This year, over 18,000 photographs were submitted to National Geographic’s annual Traveler Photo Contest. These ten are the very best.

First Place: Whale Whisperers

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Photographer: Anuar Patjane

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.

Second Place: Gravel Workmen

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Photographer: Faisal Azim

[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.

Third Place: Camel Ardah

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Photographer: Ahmed Al Toqui

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.

Merit Winner: Sauna in the Sky

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Photographer: Stefano Zardini

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

Merit Winner: Romania, Land of Fairy Tales

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Photographer: Eduard Gutescu

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

Merit Winner: A Night at Deadvlei

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Photographer: Beth McCarley

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.

Merit Winner: The Power of Few

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Photographer: Stefane Berube

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.

Merit Winner: Kushti, Indian Wrestling

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Photographer: Alain Schroeder

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.

Merit Winner: Catching a Duck

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Photographer: Sarah Wouters

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

Merit Winner: Highlanders

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Photographer: Bartłomiej Jurecki

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

More at National Geographic Travel Photo Contest 2015.


Contact the author at george@io9.com and @dvorsky. All images and captions via National Geographic.

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