Most visitors to Sentosa Island spend their time at the beach, or go to better-known attractions such as the Adventure Cove or Universal Studios. But for Matthew Kwan, 9, and his sister Jeslyn, 8, the highlight of their latest trip was visiting the island's Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom for the first time.
A day of firsts
There, they got to see a wide variety of stunning butterfly species, as well as other interesting creepy crawlies found here in Singapore and around the world.
Another interesting attraction they had not previously visited was the Sentosa Merlion, where the primary school students got to learn more about the folklore of Prince Sang Nila Utama's founding of the Lion City.
The two siblings were at Sentosa last Sunday with their parents to take part in the inaugural Sentosa Family Fun Challenge.
For the challenge, families of four were each given $250 and had to plan a day-long itinerary, involving at least two paid attractions and one meal, while keeping within the budget and a four-hour time limit.
Teams also had to post photographs of their journeys on social media. They were also given various optional challenges to earn bonus points, such as building a sandcastle and taking a picture with a peacock.
"It was my first time seeing a peacock, but I wish it could have opened its tail," young Jeslyn said while excitedly recalling the families encounter with the proud bird.
Business owner Jeffrey Kwan, 36, told AsiaOne that the family of four usually only went to the beach when they visited Sentosa, and that the Challenge was a great way to discover and explore some of the island's other sights while spending time together as a family.
"It was all about doing things together as a family for us, but the biggest challenge was making sure that the kids got to do what they wanted within the allotted time," he said.
Besides the Butterfly Park and Merlion, the Kwans also took a ride on the Skyline Luge and enjoyed lunch at local restaurant Good Old Days.
Mr Kwan's wife, Magdalene Ang, 36, said that they were initially worried about not staying within the $250 budget.
"But in the end, we found that the attractions were all fairly affordable and we were comfortably within the budget in the end," she said, adding that they had also discovered various free attractions during their excursion, such as the Sentosa Nature Discovery trail.
While the Kwans found their experience to be a fun-filled one, they fell just short of being named as the overall winners of the Family Fun Challenge.
Instead, that honour went to the Yim family, comprising father Yim Kein Kwok, mother Janice Phang, and daughters Lisa Yim and Maya Yim.
New experiences and a winning formula
10-year-old Lisa told AsiaOne that her family had a jam-packed itinerary, visiting no less than four attractions. "We went to the Skyline Luge, the 4D Adventureland, the Trick Eye museum and the Merlion as well," she recounted.
"The Luge was a bit scary at first, but it was also really fun," she said, adding it had been her first time going on the ride and that she hoped to go on it again soon.
For their efforts, the Yims won various prizes worth $370, including a Sentosa Adventureland one-day pass for two adults and two kids, tickets to the Tiger Sky Tower, two pairs of tickets for the Combat Skirmish Indoor Maze as well as a Family Islander membership.
Mum Janice Phang, 45, a property agent, said that the Challenge had motivated the family to try out new experiences.
However, she revealed that she and her husband had faced some difficulties with posting photos on social media. "We aren't very familiar and had to learn on our feet today.
"Luckily we had Lisa to teach us and help post up most of our photos," she said.
Ms Susan Ang, Divisional Director for Island Investment and Branding at Sentosa Development Corporation, said that the organisers were glad that families who participated in the Challenge had enjoyed themselves.
"The Family Fun Challenge was created with the aim of giving fans the chance to translate their dream itineraries on Sentosa into reality," she explained.
She added that participants also discovered that fun on Sentosa need not be associated with a hefty price tag. "The combination of free attractions and special packages, such as the Fun Pass, makes for a full day of excitement at affordable prices," she said.
A version of this article appeared in AsiaOne on March 2, 2016.