Pulau Ketam is a great destination for a day trip from Kuala Lumpur – it is only a 45-minute drive from the city. Why not bring the family, some sunscreen and your camera, there is plenty to see and do on this island! The kids will love it.
Mud. It’s a great substance. At a stone’s throw from Kuala Lumpur, on Pulau Ketam, there is mud in abundance. Pulau Ketam means Crab Island. But Pulau Lumpur (Mud Island) would have been a more suitable name. Does the island even deserve the suffix ‘land’? The island is actually one big mud hill, barely raised above the surface of the Strait of Melaka. Okay, enough mud throwing at Pulau Ketam. Let’s take a look at the things that make Crab Island such a fun place.
How huts turned into a village
In the olden days, Malaysian fishermen of Chinese descent came regularly to the mud hill, to fish for crab. Halfway through the 19th century, a few of these fishermen thought that it would be useful to build a house there, to occasionally spend the night. More and more Hokkien and Teochew Chinese followed and 30 years later almost 100 fishermen lived on the island between the mangrove forests.
The Second World War broke out and what was then Malaya, was taken over by the Japanese. As a result, many people fled from the main land to the island and the population of Pulau Ketam increased tenfold. This was good for the economy. The collection of houses could now started to call themselves a village and the first regular ferry service was opened. You can read more about the history of the island here.
Nowadays, the stilt houses that are connected by concrete dykes and bridges have got a hospital and a school. There are shops and restaurants and even a number of hotels on Pulau Ketam, for the real adventurers among us.
Perhaps the fishermen eventually got bored of the grey and brown colours of the mud. Maybe that explains why they painted many of the wooden houses in the most beautiful bright colours with blue, green, yellow and turquoise. Very Instagrammable indeed!
Dykes and bikes
Peaceful and very quiet. That is the first thing you notice when you set foot on ‘land’. A bit later, we understand why. Just behind the harbour you can see some shops renting out electric bikes. They are the only means of transport allowed on Pulau Ketam.
The electric bikes cost RM20 per hour, but you could bargain if you want to ride them for more than two hours. There don’t seem to be too many traffic rules and helmets are not available, but you do get useful advice for free: always stay on the left hand side of the road.
You can cross a good part of the island with an electric bicycle. Watch out for the bumps on the street that are meant to slow down the speed devils among us. Another tip: about 100 meters before you get to a bridge, just speed up a little bit. If you don’t, you will be standing still halfway the bridge climb and will have to work both legs to prevent yourself from sliding back down and to peddle your way up. An awkward sight indeed (speaking from experience…).
Pulau Ketam has its share of nice Chinese temples, of which the Snake Temple was my children’s favourite. The name already gives it away: a giant snake is kept in a cage in front of the temple. There are several smaller jetties around the island, with very nice views across the water. People respond friendly toward the matsallehs buzzing around on their bikes with their children.
Are the bicycles suitable for children? Yes, certainly! From the age of 12, children can ride the bikes themselves. Until that age, they can simply sit on the back seat. My 14 year old son and his friend had no problem riding a bike by themselves, while our 10 year old daughter had fun sitting behind dad and watch the island life go by.
Le pièce de résistance: crab
We came to Pulau Ketam with the intention to fill our bellies with this delicacy and yes, we did succeed. Especially at the harbourside you can find many restaurants, all of which sell a wide variety of seafood. Choose a place with a crowd and you are guaranteed to a good meal.
Pulau Ketam seafood: chili crab, pepper crab, steamed fish and shellfish, it is all deliciously prepared and easy to wash away with a cold drink.
How to get to Pulau Ketam
Coming from Kuala Lumpur, Pulau Ketam is a great choice for a day trip. If the traffic is good, you can reach Port Klang by car in 45 minutes. You can also take the KTM train from KL to Klang. The ferry to Pulau Ketam leaves from Port Klang’s passenger terminal. There is paid parking available in the parking garage next door.
We went with Alibaba Cruises and paid RM18 for adults RM10 for kids, for return tickets. The trip to Pulau Ketam takes approximately 40 minutes. Get out at the second jetty. For the curious reader: there is nothing to see at the first jetty. Except grey mud.
For the departure times of the return trip back to the mainland, it is best to inquire at the Alibaba counter. Boats depart every 30 minutes during peak times.