Part fish, part lion, this cement statue amid the tourist attractions of Sentosa Island is both an homage to mythical sea creatures and a proud national icon. At 121 feet (37m) tall, it’s the largest of five official merlion statues scattered around Singapore, and, for a fee, visitors can walk inside.
The cave-like interior winds past murals of snake-like mermaids, demonic eels and things that look like a cross between the Loch Ness monster and a plesiosaur, to a film room where a cartoon on loop attempts to explain the significance and origins of the merlion. It’s said that when Malay King Sri Tri Buana landed on the shores of the fishing village that would later become Singapore, he saw a terrifying beast. This later gave the area its name: ‘Singapore’ comes from the Sanskrit words ‘singa,’ meaning lion and ‘pura,’ meaning city. Though the king likely did not see a terrifying sea monster (or, arguably, a lion), the merging of lion and fish created a unique and conveniently symbolic symbol of Singapore’s fierce growth from its humble fishing origins. Beyond the video there are two scenic gallery stops: A photo op in the mouth of the merlion looking out across Sentosa Island and roof deck atop its head offering panoramic city views. There’s a gift shop on the way out selling merlion t-shirts, cookies and more.
The Sentosa Merlion is located at 30 Imbiah Rd on Sentosa Island in Singapore. It’s possible to reach the attraction by cable car from the mainland at Mount Faber or via the Sentosa Express (get off at Imbiah Station). The attraction is open from 10am-8pm, with last admission offered at 7:30pm. Admission to the merlion’s interior is $8.60 (12SD) adults, and $6.50 (SD9) children.