CURTAINS go up on the first phase of Gardens by the Bay, Singapore's complex of three waterfront gardens, on June 29.
Under this phase, the 54ha Bay South Garden - expected to pull in five million visitors a year - will debut, with two cooled conservatories among its highlights.
When the entire Gardens complex, including Bay East and Bay Central gardens, is ready by 2015, it will sit on 101ha of reclaimed land, the space of 177 football fields - far larger than the 63ha Botanic Gardens.
The Bay South Garden's 2ha outdoor event area alone, the largest here, will be able to host events for 30,000 people.
The project is the most costly Government-funded attraction in at least a decade, with Bay South Garden alone costing $1 billion, said the Gardens' assistant director of business Darren Oh.
The 40ha Night Safari, which opened in 1994, probably counts as one of the most recent publicly-funded major recreational spaces; River Safari opens only later this year.
Developed with education, recreation and conservation in mind, the Gardens complex will add lustre to the menu of attractions in Marina Bay.
Besides its conservatories and 18 'Supertrees', concrete-and-metal structures resembling trees, Bay South's other attractions are the Heritage Gardens and the Dragonfly Lake and Kingfisher Lake.
Visitors looking for a meal and refreshments in late June will find six of the 13 Bay South eating places open, including a food hall operated by the Select Group and Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton's Pollen restaurant.
Entry will be free, but admission fees will apply at the conservatories, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, and at the 128m aerial walkway that wends through the Supertree Grove.
Singaporeans and resident adults can buy a day pass to one conservatory for $12, and two for $20. The walkway costs $5 per adult. (See Page A8 for other ticket prices.)
Already, tour agencies say they are marketing the Gardens to potential visitors and are in talks with the Gardens to iron out configurations for tour packages and the logistics.
The group vice-president of sales and marketing for Tour East, Ms Judy Lam, said the restaurant atop the 50m tall Supertree and the conservatories would offer visitors 'something different'. Likening the Gardens to New York's Central Park, she added: 'A garden in a city - it's going to come up well.'
National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) chief Robert Khoo said enquiries have been received from 30 of the 400 Natas members about putting the Gardens on their tour itineraries.
Announcing the opening date yesterday, Gardens by the Bay chief executive Tan Wee Kiat said his hope is for the Gardens to capture the 'imagination and excitement' of the natural world. He also hoped it would lure young people away from their digital pastimes to appreciate the wonders of the natural world.
Of the cooled conservatories, he said: 'Here on the equator... we're in a garden that is perpetual summer. Into this garden, we've brought two glass houses that give you a touch of perpetual spring.'
The Flower Dome will replicate the cool, dry climate of the Mediterranean and semi-arid sub-tropical regions such as South Africa; the Cloud Forest will house 130,000 plants found between 1,000m and 3,500m above sea level.
The Bay South Garden will be open from 5am to 2am daily; its conservatories and aerial walkway will be open from 9am to 9pm daily.