Despite torrential rain and very humid conditions, we loved our trip out to Pulau Ketam, also known as Crab Island, with our kids from KL. We found it quite hard to find information on how to get there, where to get off and what to do on the island, so I thought it would be good to share what we know with you here.
What is Pulau Ketam?
Pulau Ketam is a small island located at the mouth of the Klang river, downstream from Kuala Lumpur. It was established about 150 years ago by Chinese fishermen, and is now a thriving yet simple fishing community, with no cars and a laid back lifestyle. All the structures are supported on stilts, including houses, roads and other buildings, as the mangrove mud is not supportive enough for any construction.
How to get to Pulau Ketam (Crab Island) from Kuala Lumpur
The journey from KL to Pulau Ketam is not the fastest, but it’s cheap and a great way to get out of the city and see a bit of the Malaysian countryside. Get yourself over to KL Sentral, which should be easy from pretty much any of the lines in the city, and hop on the red KTM Sentul – Klang line, in the direction of Klang.
The cost of the KTM from KL to Port Klang was really cheap. From memory it was around RM6.40 per person, and young children travel free. It takes just over an hour on the train, and it’s a pretty slow, frustrating journey as there are 17 stops between KL Sentral and your destination. But, once you get out of the city suburbs, the countryside starts to open up and you get a good glimpse into the simple lives of the rurally located Malaysian communities.
Be warned, you are not alighting at Klang. In fact, you are alighting a good way out of Klang, despite the name of the ferry port. Stay on the train right to the last stop, where you will arrive at Pelabuhan Klang, just steps away from Port Klang.
As you exit the station, you’ll see the ferry port across the road and slightly to your right. You can either buy a ticket from the person on the desk in the port, or just queue up on the jetty for the ferry and buy your ticket on board. Apparently there are speed boats available at busy times, which offer a better view of the mangroves as you whizz past, but when we went it was just the big banana boat ferry in service.
The journey costs around RM7 or RM10 for the speedboat (when in service), and takes between 35 mins and an hour depending on the tides. The ferry takes a route right through the middle of the mangrove island of Pulau Klang, which makes for great sights and a slightly hair raising experience if the tide is low, as it tries to navigate the many sandbars and mud islands that could strand it at any moment.
Do note that the boat doesn’t always go straight to the main port on Pulau Ketam. Depending on who has got on, it sometimes stops at a small port on the east of the island before carrying on to the main area. Wait to see if everyone is getting off before jumping up, as this is just a residential area with nothing really to see.
What to do on Pulau Ketam with kids
I might start my ideas for things to do with a little introduction about what not to do. Firstly, don’t expect to be swimming in a beautiful ocean or frolicking on the sandy beach here. It’s not that type of island. This is a largely mangrove area, very muddy and swampy by nature, and certainly not somewhere to come if you want a ‘beach’ day.
There are, however, some great things to do and see there with kids. Here’s what we did, and a few more ideas besides.
- Watch the crabs: If it’s low tide when you arrive or before you leave, take a look over the side of the tall boardwalk out to the jetty. See those specks on the sand? They are crabs. All of them. There’s a reason this place is called crab island, and once you get your eye in for spotting the little critters on the sand, you’ll be amazed at just how many there are! We also spotted mudskippers, hermit crabs and even a fish stranded in a puddle by one of the pier legs.
- Check out the stilt houses: Here, people have learned to live in harmony with their environment, and when you live on a low lying tidal island with not much building space, that means rethinking how you build. Here, all the houses are built on the mangrove mud, high on stilts to avoid the incoming tides, as are all the roads and shops.
- Hire a bike: When we went it was pouring, so we didn’t explore much of the island beyond the main street. But if you’re with older kids who like to cycle, you can hire a bike for around RM5 and explore the whole island in an hour or two. The intrepid among you will be rewarded with temples, statues to the monkey king and a unique insight into a Chinese fishing village in Malaysia.
- Have lunch: Eating in Pulau Ketam is a bit like Russian Roulette. Some of the restaurants get scathing reviews, and have even been known to make people a little poorly (including us!), whereas others are just fine. We can only recommend reading reviews before you go and taking your time to choose one that looks busy, clean and is not too pushy. Most will push crab as their speciality, but these are not the crabs you see on the beach. Those are not edible, so these are shipped in frozen from elsewhere. In our experience, they were overpriced, under flavoured and not very nice. You’ll do better to go with fish, as the restaurants do serve fresh fish from their own local catches.
- Have dessert: As you head back to the ferry from the town, you’ll see a shop of many things on the corner with a sign outside offering fried ice cream for a couple of RM. Fear not this strange sounding treat, because actually its really lovely! The old Chinese lady was happy to let the kids watch her cook, and we’re determined to have a go ourselves when we next stay somewhere with a kitchen and a wok.
- People watch: Because the island is car free, watching the locals going about their business can be a relaxing and interesting way to spend an hour or two. The banana ferry often brings them supplies, such as crates of fizzy drinks and sacks of rice, which they load onto big flatbed trollies, often equipped with a lawnmower motor to help move it along. There are a few motorbikes on the island, but not many, and mostly it’s a laid back, slower pace of life that will be a welcome break from the hectic streets of the city.
We also hear that you can take aa boat trip around the island on a longboat, which would be nice on a sunny day. You can also arrange to go out to a nearby floating fish farm to see the fish and have lunch, again not so much of a wet weather activity. It’s almost certainly not necessary to stay overnight in Pulau Ketam with kids, unless you particularly enjoy a very, very quiet life and want to experience the village once the day trippers have left.
Despite the weather, we really enjoyed our time in Crab Island, and would highly recommend it as one of the things to do in Kuala Lumpur with kids.