By Daven Wu
Dec 17, 2021
IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE THAT Singapore was once quite hilly, but decades of ambitious land-reclamation projects, during which entire swathes of terrain were shaved to fill the sea, have flattened its silhouette, leaving only a couple of modestly high points – most notably on Sentosa Island. And it’s here, opening just in time for Christmas diversions with the kids, that you’ll find the latest tourist attraction in Singapore, SkyHelix Sentosa.
Billed as Singapore’s highest open-air panoramic ride, the 12-story-tall structure – all-white metal beams that twist and turn like a giant DNA strand – is about 35 meters up in the clouds. That’s a lot lower than the world’s largest Ferris wheel, newly opened in Dubai, but SkyHelix conjures its own brand of fear, as I’ll explain below. (Green sidenote: the attraction is carbon-neutral, operates on minimal electricity, and features energy-efficient LED lights at night.)
In the middle of the helix is a gondola that, in non-Covid circumstances, seats 16 passengers facing inwards. Shaped like the robotic love child of a hot-air balloon and a merry-go-round, it rises slowly to the top on French-engineered hydraulics and winches. At its peak, you’ll be sitting pretty at 79 meters above sea level. Which gives you a whole lotta view.
SkyHelix spins slowly, about one counter-clockwise rotation every minute, affording plenty of time to soak in the literally dizzying panorama and take endless selfies. One minute, you’re looking out straight across the South China Sea bristling with tankers and the vast port whose containers, at this distance, look like tiny Lego blocks. The next, the shiny skyscrapers of Raffles Place pass into view before segueing into the green tops of the Southern Ridges.
On any metric, it’s a crazy stunning birds-eye sweep of Singapore. On that note, a word to the wise: SkyHelix is not for the fainthearted. You’re completely exposed to the elements, especially the wind. The gondola itself has no floor, so legs dangle over nothing, making firmly secured shoes a must. I spent most of the ride a little tense – this, despite the fact that I was securely strapped in, and the SkyHelix features a brace of safety measures, including emergency brakes and the reassuring presence of a mic’ed-up host to keep an eye on things while acting as tour guide of the rotating landmarks.
Ten minutes and 10 rotations later, SkyHelix begins its slow descent. I’m not going to lie: I was thrilled to be back on ground. I have no problems being in a plane at 30,000 ft, or staring out the 53rd floor of a skyscraper, but, as it turns out, my legs become jelly at the idea of an empty 12-story drop beneath me.
A cocktail is included in the price of admission (S$18 for adults, and S$15 for children) to the SkyHelix, though a range of bottled cocktails, including the ubiquitous Singapore Sling, can be purchased on the ground at the drinks kiosk before you get strapped in. Take it from me – liquid courage is indeed advised.