Travel Malaysia

Selangor’s Crab Island

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Take the short drive to the west coast of Selangor and discover an underappreciated handful of islands, including Pulau Ketam.

There is something about Malaysian islands that makes my heart beat faster. I just can’t get enough of the sight of palm-fringed beaches, white sand, and crystal-clear blue waters. Most of these gorgeous islands are located on the east coast of Malaysia – or on the west coast starting from Pangkor Island all the way up toward Thailand. However, the islands of Selangor are relatively unknown. Yes, Selangor has its own islands! Surprised?

Not all islands are blessed with white sandy beaches, though. But before you decide to stop reading, I’d like to tell you more about the islands in Selangor. There are five or six islands located in front of Port Klang, which are all in close vicinity of the harbour. Instead of white sand, you’ll find mud here – in abundance. One of those mud islands is called Pulau Ketam, which means Crab Island. (Perhaps Mud Island would have been a more suitable name!) The pile of mud is just strong enough to support the timber homes, built on stilts. Does the island even deserve the suffix ‘land’? The island is actually one big mud hill, barely raised above the surface of the Straits of Malacca. Okay, enough mudslinging. Let’s take a closer look at Crab Island.


In the 19th century, Malaysian fishermen of Chinese descent came regularly to Pulau Ketam, to fish for crab. It didn’t take long for them to realise that it would be useful to build a house there, to spend the night when seas were too rough to return home to Port Klang. More people followed and a few decades later, almost 100 fishermen lived on the island between the mangrove trees.

During the Second World War, Malaya was occupied by the Japanese, so many people fled to Pulau Ketam from the mainland. Because of this, the population increased tenfold. What was once a collection of houses turned into a village, connected by concrete dikes and bridges, and the first regular ferry service was started by the Hai Ann Ferry Company.

Crab hunting can be monotonous, so the fishermen, perhaps bored with the grey and brown colours of the mud, painted their wooden houses in the most beautiful vibrant colours. Very Instagrammable!


It’s deafening, the sound of silence. One of the first things you notice when you set foot on ‘land’ is the absence of noise. A bit later, we understand why. At the harbour, you can see electric bike rental shops. Bikes like this are the only means of transport allowed on Pulau Ketam. Cars are not allowed, which only adds to the village-feel on the island.

The bikes cost RM20 per hour, but you can bargain if you want to ride them for more than two hours. Traffic rules don’t really exist and helmets are not available, but you do get useful advice for free: always stay on the left hand side of the road.

Children 12 years and older are allowed to ride the bikes themselves. Until that age, they can simply join you 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.


Pulau Ketam has its share of nice Buddhist and Taoist temples. A particularly interesting one is the Snake Temple, ­­­­­where a giant snake is kept as a pet in front of the temple. You can also ride to several smaller jetties around the island; they have very nice views across the water. On top of the many bridges connecting the mud piles, you can take great pics of the waterways and boats passing by.

Keep an eye out for Nico, the bike-loving dog. He will walk up slowly toward you and demand its space on your bike. He will tap on your knee when he wants to get off. Nico is funny and completely harmless.



We came to Pulau Ketam with the intention to eat to our hearts’ content and yes, we did succeed! Especially at the harbour, you will find many restaurants, all of which sell a wide variety of seafood at very reasonable prices. Choose a place with a crowd and you are guaranteed to have a good meal. Chili crab, pepper crab, steamed fish, and shellfish… it is all deliciously prepared and easy to wash down with a cold drink of your choice.

Pulau Ketam has more to offer than just grey mud, which is lucky for us mainlanders, because from Kuala Lumpur it is a great destination for a day out. If the traffic is kind, you can reach Port Klang within 45 minutes from KLCC. From here you can take a ferry to the island from the passenger terminal. There is not a single white beach to be found on Pulau Ketam, but it is nevertheless a great place to explore.



The ferry from Port Klang takes approximately 40 minutes to Pulau Ketam. Get out at the second jetty. For the curious traveller: there is nothing to see at the first jetty. Please do not disembark here. Boats leave every half hour during peak times.


Planning to stay overnight? Why not? Do make use of the many long weekends fortunate to enjoy in Malaysia and book one of the few Airbnbs the island has to offer.

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