Big cats are notoriously fearful of swimming in open water so to catch three lionesses taking a leisurely dip is a treat wildlife photographers can wait a lifetime for.
One such lucky snapper was Per Gunnar Ostby, who managed to capture the three big beasts enjoying their swim one crisp, dawn morning on a trek near the Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Making his way through an area known as the Linyanti Marshes in the north of the country, Per Gunnar and his driver had been following a pack of wild dogs on a hunt when they encountered the extremely rare scene.
Making waves: The lioness sisters head for a swim
Catching sight of the lions around 100ft away, Per photographed them swimming across the water-filled spillway until they reached the bank nearest to them only 10ft away.
‘We had been hot on the trail of a pack of dogs from the previous night when we made out three fawn-coloured shapes in the distance across the water,’ said Per.
‘My excited driver instantly shouted "lions" as we braked and stopped to observe.
‘Initially we were in for some disappointment as the leading lioness came close to the water's edge but then decided to have a lie down and do some grooming.
In at the deep end: Two of the three lionesses in open water
‘Frustration did set in but we were rewarded a few minutes later when she got up, walked a little further along the bank and then to our amazement did not drink but walked straight into the water and started swimming more or less right at us.’
Contrary to popular belief, big cats such as lions have been known to swim, but the ironic reputation of the king of the jungle being a big scaredy cat when splashed with a bit of water remains.
‘Even my guide mentioned that he had seen lions swimming only once before (in 10 years of being in the bush) and then it was from quite some distance,’ said Per.
Doggy paddle? The other lioness looks none too amused by the cold temperature
Even though these intrepid lions were acting against the grain, they still found time for a lion-sized tantrum because their pool wasn’t heated.
‘As the first one swam at us she appeared to snarl though in our opinion it was not at us but rather at the temperature and nature of the water,’ Per continued.
‘She did indeed hurry out and ran straight into the heavy bush just on our right.
‘A couple of minutes later, her sisters also came down to the water's edge and after milling around a bit also swam straight at us.’
Some photographers can go an entire career in the African bush never capturing this rare moment - Per is definitely one of the lucky ones.
Pictured: Three lionesses take pride in a surprising early bath | Mail Online