Bungee jumping comes to Sentosa

Singapore's first 50m-tall bungee tower on Siloso Beach will open in March

An artist’s impression of the bungee tower.  PHOTO: AJ HACKETT INTERNATIONAL
An artist’s impression of the bungee tower. PHOTO: AJ HACKETT INTERNATIONAL
Mr A.J. Hackett (photo), who jumped off the Eiffel Tower illegally in 1987, at the Sentosa site where the bungee tower is being built.
Mr A.J. Hackett (photo), who jumped off the Eiffel Tower illegally in 1987, at the Sentosa site where the bungee tower is being built.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Thrill-seeking Singaporeans often travel abroad for bungee jumps, but from March, they can get their adrenaline rush in Sentosa.

AJ Hackett International, started by an adventurous Kiwi in 1988, will open Singapore's first 50m-tall bungee tower on Siloso Beach in Sentosa.

The company is credited as being the first to commercialise the sport. Its founder, Mr A.J. Hackett, is belived to be one of the pioneers in bungee jumping, because he and a friend found a way to safely jump with rubber bungee cords.

The company now has branches in Macau, New Zealand, France, Australia and Russia, including the world's highest bungee jump of 233m at the Macau Tower.

In Singapore, it is setting up AJ Hackett Sentosa, a 2,500 sq m adventure playground with various features that meet different appetites for thrills.

The piece de resistance is a pair of 47m-high jump decks that flank both sides of the tower. At 14 storeys high, there is a large 3.5m-deep pool of water at the bottom and jumpers are given the option to have their heads dipped in or stay dry.

Those who are not ready to take the leap of faith can take a ride on one of two giant swings. These are lifted to a height of 40m before being released towards the ground at speeds of more than 100kmh. Up to three people can sit on each ride.

An artist’s impression of the bungee tower.  PHOTO: AJ HACKETT INTERNATIONAL

You could also try the vertical skywalk, which is like abseiling. Supported by two ropes, participants will walk down 44m along the main tower's shaft.

And if all of the above still makes your stomach do somersaults, take a stroll along the skybridge instead. Standing 47m above ground, the open-air bridge is lined with handrails and is safe enough for participants to walk on without a harness.

The wide range of activities is to ensure that there is something for everyone, from kids to grandparents, says Mr Hackett, 58.

He is a bonafide risk-taker who first grabbed the world's attention by bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower illegally in 1987.

He had set his sights on Singapore many years ago, but the opportunity to build a bungee tower arose only five years ago when Sentosa Development Corporation put out a notice expressing interest in setting up a bungee facility within the beach destination.

After rounds of discussions with the authorities, construction on the site began in May.

Mr Hackett says that "the Asian market is starting to mature in terms of adventure tourism". He is planning to open a bungee facility in China's Hunan province too.

Ticket prices here have yet to be finalised, but he says a bungee jump will cost between $150 and $200 while the skywalk will be priced at about $50.

Safety is of paramount importance, he adds. Jumpers are securely hooked to two points of attachment - a foot tie around the ankles and a waist harness.

Depending on how heavy the jumper is, the person will be matched to a cord of a specific diameter to ensure that everyone drops to the same height. In Singapore, the sport is open to anyone weighing between 35kg and 140kg, including the physically disabled.

"Three-and-a-half million people have jumped at our sites and there have been no deaths in all our 28 years of operation," he says.

The bungee cords have a predetermined lifespan and are retired after a certain number of jumps.

Mr Hackett, who still bungee jumps regularly, says the activity "clears your head".

"Standing at the edge of the platform, the last thing you are going to be thinking about is your work, family or the bank manager. And you walk away with personal satisfaction."

Ms Jeevita Pillai, 24, has bungee jumped twice in Cairns, Australia, and thinks it is about time that Singapore had a bungee tower. The assistant sports psychologist says she is keen to test the vertical skywalk as it is something new.

"It's definitely an experience to be tried and, in Singapore, people are always looking for new things to do," she says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2016, with the headline 'Bungee jumping comes to Sentosa'. Print Edition | Subscribe