10 guided tours to take you behind the scenes of Singapore’s landmarks and attractions

S.E.A. Aquarium’s Shark Encounter. Photo: Resorts World Sentosa
S.E.A. Aquarium’s Shark Encounter. Photo: Resorts World Sentosa

Singapore may be a tiny red dot on the map, but we’re certainly not lacking in tourist spots and heritage landmarks that draw crowds of visitors to our shores each year. Gardens by the Bay? Been there, done that. The Merlion (all five official ones)? Sure, it’s cool. Universal Studios Singapore? For a thrill, why not.

Venture across the island in search of tourist attraction after tourist attraction, and you’ll be entertained – but you’ll also just be scratching the surface. So to prod a little deeper, we’ve got a couple behind-the-scenes tours for you. From an after-hours sleepover at the aquarium to exploring death and the afterlife to journeying through a local brewery, these ten guided trails are worth checking out to experience a different side of Singapore.


Be an ocean explorer

Sea Trek Adventure. Photo: Resorts World Sentosa

So you’ve been to the S.E.A. Aquarium too many times to count. But betcha didn’t know you could actually snuggle into a sleeping bag for an overnight stay with the fishes. Once the last guest has left for the day, the Ocean Dreams adventure begins with a 90-minute introduction to the marine creatures, including a back-of-house encounter in the aquarium. But if you’d like the exclusive tour, sign up for the VIP treatment and a guide will take you to exhibits and behind the scenes for three hours.

Alternatively, you can get up close and personal with predators at the Shark Encounter or dive underwater with a special breathing apparatus to stroll amongst majestic manta rays and other marine life at Sea Trek Adventure.

Resorts World Sentosa. Various timings. Ocean Dreams: Adults $158, children $138. VIP guided tour: Adults $88, children $58.


Discover the ins and outs of the Sports Hub

Photo: Singapore Sports Hub/Facebook

A 90-minute trail that leads you through the nooks and crannies of the Singapore Sports Hub, this venue tour includes pitstops at the Singapore Sports Museum and its proud displays of our nation’s top athletes, and entry to the National Stadium when it’s closed to the public. You’ll also get the opportunity to work up a sweat at the indoor Climb Central wall after you snap photos of the glittering waterfront views to your heart’s content.

Singapore Sports Hub. Mon-Fri 10:30am & 2:30pm; make advance reservations at bookatour@sportshub.com.sg. Prices available on request.


Drink booze and be merry

Photo: Tiger Beer

Tiger Beer can be found at hawker centers across Singapore, but here’s a glimpse of the iconic beer’s brewing process – from milling the malt to packaging the booze. You’ll get to look behind the doors of the brewery, complete with an attempt to tap the perfect pint of draught beer.

Start your journey at the visitor center, which displays 80 years of the local brand’s history and heritage, followed by a peek into the brewhouse and the ingredients that go into the beer. Next up, the packaging gallery tracing the evolution of Tiger Beer’s branding, before you swing by the tavern for a cold one and end off at the retail shop to take home a souvenir.

459 Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim. Tues-Sun 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm & 5pm. Adults $18-$22, children $12.


Gear up for a safari adventure

Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Things get a little more thrilling after the sun sets, ‘cause that’s when the furry creatures come out to play at the Night Safari. On the Safari Adventure private buggy ride, your guide will lead you through the Leopard Trail to the Asian elephant enclosure, where you’ll feed and interact with the gentle giants while the keepers regale you with tales of their escapades.

Night Safari. Daily 7:15pm-9:15pm. Adults $138, children $85.


Go wild at the zoo

Wild Discoverer Tour. Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

If you’re not one to just look at scaly creatures behind a glass panel, sign up for the Singapore Zoo’s Reptopia Tour, where you’ll take a leap out of your comfort zone to spend some face time with snakes and dragons (ahem, bearded ones), and help feed the zoo’s reptile residents.

For those who’d rather learn the secrets of caring for the animals, jump on the Wild Discoverer Tour buggy for a chance to feed and interact with the likes of rhinos and giant tortoises.

Singapore Zoo. Wild Discoverer Tour: Daily 10:30am-11:30am & 4:30pm-5:30pm; Adults $38, children $25. RepTopia Tour: Every Tues, Thurs & Sat 1pm-2pm; Adults $98, children $65.


Head backstage at the city’s largest performing arts venue

Photo: Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

The durian-shaped Esplanade has been a prickly part of Singapore since 2002, welcoming locals and tourists alike to its public tours that reveal the history and architecture of the local landmark.

For a simple 45-minute stroll across facilities like the concert hall and theatre, the Esplanade Walk is where you’ll discover factual tidbits about the building and its design. But if you’d like to dive in deeper, the two-hour Esplanade Tour brings you from the front-of-house performance areas to the backstage spaces – such as the orchestra pit, the dressing rooms, and the artists’ lounge – which have been graced by the likes of The XX, Vampire Weekend, and London Symphony Orchestra, as well as glorious productions like Les Miserables.

Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. Esplanade Tour: Every Mon between 9:30am and 4:30pm; Adults $30, children $24. Esplanade Walk: Mon-Fri 9am, 12:30pm & 2pm; Sat-Sun 9am; Adults $10, children $8.


Meet manatees and Amazonian creatures

Manatee Mania. Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

The River Safari’s most famous residents may be the giant pandas, but Jia Jia and Kai Kai are busy with breeding season, so you can only say hi to them up close from November onwards. Still, Manatee Mania is a pretty cool alternative where visitors get to meet, greet, and feed the creatures.

For those who want the Amazon rainforest experience without going to the actual place, Amazing Amazonia grants you exclusive access to out of bounds areas so you can feed piranhas, electric eels, and stingrays.

River Safari. Manatee Mania: Daily 9:30am-10:30am; Adults $118, children $72. Amazing Amazonia: Daily 1:30pm-2:30pm; Adults $48, children $29.


Rub shoulders with feathery friends

Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Ride around Jurong Bird Park in style (sort of) on a Bird’s Eye Tour buggy – over 90 minutes, you’ll be dropped off at popular exhibits such as Lory Loft, the world’s largest lory aviary, and the Waterfall Aviary, which houses a 30m-tall waterfall echoing with a cacophony of the squawks and chirps of more than 600 birds. For a close-up touch, you can hand feed starlings, rollers, and cassowaries to get to know these feathery friends.

Jurong Bird Park. Daily 10:30am-11:30am & 3:45pm-4:45pm. Adults $38, children $25.


Step into the courts of hell after dark

Photo: Coconuts Media

Every Friday night, a group of people sink into the bowels of hell to experience the freaky park that is Haw Par Villa after darkness has descended. Led by an illuminating guide who’ll delve into the history and symbolism of the dioramas and sculptures, the tour takes you across the infamous 10 Courts of Hell, brings you up close and personal with the King of Ghosts, and offers you a sneak peek at upcoming attraction Hell’s Museum — featuring exhibitions on death and funeral rites from across the globe — which is estimated to open in August 2018.

Other highlights include a coffin in the “Reflection Room” that you can actually climb into, and a ritual burning of hell notes that visitors can participate in at the end of the trail.

Meet at Haw Par Villa MRT station. Every Fri 6:30pm-8:30pm. Adults $18, children $9.


Uncover the science behind a UNESCO heritage site

The Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage. Photo: Singapore Botanic Gardens/Facebook

As the country’s very first (and only) UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Singapore Botanic Gardens offers a kind of peace and tranquility that you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere on the island. So once you’re done strolling around lush blooms at the National Orchid Garden, the Ginger Garden, and the Healing Garden, put your name down for the Race Against Time – Science behind a Botanic Garden Tour session.

Across 45 minutes, you’ll be shown research facilities like the Library of Botany & Horticulture, the Orchid & Micro-propagation laboratory, and the Herbarium, which keeps physical records of reference plant materials. Cool stuff, if this is the type of thing that interests you.

Tanglin Gate Botany Centre, Singapore Botanic Gardens. Every fourth Sat of the month 10am-11am; register at the Visitor Services Desk 15 minutes before. Free.


Want more? Check out these other stories: 

Top things to do in Singapore after midnight: Late night activities that don’t involve drinking and dancing

Best date ideas in Singapore: Unique and creative ways to romance your partner with a night out

Life hacks: 13 local apps that make your life easier in Singapore

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