[top photo: Whether you are five or 55, the luge at Sentosa, a part go-kart, part sled ride, provides adrenalin-pumping fun for the whole family.]
By Tan Yi Hui and Yusuf Abdol Hamid
She may be only five years old, but Isabelle Pak is already among the ranks of Singapore's adrenalin lovers. The thrill-seeking tot loves the downslope rush of the luge at Sentosa.
She straps on a helmet, grips the steering handles tightly and is off, accompanied by mother Irene, 41, who rides behind and steers the course.
Part go-kart, part sled, the luge is a gravity ride for all ages with a braking system that allows you to control how fast you travel downslope.
The helmet gang includes father G.K. Pak, 44, who works in the finance sector, and even Isabelle's grandmother, Madam Janet Goh, 66.
Mrs Pak, a housewife, says: "We like it so much we've even bought helmets."
She adds: "There are many possibilities for outdoor fun in Singapore. People just think some things are too touristy and don't bother trying them."
A group trying out laser clay pigeon shooting.
Indeed, while there are no mountains to scale or jungles to explore here, people are warming up to the great outdoors, which include a host of activities from water sports to tree-top obstacle courses and laser combat missions.
The alfresco antics cost anything from $10 to $50 and outdoor fun-seekers seem happy to fork out the money for the excitement of a new challenge.
According to Mr Lyndon Thomas, general manager of the Sentosa Luge and Skyride, the attraction has seen an annual increase of 15 per cent in business since it opened in 2005.
At tree-top obstacle course Forest Adventure in Bedok Reservoir Park, its managing director Stephanie Besse says that it opened in August 2007 and received 28,000 visitors last year.
She adds: "We expect this number to increase as Singaporeans may travel less this year due to the economic downturn and therefore seek adventure here."
Ms Mabel Hui, 29, who went for her first Forest Adventure session last week with two friends, welcomes the trend of outdoor fun here.
The private tutor says: "Singapore should have more of such adventure activities for people. Otherwise, it's very boring."
A group kayaking.
And home-grown companies such as AdvenTOUR, which was set up last year, are answering the call. They are specialising in everything from obstacle courses to kids' camps, and combining outdoor activities in a package, offering more bang for your buck.
School teacher Tay Huiping recently took a group of 40 primary school pupils on an afternoon of kayaking to kelongs at Pasir Ris organised by AdvenTOUR.
Says the 33-year-old: "Most vendors offer only kayaking in reservoirs or out at sea, but since AdvenTOUR had a kayaking-cum-kelong activity, I thought it was an interesting experience for my students.
"I'd definitely recommend this to friends and families as well, not just for school outings. There are always things to do if you care to look hard enough."
Adrenalin junkies craving more hardcore action can also consider paintball, a combat mission-type activity where opponents take cover and fire paint pellets from rifles at one another.
Despite the ugly bruises that form when hit, regular paintballer Jason Chu, 29, a civil servant, explains the kick: "It's an opportunity to experience something different from other sports such as football."
For those who prefer to make a splash, there is cable skiing, a water sport similar to wakeboarding, except the rider is pulled by a cable and the activity takes place in a big pond.
Sounds easy? Not when you throw in learning how to balance and not fall over around sharp bends, or attempting deft mid-air stunts on floating ramps.
Mr Nigel Ong is a regular at Ski 360, a cable-ski facility at East Coast Park. The education administrator in his 40s says: "It's a wonderful escape from normal life in Singapore.
A person participating in cable ski, a water sport similar to waterskiing or wakeboarding.
"Here, only 20 minutes away from anyone's office, is a fantastic environment to relax."
Another water-lover is Mr Timothy Chia, a trader and part-time water-sports coach, who teaches mainly at Pasir Ris and East Coast beach under the Water-Venture arm of the People's Association. WaterVenture promotes outdoor community sports at various water venues islandwide.
The 45-year-old sums it up: "Foreigners have told me that we have fantastic water sports facilities in Singapore.
"At the end of the day, it all boils down to whether you can be bothered or not."
IN THE AIR
What: A tree-top obstacle course 5 to 8m above ground, with routes designed for adults and kids. Participants in safety harnesses go from tree to tree through ladders, swings, trapezes and nets.
Briefings are given before you begin the course, after which you tackle it on your own, watched over by instructors.
Open: 10am to 6pm daily except Mondays. Bookings are required.
Where: 825 Bedok Reservoir Road, Bedok Reservoir Park
Cost: $34 (adult), $28 (youths below 18 years old), $22 (children's course)
Duration: 1 to 2 hours
Info: Call 8100-7420 or go to www.forestadventure.com.sg
The Flying Trapeze
A participant with a safety harness executing an aerial acrobatic stunt at The Flying Trapeze, located at Rasa Sentosa Resort.
What: Conquer your fear of heights under the supervision of instructors. At 7 to 10m above ground, you get to execute aerial acrobatics with a safety harness and a net below. Not for children under four.
Open: 4 to 6pm on weekdays and till 7pm on weekends and public holidays. Closed on Mondays.
Where: Rasa Sentosa Resort, Sentosa
Cost: $10 (one swing), $20 (three swings)
Duration: 7 to 30 mins
Info: Call 6371-2943/6275-0100
IN THE WATER
Kayaking and kelongs
What: Learn basic kayaking at Pasir Ris Park from coaches, before heading off through the waters to nearby kelongs, where fishermen show you their way of life. Minimum of six persons.
Where: Northern waters of Singapore
Cost: $85 (optional dinner)
Duration: 3 to 4 hours
Info: Call 8121-5151 or e-mail email@example.com or go to www.adventour.com.sg
What: A division of the People's Association network that promotes outdoor community sports. Courses, leisure sessions and competitions are held at eight outlets at reservoirs and rivers islandwide. Sports range from kayaking (below) to dragon-boating and power-boating.
Where: Changi Beach, East Coast Beach, Kallang River, Pasir Ris Beach, Bedok Reservoir, Jurong Lake, Lower Seletar Reservoir, Sembawang Park
Cost: From $38 (three-year membership)
Info: Call 6340-5335 or go to www.water-venture.org.sg
What: Waterskiing or wakeboarding, but participants are pulled by an overhead cable instead of a boat. Up to eight people can be in the lagoon at a time. Cables run at speeds varying between 24 and 58kmh.
Where: East Coast Lagoon
Cost: $32 an hour (weekdays), $42 an hour (weekends)
Duration: At least 1 hour
Info: Call 6442-7318 or go to www.ski360degree.com
ON THE GROUND
Combat skirmish: combat laser shooting
What: A real-life combat simulation game using infra-red targeting technology on mock-up rifles. Each "gun" has a computerised system that monitors the game play. Sensors light up when you are "shot". This activity can be played both day and night. Book directly in groups of 10 or join individual events on certain dates.
Where: Flexible venue
Cost: From $40
Duration: 1.5 hours
Info: Call 6779-1031 or go to www.combatlasersingapore.com
A group of people trying out zorbing.
What: You climb into an enormous clear plastic air-cushioned sphere and strap yourself inside while standing up. Then, whoopee, you roll down a slope or over water. The fun is in experiencing weightlessness like an astronaut.
Where: Old Holland Road
Cost: From $50 (adults), $35 (16 years and below)
Duration: 1 to 3 hours
Info: Call 6779-1031, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.zovbsg.com
Laser clay pigeon shooting
What: Played with authentic but de-activated shotguns that fire infra-red beams at reflective and reusable clays. Sound simulations create realistic shotgun "bangs" and the crack of breaking clay.
A minimum of five players at organiser's site. Put together 10 or more players and the venue can be your choice.
Ideal for corporates, birthday parties or families.
Where: Old Holland Road
Duration: 2 to 3 hours
Info: Call 6779-1031 or go to www.laserclay.com.sg
Luge and skyride
What: Part go-kart, part sled ride with a unique braking system that allows you to control your speed down a 650m course. Then take the skyride, an aerial four-seater scenic ride back up to the top for another round.
Open: 10am to 9.30pm daily.
Children have to be above 1.1m to ride alone on the luge, and above 85cm for the skyride.
Where: Sentosa, Imbiah Lookout(beside Beach Station)
Cost: $11 (general admission for one luge round and one skyride)
Info: Call 6273-0906, go to www.sentosa.com.sg or e-mail email@example.com
What: Team-based arena sport where up to 10 players fight it out using guns that fire small pellets of paint at each other.
The arena is usually littered with obstacles and other objects that players can use as cover. Available by appointment only.
Where: Singapore Discovery Centre
Cost: $25 a person for 50 paintball pellets.
Duration: 1.5 to 2 hours
Info: Call 6792-6188 or go to www.crossfire.com.sg
This article was first published in The Straits Times.