
Imbiah Sentosa Express Station (Forts & Barracks Route) or Siloso Point Bus Stop (Memories & Nature Route)
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Difficulty Level


  • Expect around three hours of walking
  • This heritage tour requires participants to walk for three and a half hours long and trek some hilly terrain.

We do not recommend young children, people with disabilities and unfit individuals to participate in this tour.

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What should I bring
  • Wear comfortable clothes and suitable shoes for a bus ride and an approximately three hour walk
  • Bring along your headphones (compatible with headphone jack) Those without will have be charged S$2 per pair of earphones
  • Bring along insect repellent, an EZ-Link card, a bottle of water and an umbrella
  • Asthmatic individuals are encouraged to bring their inhaler


My Sentosa Heritage Tour visits the military encampments, tunnel complexes and secret reservoirs constructed by the British at Sentosa to defend their naval base in Keppel. Follow us on an adventure to the secret dungeons within the heart of our city and hear first-hand accounts from the former villagers and soldiers at Sentosa.


Forts & Barracks Route (Site 1 to 6)
This route chronicles the remarkable transformation of Pulau Blakang Mati into a world-class leisure destination. Discover previously untold stories about those who have lived and worked on this island: from its first villagers to soldiers, prisoners-of-war during World War II, comfort women and more. Trace their footsteps as you uncover how what life was like on the island from pre-war to post-war times.


Memories & Nature Route (Site 7 to 11)
This route unearths the social memories from when this picturesque island became a leisure hotspot. Visit iconic landmarks such as the Musical Fountain, Volcano Land and Monorail while delving into its lush flora and fauna; spot rare bird species amongst Assam trees, Nutmeg, Silk-cotton, Gelam and more.

Site 1: Fort Serapong

Built as part of Britain’s southern coastal defence of Singapore from the 1870s to 1880s, Fort Serapong was erected to deter marauding pirates and foreign invaders from entering Singapore. This preserved the peace which allowed the island to continue flourishing as an entrepot trade centre, ensuring economic sustainability.

Along with other fortifications such as the Blakang Mati Forts and Fort Pasir Panjang, Fort Serapong was constructed as a defence for the colony’s prospering port against enemies including the Dutch East Indies and pirates. Furthermore, Fort Serapong became not only a natural breakwater for the harbour but also had a geographical advantage as it was the highest point of Pulau Blakang Mati.

Historical Significance: Role In World War II
Equipped with seven-inch guns and 64 Pounders, the newly-installed Blakang Mati Forts were primarily responsible for defending southern Singapore. The installation of defence in the seaward direction was cemented by Singapore’s first resident, William Farquhar, as early as 1820, and was anticipated by the British to be the location of the Japanese invasion during World War II.

However, these defences were never utilised as the Japanese were able to conquer Malaya with ease by invading the relatively undefended Lim Chu Kang area, crossing the Johore Straits and bypassing the Royal Navy. As the British only believed the Japanese would attack Singapore from the south, it was indeed their fault that led to the early surrender of Singapore because there were insufficient defences against this attack. The weapons on Fort Serapong were rotated 180 degrees inland in an attempt to discharge ammunition towards the Jurong and Bukit Timah areas but thwarted as buildings obstructed the firing lines. Due to British miscalculations, the plethora of defences available in southern Singapore were useless against the Japanese invasion.

Within three days, Sentosa was captured by the Japanese and the Blakang Mati Forts were converted into a prisoner-of-war (POW) camp, also known as the Blakang Mati Artillery Barrack. After the Japanese Occupation, the same barrack was used to imprison the Japanese POWs. As Fort Serapong had a strategic advantage as a vantage point, it was designated the primary control station for the harbour’s traffic, known as the Port War Signal Station.

Architectural Significance: Role in World War II
During the archaeological survey and excavation at Fort Serapong in April 2006, Archaeologist Lim Chen Sian, leader of the excavation, spoke of his findings of “moveable artefacts”, which constituted of “lots of ammunition, such as six-inch shells (which weighed) sixty kilograms”.

In addition, Singapore’s only remnants of an eight-inch gun emplacement, a niche where weapons were positioned, can also be found at Fort Serapong. Threatened by the imminent fall of Singapore, the guns located at the Blakang Mati Forts were employed to demolish the oil tanks located in Pulau Sebarok and Pulau Bukom. The guns and batteries on Pulau Blakang Mati were subsequently destroyed in order to ensure that they would not become the possessions of the Japanese on 15 February 1942.

Social Significance: World War II
According to Mr Lim, the diets of the British soldiers at the Fort Serapong complex consisted largely of milk and sardines, with a scarcer number of beer cans and bottles found as compared to dairy products. There were several traces of wholesome living appearing in the form of “bits from a Monopoly set (dating) back to the 1930s and 1940s”, such as the purse and the rocking horse, which had since been replaced with the thimble and wheelbarrow by 1940. From these artefacts, it was inferred that the British soldiers had fairly interesting lifestyles, diametrically opposing previous assumptions that they led mundane lifestyles.

Blakang Mati Artillery Barrack
Following the aftermath of World War II, the Blakang Mati forts and batteries came under the command of several military forces and continued to be used in the late 1950s. After the withdrawal of the British in 1967, the fortifications were passed on to the SAF, and the structures were used as a storage space. After a few years, there was some talk of government interventions to redevelop Sentosa into a tourist destination, and a parliamentary debate was held in order to determine the course of the redevelopment of Fort Serapong.

During the redevelopment, Fort Siloso was transformed into a military museum and Fort Connaught was demolished for the construction of the Tanjong Golf Course. Fort Serapong, on the other hand, was left untouched, and its ruins still lie derelict up to this day.

The remnants comprise an underground magazine, the battery’s gun emplacements, and a number of support structures for the battery, constructed around the 1930s. Casemates that are assumed to have been erected in 1985 can also be found together with the mountings for the guns, as well as a bunker that served as the Blakang Mati Command Centre.

Site 2: Capella Singapore (Former Officers’ Mess & Quarters)

Nestled in the lush and vibrant gardens of Sentosa, Capella Singapore is a fine example of colonial tropical classical architecture, featuring a magnificent brick and plaster building with a red tiled roof, inspired by the Western classical style but adapted to suit the tropical climate. The roof extends significantly, large windows allow for ample ventilation, and external corridors double as entrances to the rooms and offer shelter from the heat.

The buildings at 48-51 Ironside Road have a rich military history, having served as garrisons for the British Artillery and providing housing for both unmarried and married officers, as well as their families. The Officers’ Mess, housed in Blocks 48 and 49, was a hub of activity, with officers and family members dining and enjoying recreational activities, including tennis matches and dances. The view of the Singapore harbour from the Mess was breathtaking, and ships would honk in celebration of the New Year.

After World War II, the buildings continued to house troops, including the 1st Singapore Royal Regiment Artillery, until their disbandment in 1958. In the 1990s, the buildings were converted into a recreational facility for Beaufort Sentosa, featuring a swimming pool and tennis courts. Today, following a renovation and redesign by H.U.A.Y. Architects, the buildings house Spa Botanica, a resort spa facility.

In recent years, the hotel has also made headlines by hosting the historic summit meeting between North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un and United States President Donald Trump in 2018.

Site 3: Amara Sanctuary Resort (Former NCO’s Mess & Quarter)

These colonial bungalows at 41-44 Larkhill Road have a rich history and played a crucial role in the development of the area. In the 1930s, the bungalows were used as quarters for British Sergeants, providing them with comfortable accommodation during their time on the island. Due to the relatively small size of the bungalow at 44 Larkhill Road, it was most likely used for other purposes.

Over the years, these bungalows underwent various transformations and renovations. Today, they have been expertly restored and repurposed into elegant hotel rooms for the Amara Sanctuary hotel. The careful preservation of important elements such as the air raid shelters and boot scrapers serve as a nod to the buildings’ rich history and cultural significance.

Site 4: The Barracks Hotel (Former Parade Ground)

The Blakang Mati Artillery Barracks were originally used to house Indian and British gunners and their families during colonial times. The blocks served different purposes such as a cookhouse, officers’ mess, offices, lecture rooms, and bachelor’s quarters. During the Second World War, it was used as a British military office and later by the Japanese as a POW camp, where around 400 Allied troops were kept. The parade square was also the venue of ceremonial parades, and received dignitaries including Field Marshall Sir Gerald Templer in 1960, and His Excellency Edward Heath, then Lord Privy Seal of the United Kingdom in 1961. Today, the buildings have been integrated and repurposed as part of The Outpost, a resort in Sentosa that has conserved the Barracks “as a premium vintage hotel wing.” known as The Barracks Hotel.

Site 5: Madame Tussauds (Former Military Hospital)

The building established as the military hospital in Sentosa during colonial times was accorded conservation status in 2004 and served as barracks for Japanese troops during the Japanese Occupation (1942-1945). Among their number were soldiers of 20 Field Army Air Supply Depot (also known as Miki Butai or 9320 Butai), a logistics unit which handled bombs and fuel for the Japanese military air units.

After the war, it was repurposed to house married British servicemen while smaller buildings nearby were occupied by army officers with families; behind these dwellings also lay an Islamic surau used for prayer gatherings. In the 1970s, it became the Surrender Chambers wax figure exhibition, followed by the Sentosa Wax Museum, Images of Singapore, and eventually became part of Madame Tussauds Singapore in 2016.

Site 6: Imbiah Battery

The Mount Imbiah Battery was originally a redoubt in the 1880s, manned by 82 infantry soldiers and 19 gunners. It was equipped with a 9.2 inch coastal gun by 1914 and worked in conjunction with the Siloso Battery to defend the western entrance to the Singapore harbor. The battery was no longer in active use by the mid-1930s but was still manned as a reserve magazine for ammunition until the fall of Singapore in 1942 during World War II.

Site 7: Imbiah Lookout (Former Fountain Gardens, Ferry Terminal and Musical Fountain)

The Imbiah Lookout, built on Sentosa Island in the 1980s, is the largest and most diverse collection of attractions in Singapore, appealing to all visitors. Among these is the Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom, a stunning garden filled with more than 50 species of butterflies.


Former Fountain Gardens and Ferry Terminal

Together with the Musical Fountain, these two developments were built on 17ha of land reclaimed from Imbiah Bay, Kuching Creek and the foreshore of Sarong Island. Opened in 1987, the Ferry Terminal replaced older landing stages and also housed a monorail station, food outlets and shops. Discover the significance of the Ferry Terminal and Fountain Gardens, and listen to the collective and social memories of these two gateways of Sentosa in the 80s.


Former Musical Fountain

Opened in 1982, the Musical Fountain featured light and music shows synchronised with water displays, and was also a venue for concerts and cultural events. Designed to draw families and groups to visit Sentosa in the evening, there were pasar malams (night markets), the Rasa Sentosa food centre and a waterfront promenade surrounding it.

Site 8: Mount Imbiah Trail

Upon entering the Imbiah Trail, participants may be able to spot three mini waterfalls along the trail, including the Imbiah Falls, Rock Dragon Waterfall, and Tempinis Cascade. The Imbiah Trail also offers a Jurassic-like experience, complete with a replica of dinosaur fossils.

Sentosa Island is also home to over 80 species of resident and migratory birds, making the trail an excellent opportunity for bird watching. In addition, there are various species of trees and plants to admire, including heritage trees like Tanjong Tree, Leban/Malayan Teak, the Broad-leafed mahogany, and Nyatoh Puteh.


Former Sentosa Monorail

Started in 1982, the Sentosa Monorail was a light rail system that spanned six kilometres and five stations. Beginning and ending its loop service at the Ferry Terminal, the monorail stopped at stations at the site of the former Apollo Sentosa Hotel, Fort Siloso, the swimming lagoon and Carlton Hill next to the cable car station (now Sentosa Station).

A number of former monorail stations have been repurposed as attractions, including the Sentosa Nature Discovery at Imbiah Lookout and the Surrender Chambers exhibition at Fort Siloso. A section of the remaining monorail tracks has also been re-used as an elevated walk from the Sentosa Nature Discovery to Mount Imbiah Trail.

Site 9: Siloso Beach

In the 1970s and 1980s, Siloso Beach was created along with two other beaches, each featuring a swimming lagoon, by Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) as part of the transformation of Sentosa Island from a military outpost to a tourist destination. Over the years, Siloso Beach has become a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, and water activities, attracting both local and international visitors to enjoy its tropical and idyllic setting. Today, Siloso Beach is a well-loved destination for tourists and residents alike, offering a range of dining and entertainment options, as well as opportunities to engage in various beach and water-based activities.

Site 10: Fort Siloso

Construction of Fort Siloso
Although it is unclear when Fort Siloso was originally constructed, the port’s initial conception was in 1874 and completed its construction began in the 1880s. Its primary purpose was to protect the coal reserves near the western entrance of Keppel Harbour. Fort Siloso is located at Sarang Rimau (Tiger’s Nest) on the northwestern tip of Pulau Blakang Mati. The fort was part of a series of three forts that was built on Pulau Blakang Mati (Sentosa) to defend Singapore’s coast.

The main advantage of the site was its elevated location, which commanded a bird’s eye view of the Western entrance into Keppel Harbour, making it the prime location for defence against any naval threats. However, the elevated nature of the site meant that construction of the fort itself was rather laborious. First, the chief engineer of the project, Lt. Henry McCallum of the Royal Corps of Engineers, had to use 19,000 pounds of gunpowder to flatten out the top of Mount Siloso, so that the coastal-defence artillery platforms could be installed.

The British then had difficulties in transporting the heavy equipment up to the top of Mount Siloso. They thus used the labour-intensive ‘parbuckling’ method, which involved the use of sledges to drag the equipment up the slope to build the fort. The laborious nature of the construction meant that the work was assisted by the local workforce, showing a cooperation between British and local agents in the defence of Singapore.

Armaments of Fort Siloso
Fort Siloso’s first recorded use was in 1888, when the Singapore Volunteer Artillery Corps carried out ten gun drills a year as part of their regular army duties. The armaments and infrastructure of Fort Siloso were rather impressive in that time. By 1890, the fort had been stocked with state-of-the-art weapons such as 9.2 B.L. guns, which were used by servicemen as a coastal defense gun. These same guns would be used even by the British during World War One, showing that the British were committed to the coastal defence of Singapore, as they had given Fort Siloso the most advanced military equipment that they had at that point of time.

The next significant improvement of Fort Siloso’s defensive capabilities came in the 1930s. Just before the outbreak of World War 2, a 12-pounder quick-firing gun was installed, along with two machine gun posts and two searchlight posts. By 1941, Fort Siloso had been transformed into a self-sufficient stronghold of Singapore’s coastal defence line, as a reservoir gave the entire Pulau Blakang Mati an adequate freshwater supply. Along with an operational tower that was built for overall command and control of the site, Fort Siloso could be used in tandem with the other forts at Pulau Blakang Mati to cover all coastal routes into Singapore, instead of just covering the Keppel Harbour entrance.

Role of Fort Siloso in World War Two
Fort Siloso had a key defensive role in the Battle for Singapore against the Japanese. Although the heavy Japanese bombings had reached Pulau Blakang Mati by January 1942, Fort Siloso was nevertheless able to defend Singapore both by land and by sea. Although the Japanese had invaded Singapore via the northern land route, the southern fort was still able to sink a Japanese supply ship in February 1942, and also assisted in the destruction of the fuel tanks on Pulau Bukom and Pulau Sebarok to prevent the Japanese from getting their hands on more oil. Moreover, the fort’s heavy six-inch guns were rotated 180 degrees to “engage enemy concentrations at the west end of West Coast Road and Jurong River”.

Although the fort used all of its remaining ammunition to fire on the Japanese positions at Tengah Air Base, it is worth noting that the fort’s ammunition was ill-equipped to combat against the advancing Japanese troops. In particular, the coastal guns mainly used AP shells, which were more equipped to damage warships, rather than HE shells, which were more effective in combating against troops. Thus, the Japanese soon overran Fort Siloso. When Singapore eventually fell to the Japanese in 1942, the entire of Pulau Blakang Mati, Fort Siloso included, was transformed into a POW camp that housed up to 400 Allied soldiers.

Fort Siloso Post-World War Two
After the Japanese surrender in 1945, Fort Siloso came under the ownership of the Royal Navy in 1946. Its guns were manned by the 1st Malay Coast and the Singapore Regiment of the Royal Artillery (SRRA). When the SRRA was eventually disbanded in 1956, Gurkha detachments took over ownership of the site as the fort was converted into a Catholic retreat centre for servicemen until 1967.

Despite a period of relative post-war peace, the fort was used by the 10th Gurkha Rifles to protect Keppel Harbour during the 1963-65 Konfrontasi, as they prevented Indonesians from landing on the shores of Singapore via Pulau Blakang Mati or Keppel Harbour.

Site 11: Coastal Walk near Fort Siloso

The Sentosa Coastal Trail is a tranquil nature walk along the water, facing towards Singapore. This secluded trail is ideal for walking or cycling and offers a glimpse into Sentosa’s past through various remnants. There are totem poles that were salvaged from the old ferry terminal, a reminder of a time when the only way to access the island was by ferry. Additionally, the trail features stone pillars, reminiscent of Reflections at Keppel Bay. It is believed that both the monoliths and Reflections are inspired by the original monolith at Keppel Harbour, the Dragon Tooth’s Gate.


Siloso Pier

The Siloso Point Pier was constructed in the late 1800s to support the nearby Fort Siloso. Before the development of roads, the pier was the sole access point and was utilized to transport materials such as guns, building materials, and supplies from the mainland to the fort. The pier offers views of the waterways around Singapore, which was a significant route in global trade. The area was known as “Sarang Rimau” by the Orang Laut, before being renamed Siloso Point during colonial times. Ships often stopped here to hire Orang Laut as navigators and to purchase supplies.

Several jetties and piers were built on Sentosa over the years, including those at Fort Serapong and a pier for a dynamite store on the south-eastern coast. The main jetty north of the island became the landing stage for vessels transporting passengers between Sentosa and the mainland. Over time, Siloso Pier saw less usage and became a gathering place for soldiers, their families, and residents of the surrounding villages.