I’m a huge fan of travel and photography, and putting them together just gets me over the moon! One of my fav things to look out for is the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest, which is enjoyable not only to go through the winning images but also finding out the stories behind these breathtaking photos.

On its 27th year, Nat Geo’s selection is a difficult one since these winning photos came from a staggering amount of over 17,000 submissions and entries from all over the world. Under the categories Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place and Spontaneous Moments, the top winner of it all is the one shot by Anuar Patjane Floriuk (seen above).

Anuar’s shot, entitled “Whale Whisperers,” is a gorgeous photo of divers and a humpback whale in the island of Roca Partida located in Mexico’s western coast. He even said the photo “wasn’t planned.” He recalls, “I was taking photos near the head of the whale, and all of a sudden she began to swim toward the rest of the diving team. The divers gave the whale and her calf space, and I just clicked at the moment when the flow and composition seemed right.”

And what a happy accident it was, because this earned him an eight-day trip for two to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal under a National Geographic Photo Expedition.

Here are the other photos!

Second Place: Gravel Workmen by Faizal Azim

national-geographic-traveler-photo-contest-2015-02-Faisal-Azim

Third Place Winner: Camel Ardah by Ahmed Al Toqi

national-geographic-traveler-photo-contest-2015-03-Ahmed-Al-Toqi

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Merit Winner: A Night at Deadvlei by Beth McCarley

national-geographic-traveler-photo-contest-2015-04-Beth-McCarley

Merit Winner: Catching a Duck by Sarah Wouters

national-geographic-traveler-photo-contest-2015-05-Sarah-Wouters

Merit Winner: Romania, Land of Fairy Tales by Eduard Gutescu

national-geographic-traveler-photo-contest-2015-06-Eduard-Gutescu

Merit Winner: Highlanders by Bartłomiej Jurecki

national-geographic-traveler-photo-contest-2015-07-Bartłomiej-Jurecki

Merit Winner: White Rhinos by Stefane Berube

national-geographic-traveler-photo-contest-2015-08-Stefane-Berube

Merit Winner: Kushti, Indian Wrestling by Alain Schroeder

national-geographic-traveler-photo-contest-2015-09-Alain-Schroeder

Merit Winner: Sauna in the Sky by Stefano Zardini

national-geographic-traveler-photo-contest-2015-10-Stefano-Zardini

Which one’s your fav? Check out the page on Nat Geo for more information about these astonishing images. (All shots are copyright National Geographic and their corresponding photographers.)

h/t: My Modern Met / Bored Panda

Thanks for reading!