Underwater World throwback: 5 things you may (not) remember about the Sentosa aquarium

Divers from Sentosa’s Underwater World Singapore performing an underwater dragon dance in 2012.
Divers from Sentosa’s Underwater World Singapore performing an underwater dragon dance in 2012.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Once a blockbuster attraction at Sentosa, 25-year-old Underwater World Singapore will be bidding farewell to visitors from June 26.

From June 7, the aquarium will be offering throwback prices of $9 for adults and $5 for children in its last month of operation.

The Straits Times takes a look back at the tourist attraction:

1. Former heyday


About 20,000 Singaporeans and tourists a day flocked to Sentosa on weekends and public holidays when the Underwater World opened in 1991. PHOTO: ST FILE

When it first opened in 1991, Underwater World was the largest tropical fish oceanarium in Asia.

The star exhibit is the 83m long tunnel which gives the visitor the illusion of being "underwater" as the fish swim around and overhead.

It sounded the death knell for the 35-year-old Van Kleef Aquarium which closed two weeks after the new attraction opened.

2. Sleeping under the fishes


Children enjoyed educational deep-sea journey and sleeping in the aquarium tunnel surrounded by thousands of marine creatures. PHOTO: UNDERWATER WORLD

One of the cherished childhood memories of visitors was the experience of spending the night in the tunnel, camping under the fishes.

Stayovers at Underwater World were a popular holiday programme for children.

Visitors who want to get closer to the marine creatures could also dive in the tunnel. Many are surprised at how large the fish are - the 6cm thick acrylic panels make the fish appear one-third smaller from outside.

3. Pink dolphin controversies


The dolphin show at Dolphin Lagoon, Underwater World on Sentosa. PHOTO: ST FILE  

The Dolphin Lagoon, where pink dolphins, fur seals and otters performed, has attracted controversy.

 

It was set up in 1999 with six pink dolphins acquired from a Thai marine park.

Animals rights groups have been clamouring for their release. There was also an outcry when one of the dolphins contracted skin cancer.

A photo of a pink dolphin with its head covered in bumps and sores was shared on social media in 2014, sparking allegations of abuse.

Underwater World said that the female dolphin, Han, had skin cancer but was receiving care from its vets.

4. Fish and turtle adoption


A sea turtle seen being released at the Siloso Beach in 2002. PHOTO: ST FILE

While the aquarium is looking for a home for its marine animals, it has taken in many creatures in years past.

When a hawksbill turtle laid its eggs at East Coast Park in 2005, the 151 eggs were rounded up and incubated by turtle expert C.H. Diong to avoid damage.

All but four hatched. Ten were adopted by Underwater World and the rest released.

In 2008, when the fish tank at Wisma Atria was removed, the more than 100 fish from the tank were moved to Underwater World.

5. Links Down Under


A group of tourists marvels at the rich diversity of marine creatures found in the Underwater World on Sentosa. PHOTO: ST FILE 

Underwater World Singapore was first developed by the Western Australian government.

 

The project was partly owned by the Western Australia Development Corporation, which was set up in 1984 by the Perth government to invest and manage the assets of the state government.

New Zealand's Marinescape Corporation had a majority share, and the design was based on a sea life park in Auckland.

A year later, it was put up for sale after the Western Australia government faced political pressure for its commercial investments.

After changing hands twice, it is now owned by Haw Par Corporation - best known for its Tiger Balm ointment.