Ular Tedong


Stewart Wavell's expedition to Malaysia was an investigation into the customs and folklore of the Semelai people, launched in 1951. The Semelai revealed to Wavell that they believed in giant cobras which inhabited the lake. Although Wavell records that the Semelai used the name ular tedong to describe the animal, some sources record the creature's name as naga (a Naga was an aquatic serpent-god in Hindu and Buddhist mythology). The serpents were huge, said the Semelai: they were covered in large scales, which are gray in young specimens but golden in older serpents. The monsters also had two short horn-like projections on their serpentine heads--a commonly-reported feature of lake serpents worldwide--and were never seen to come out of the water. The creatures are also quite peaceful, and never have attacked humans.
Wavell soon returned to the city of Kuala Lumpur, and several years later spoke to the chief of police in Negri Sembilan. The officer told Wavell he was swimming in Tasek Bera when he saw the head of a huge, silvery-gray serpent rising more than fifteen feet out of the water. He quickly swam out of the water, but the animal made no attempt to give chase.

Wavell's interest was peaked, and he headed out at once to return to Tasek Bera. Some twenty miles from the lake, he found some natives who told him that the ular tedong had not a hiss, like a snake, but made a booming sound. When he finally reached the Semelai village, he interviewed them again. This time he drew a picture of a sauropod dinosaur, and the chief agreed that it resembled the lake monsters.

After leaving the village, he went to the site of the policeman's encounter--the area near the peninsula of Tanjong Keruing. Nothing happened until Wavell turned to get his camera. At that moment, the call of the ular tedong split the air.

It was a snort: more like a bellow--shrill and strident like a ship's horn, an elephant trumpet, and sea lion's bark all at once. I was momentarily petrified, then frantically switched on the recorder, held up the microphone and waited for the next cry.

But the second call never came. The serpents had fallen silent. Wavell never did get to record the call, or even see the lake serpents. This entire episode occurred four decades ago, and is recorded in Wavell's journal of his Malaysian expedition. No Westerner since has reported a run-in with the lake serpents of Tasek Bera.