A few weeks back, I was looking for somewhere different to go for the day and decided to take the family to Pulau Ketam. We drove down to Kelang’s Southport, about 40 km from Kuala Lumpur, parked the car, and found the jetty where ferries depart for Pulau Ketam.
The ferry was shaped like a railway carriage, semi-submerged in the water and showing signs of rust but it was cheap and quite fast once it got going. Personally I prefer my ferries to have open decks and plenty of escape routes whereas this one was more like a floating coffin but it was only a 30 minute journey and the route avoided the open sea. On exiting the busy Kelang harbour, we caught a glimpse of the Star Cruise Terminal at Westport and then entered a narrow estuary with mangrove forest on both sides. Emerging from the muddy waterway, the ferry made a quick dash across a channel before arriving at the jetty on Pulau Ketam.
Pulau Ketam is a low-lying, muddy island fringed with mangrove swamps. It is mainly inhabited by a fishing community of about 8,000 people whose village is made up of quaint wooden houses built on stilts driven into the soft mud. This traditional community migrated from Southern China and settled on the island a couple of hundred years ago to use it as a base to exploit the rich fishing grounds nearby.
At low tide the waters recede to reveal a muddy shoreline teeming with crabs and mudskippers.
There are no cars on the island so as you stroll or cycle along the narrow streets and wooden boardwalks you will get an up close view of how the people live.
The slow pace gives the island a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere which, together with the presence of a number of busy seafood restaurants, makes the island a popular weekend destination for Kuala Lumpurites. The main street from the jetty is lined with shops and restaurants, giving off a pungent aroma of dried seafood and delicious cooking. If you have ever been to Lamma Island in Hong Kong you will be able to imagine this scene. Oyster omelets seemed to be a popular snack food on sale.
Some say the population of Pulau Ketam earns money from fishing, tourism and smuggling. What they are supposed to be smuggling is not clear. I certainly did not see anything fishy going on (excuse the pun!).
It was an enjoyable day out and we shall probably go again.