Words & Photos: Nadiah Aziz
As a cycling spot, Pulau Carey is somewhat untapped as a nice location for a short jaunt out of Kuala Lumpur. The island is located south of Port Klang and north of Banting town, and is separated from the Selangor coast by the Langat River.
Some folks don’t quite call it an island since the river that separates it from the mainland is practically a stream. Upon arrival you come to the realisation that it really does feel like you never left the peninsula, since the bridge is level to the rest of the road on either side and takes perhaps less than a minute to cross.
On the map, it appears as if Pulau Carey is accessible via two bridges, namely on the mainland side and on the neighbouring Pulau Indah side. In truth, the island is directly connected to the mainland via a short bridge on the Teluk Panglima Garang side only, since the South Klang Valley Expressway runs over it all the way to Pulau Indah, with no exit or access points in between. You could drive into Pulau Carey to cycle there, but frankly speaking the journey there is part of the ride itself.
To get to Pulau Carey, there are a number of options. The carless route involves loading your bicycle onto a train, and cycling in. Using KL Sentral as your starting point, take the KTM Komuter towards Klang, stopping at either the Klang or Bukit Badak station.
For either stop you cross the Klang River safely in the Komuter train, and upon arrival, it is a less than 40km bike ride to Pulau Carey. These two options allow you to clock in more mileage, if that’s your goal. At the same time it is not too far for those who want to arrive with enough energy to explore the island itself.
We opted for the third and easiest method, which is also the best for recreational cyclists, namely driving to a starting point right outside the island and riding in. Our designated parking spot was the Shell petrol station in Telok Panglima Garang, situated right next to a residential area and a stretch of local shops. It was a good meeting point since there would be plenty of parking and it was also fairly easy to find. The petrol station was also only 4km away from the bridge to Pulau Carey, a decent distance in and out for the two newbie cyclists riding in our group for the day.
Once on Pulau Carey, the main road is a single lane on each side flanked by oil palm plantation all the way to the endpoint, the Tanjung Rhu beach. The road is busy upon crossing the bridge, but there is less traffic as you ride further in. Most people will tell you that there is nothing to see or do on the island. It is easy to discount Pulau Carey as a tourist destination too, particularly with Jugra nearby and its many remnants from the glory days of the Selangor Sultanate.
I have to admit, I only discovered Pulau Carey by accident thanks to a friend in the Malaysian Heritage and History Club, who just so happens to work for Sime Darby Plantations, and was playing tour guide for the day.
For a start, there is a lot of bird watching to be done on the island. This isn’t surprising, as some companies do have organised nature tours in the surrounding mangroves. Even from our bikes, we managed to spot a number of kingfishers thanks to their bright blue backs, and birds of prey that to the untrained eye looked like either the brahminy kite or crested speckled eagle. Our guide Radzi Jamaludin also told us that Sime actually keeps owls that help take care of the rodent and snake population, a clever way to deal with pests that inhabit oil palm plantations.
Historically, Pulau Carey has some buildings and curiosities from the Colonial era, which are unfortunately within the confines of Heritage Island, where the Carey Island Golf Club and the Sime Darby Plantation Academy are located. The place is guarded by police, and to gain entry you will have to register at the entrance to the West Estate, which will be on your right hand side when cycling or driving into Pulau Carey. Once past the gate, you will see yet more oil palm plantations, which have replaced the rubber trees planted there by Englishman Edward Valentine John Carey in the early 1900s.
Another way to get into Heritage Island is to watch out for Sime Darby’s organised ride on weekends, although they do not appear to have a fixed schedule for now. The route is an easy one, kicking off from the main golf clubhouse and running through the estate, taking the Jalan Pulau Carey road to the beach, where they arrange for refreshments in the form of bananas, 100 Plus and cold water.
It is about 20km from the clubhouse to the coast, easily done on full sized 700s wheels or even a smaller folding bike since the island is flat as a board. Cycle the same way 20km back to the clubhouse, where a brunch spread of nasi lemak and a bubbling pot of locally reared deer soup await the riders. For MTB enthusiasts, there is an off-road trail stretching from the estate to the beach.
If you’ve parked your car within the golf club rather than cycling in from Telok Panglima Garang, bring a change of clothes since they allow the use of the shower facilities there on the day. The showers and changing rooms are a modern-day addition to the beautiful colonial building that has been maintained quite well over the decades.
It isn’t the only structure leftover from the Colonial era though. Riding through the estate you can spot many other buildings including the impressive Heritage Bungalow and Hatter’s Castle mansion, which I was told still has all its original fixings. Heritage Village also has its own mosque, temple, church, hospital, and school, making it a self sufficient community even in E.V. Carey’s days.
Further in and on the opposite side of Jalan Pulau Carey is the Mah Meri Cultural Village, showcasing unique aspects of the Orang Asli tribe’s life and culture. Curiously enough there is no proper signage from the main road itself, save for one signboard pointing towards the village of Sungai Bumbun.
The Mah Meri (translated literally to forest people), were the original people of the island, and were also initially known as Besisi or Ma Betisek, meaning “people with fish scales.” There is no bicycle parking outside the centre, so bring your own locks to secure your bikes.
On that day, we managed to escape the small entrance fee of RM20 for adults, RM10 for children, and RM30 for foreigners. We realised belatedly that the village was closed upon reaching the gate, but an elderly man waved us in with a toothless grin.
It became clear afterwards that he did not speak a word of normal Malay, since all questions were answered with a cheerful non verbal affirmation. It wasn’t much of a stroke of luck for us getting in for free, since there was no one to interact with or explain to us all the displays they had on hand. All cultural activities there are scheduled for weekends or public holidays, while group bookings are required on normal weekdays.
At the end of the road, the deserted Tanjung Rhu beach itself is not much to shout about, since it overlooks the Straits of Malacca waters. However, it is possible to spend a quiet night camping out on the muddy and rocky shoreline. During the day, only the locals are there to cast out their nets to catch some fish for their families.
This means Pulau Carey is somewhat devoid of public facilities, with barely any toilets or places to get food and water supplies besides a small sundry shop in Kampung Sungai Judah, a slight detour off the main road.
We also discovered on the day that there is no shelter save for a small pondok by the beach, which meant that every rider was soaked to the bone when it rained. If you’re not keen on roughing it or get rained out, the nearest accommodation is Amverton Cove Golf & Island Resort.
Interestingly enough, Amverton was where Tamil cinema legend Rajinikanth celebrated Deepavali during the filming of Kabali in 2015. Alternatively, there are a number of small homestays in the tiny villages on the island, but you’d have to deviate from the main road to find them.
If you’ve timed your ride to end or start around lunchtime, there are two seafood places on the mainland side, just before the bridge to Pulau Carey. Depending on which side you are coming from, Kan Guan Restaurant and Seri Langat Seafood are on opposite sides of the road.
Our group had a hankering for some steaming nasi lemak though, so we made a pit stop to fill our bellies at a small roadside restaurant on our way back to the car before calling it a day.