10 Awe-Inspiring Photos That Won the 2015 'National Geographic Traveler' Photo Contest


Nature and travel enthusiasts, prepare to eat your heart out.

National Geographic Traveler has announced the 10 most beautiful, awe-inspiring photos taken around the world in 2015 as the culmination of their annual photo contest.

Winner Anuar Patjane, who photographed divers with humpback whales in Mexico, won an eight-night Costa Rica and Panama Canal photo trip with airfare included for two. Second- and third-place contestants will receive vacations in Yellowstone National Park and a cruise from Schooner American Eagle and Heritage, respectively, while those who won merits will receive a National Geographic Masters of Photography course and $200 gift certificates for B&H Photo.

The rest of us will just have to satiate our appetites for adventure with these stunning images, captured in far-flung places from and Uganda to rural Scotland and captioned by their photographers.

1. Grand prize — Whale Whisperers by Patjane

Anuar Patjane/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

"Diving with a humpback whale and her newborn calf while they cruise around Roca Partida ... in the Revillagigedo [Islands], Mexico. This is an outstanding and unique place full of pelagic life, so we need to accelerate the incorporation of the islands into UNESCO as [a] natural heritage site in order to increase the protection of the islands against the prevailing illegal fishing corporations and big-game fishing."

2. Second place — Gravel Workmen by Faisal Azim

Faisal Azim/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

This "gravel-crush working place remains full of dust and sand. Three gravel workmen are looking through the window glass at their working place. Chittagong, Bangladesh."

3. Third place — Camel Ardah by Ahmed Al Toqi

Ahmed Al Toqi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

"Camel Ardah, as it [is] called in Oman, is one of the traditional styles of camel racing ... between two camels controlled by expert men. The faster camel is the loser ... so they must be running [at] the same speed level in the same track. The main purpose of Ardah is to show the beauty and strength of the Arabian camels and the riders' skills. Ardah [is] considered one of the most risky situations, since always the camels reactions are unpredictable [and] it may get wild and jump [toward the] audience."

4. Merit — A Night at Deadveli by Brett McCarley

Brett McCarley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

"The night before returning to Windhoek, we spent several hours at Deadvlei. The moon was bright enough to illuminate the sand dunes in the distance, but the skies were still dark enough to clearly see the Milky Way and Magellanic Clouds. Deadvlei means 'dead marsh.' The camelthorn trees are believed to be about 900 years old but have not decomposed because the environment is so dry."

5. Merit — Catching a Duck by Sarah Wouters

Sarah Wouters/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

"Two boys are trying to catch a duck at the stream of the waterfall. Nong Khai Province, Thailand."

6. Merit — Kushti, Indian Wrestling by Alain Schroeder

Alain Schroeder/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

"Kushti is the traditional form of Indian wrestling. Wearing only a well-adjusted loincloth (langot), wrestlers (pelwhans) enter a pit made of clay, often mixed with salt, lemon, and ghee (clarified butter). At the end of a workout, wrestlers rest against the walls of the arena, covering their heads and bodies with earth to soak up any perspiration and avoid catching cold. This relaxation ceremony is completed with massages to soothe tired muscles and demonstrate mutual respect."

7. Merit — White Rhinos by Stefane Berube

Stefane Berube/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

"The night before this photo, we tried all day to get a good photo of the endangered white rhino. Skulking through the grass carefully, trying to stay 30 feet away to be safe, didn't provide me the photo I was hoping for. In the morning, however, I woke up to all three rhinos grazing in front of me. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Uganda."

8. Merit — Sauna in the Sky by Stefano Zardini

Stefano Zardini/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

"A sauna at 2,800 meters high in the heart of Dolomites. Monte Lagazuoi, Cortina, eastern Italian Alps."

9. Merit — Highlanders by Bart?omiej Jurecki

Bart?omiej Jurecki/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

"Traditional haymaking in Poland. Many people continue to use the scythe and pitchfork to sort the hay."

10. Merit — Romania, Land of Fairy Tales by Eduard Guestcu

Eduard Guestcu/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

"Romania, land of fairy tales. White frost over Pestera village."