Gliding gracefully beneath the crystal-clear waters this Asian bull elephant cuts a mystical figure.
Weighing 3.5 tons and standing at just under four metres, meet Rajan one of the last surviving elephants who helped with logging on the Andaman and Nicobar Island chain near the end of the Bay of Bengal.
Photographed by Cesare Naldi, these amazing images show the unique bond between 60-year-old Rajan and 58-year-old mahout (elephant driver), Nasru.
Weighing 3.5 tons and standing at just under four metres, 60-year-old Rajan dives with his 58-year-old mahout (elephant driver), Nasru
Enlarge Renowned for his ability to swim, Rajan and Nasru have become something of a fixture at their home on Havelock Island, which is in the Indian Ocean
In one spectacular image Nasru is seen balancing on the animals tusks as the elephant took a breather on his morning swim.
This particular image and resulting series was enough to win Cesare first prize in National Geographic's International Photography contest in December of last year.
Renowned for his ability to swim, Rajan and Nasru have become something of a fixture at their home on Havelock Island, which is in the Indian Ocean.
"I took the pictures during the early morning around 8am as Rajan crossed the short distance between beaches on Havelock Island," said U.S.-based Cesare.
Enlarge Nasru balances on the animals tusks as the elephant took a breather on his morning swim
Enlarge "I was really surprised by the speed of his legs and how he could actually swim,' said the photographer who took the images
"I had approached Nasru and Rajan's owners at the Barefoot resort on Havelock to see if they would let me spend time alone with Rajan, as he usually swims with groups of eight or so paying customers.
"I wanted to capture the intimacy of the relationship between Nasru and Rajan." Setting off from Radha Nagar beach, Cesare was around 300ft out in around 15ft of water when he observed the graceful swimming that Rajan has become known for.
'When Rajan stepped into the clear blue sea I was already into the water, with my scuba diving equipment,' said Cesare.
"He stayed for some time with his legs into the water, then he started to walk away from the shore.
"At some point when his feet lost contact with the sand he started to swim.
"I was really surprised by the speed of his legs and how he could actually swim.
"I felt like he never lost eye contact with me, while I approached him closer and close to take better pictures.
"Another thing that captured my attention was that he spent most of the time with his head underwater breathing just through his long nose, which looked like a periscope.
'I never felt in danger, even if sometimes I got really close to his feet, which he was moving very fast, especially when I was taking the silhouette shot.
"Sometimes I had the sensation that he was swimming toward me while I was taking the pictures, so I had to move to the side to avoid my camera to touch his nose or his tusks."
Spending two hours with Rajan, Cesare captured the experience on his Nikon D300 underwater camera.
"I did not ask the mahout to stand on Rajan's tusks," explained Cesare.
"It was around half way across the water to the other sandy shore and Rajan seemed to slow down for a rest.
"Nasru sensed this and so stood on his tusks and placed his hand on his head as if to say 'take a breather'.
"It was a very touching moment and a great shot."
After a long campaign to raise enough money to save Rajan from being moved to the Indian mainland in 2008, the elephant enjoys a semi-retired life on Havelock Island.
"Swimming and taking pictures with Rajan is a unique lifetime experience, and I feel like I was really lucky to have such a great opportunity," said Cesare.
"Today every time I look at the pictures of Rajan I tell to my self: "If an elephant can swim, what can't you do?"
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1280638/Making-splash-60-year-old-elephant-going-morning-swim.html#ixzz0otip8ywc