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How to find the biggest thrills in Singapore
Zip-lining, indoor skydiving, jetpacking. Sentosa Island is the place to conquer your inner wimp
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Despite being more than four decades old, Singapore's Sentosa Island is a tourist attraction that knows the importance of reinvention.
In recent years, it's become the top destination in the city for those in need of a fast adrenaline fix, thanks to a huge cluster of adventure activities, from surfing to indoor skydiving.
It also presents a great opportunity for someone like me -- fainthearted, petrified of heights -- to conquer their fears.
I recently spent a weekend on Sentosa doing just that -- or trying to -- on the scariest thrill rides and adventures I could find.
To gauge my terror during each exercise, I slapped on a Polar FT7 heart rate monitor watch during the trip.
I also devised an ad hoc "nausea level" rating.
These are my normal heart rate readings.
Average resting heart rate: 77 bpm (beats per minute)
Maximum resting heart rate: 87 bpm
Average nausea level: 0/5 (though certain movies and TV shows can push that to 2/5)
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Average heart rate: 141 bpm
Maximum heart rate: 150 bpm
Nausea level: 2/5
Before making the leap from the 75-meter-high platform on Sentosa's MegaZip, I clung to the protective rail with the tenacity of a leech locked onto a meal.
But once I finally worked up the courage to let go, MegaZip was pure fun.
Singapore's first three-wire zip allows multiple people to zip-line at the same time, from a hilltop across a patch of jungle, over the beach and onto a small platform over the water.
The views along the 450-meter-long journey are exhilarating.
Conclusion: This one's addictive. I now plan to zip-line every chance I get.
MegaZip Adventure Park, Imbiah Hill Road, Sentosa Island 098829 Singapore; open daily 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; S$39 for a zip ($28)
Average heart rate: 106 bpm
Maximum heart rate: 134 bpm
Nausea level: 3/5
Two water-powered jetpacks are available for public use in Singapore thanks to Hawaiian Christina Tran, who brought SeaBreeze, her home state's watersports franchise, to the city in 2013.
"It can take you up to 10 meters high," says Tran. "I think it's the safest way to fly, as you have the power to control your flight."
When I slapped the jetpack on my back and headed out to sea, I could feel the jealousy emanating from all eyes on the beach -- until those curious spectators saw me struggling for the good part of an hour.
This one isn't easy.
"The first step is always the most difficult," said Alred Low, SeaBreeze business partner/instructor. "You cannot fight the machine, and you have to find your center of balance."
"Once you can balance then you can fly just by pressing a button -- like in a cartoon," said Low.
Conclusion: You'll have to conquer your fear of drowning before you tackle your height issues.
SeaBreeze Water-Sports, 36 Siloso Beach, Sentosa Island Singapore; open daily from 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; an hour of jetpack training costs S$288 ($210)
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Average heart rate: 127 bpm
Maximum heart rate: 174 bpm
Nausea level: 2/5
If you've ever had fantasies about flying through the air with the greatest of ease, Fly Trapeze by Sentosa's Siloso Beach can make it happen.
After basic instruction, visitors climb right up to the highest platform.
"When I say 'ready,' you hop," said the instructor.
After you master the basic swing, you need to lift your legs up and hook them onto the bar, so you can let your hands go and swing upside down.
I sought advice from fellow acrobats after my first failure.
"The most difficult part is to lift your legs up," said Nuala Goggins from Ireland. "Timing is really important, so you have to listen to the instructions."
Her compatriot Vicky Reynolds added, "It's a kick, then squeeze your stomach to lift your legs up."
Conclusion: Listen to their advice -- I managed to do it the second time.
Flying Trapeze, Siloso Beach 51 Imbiah Walk, Sentosa Island 099538 Singapore; open Monday to Friday 2:30-6:30 p.m., weekend 2:30-7 p.m. (closed in bad weather); S$10 ($7) per swing or S$20 ($14) for three swings
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Average heart rate: 96 bpm
Maximum heart rate: 116 bpm
Nausea level: 1/5
"I never thought I could fly for a living until I saw a hiring notice from iFly Singapore in 2010," says Joshua Tay, one of the instructors at iFly Singapore. "I quit my job right away to join."
iFly Singapore launched in May 2011.
With a height of about 17 meters and a width of five meters, it's the world's largest indoor skydiving simulator.
The wind tunnel can accommodate 20 professional flyers at one time.
There are four fans in the tunnel generating airspeeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour. But, according to iFly Singapore, usual body-flight speeds range from 160 to 190 kilometers per hour.
It looks easy, but striking the right balance is challenging.
"It's actually more difficult than skydiving outdoors, because you're confined in the tunnel," said Tay. "The first time I skydived for real [after training with iFly Singapore], I was flying better than many seasoned flyers."
The first two flights are mostly about learning to balance.
Once you've mastered that, an instructor will help you catch enough wind to soar up to nine meters, offering a great way to experience the weightlessness of free falling.
Conclusion: This is the best way to train before jumping out of a plane.
iFly Singapore, 43 Siloso Beach Walk #01-01, Sentosa Island Singapore; open Thursday to Tuesday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m
Average heart rate: 135 bpm
Maximum heart rate: 177 bpm
Nausea level: 4/5
The ClimbMax sent me on a 45-minute journey of self-questioning, regret and skyrocketing heartbeats, followed by immense joy when I felt my feet touch something solid.
On the top of Sentosa's largest hill, the rope course consists of three levels, with heights up to 12 meters.
Knowing I was safely secured and seeing 12-year-olds enjoying the course a level below me didn't do much to calm me, particularly when I reached a section that involved jumping across a gap between platforms.
At that moment, my heart raced to 177 bpm.
In the end, I couldn't finish -- I didn't have the strength, nor courage, to continue to the highest level.
Conclusion: This is an intense exercise to combat fear of heights. And embarrassing if you're concerned with what those on the ground below are thinking as they watch you struggle.
MegaZip Adventure Park, Imbiah Hill Road, Sentosa Island 098829 Singapore; open daily 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; S$39 ($28)
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Average heart rate: N/A
Maximum heart rate: N/A
Nausea level: N/A
No, my heart didn't stop in terror. I wimped out. I couldn't do it.
In my defense, this one involves strapping into a harness and trusting the safety wire to keep you from splattering to the ground at the end of a 50-foot freefall parachute jump.
"A woman from the UK was trying ParaJump," says Hafiz Hanafiah, an instructor in the MegaZip Adventure Park. "She stood on the platform for 45 minutes before finally daring to jump. After she made that jump, she hugged me and thanked me for being there for her the whole time. It was very memorable for me."
Hanafiah says that before he joined the company, he was afraid of heights as well.
"Since then, I took a leap every day from ParaJump until I overcame the fear."
Conclusion: I'll consider taking that leap next time. Baby steps.
MegaZip Adventure Park, Imbiah Hill Road, Sentosa Island 098829 Singapore; open daily 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; S$19 ($14)