An epic photo of humans swimming with whales, and other winners from this year’s National Geographic travel photo contest

Just another day of awesomeness.
Just another day of awesomeness.
Image: National Geographic/Anuar Patijane Floriuk
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In case your summer travels this year haven’t included scuba diving with whales or gazing across a star-studded desert sky, National Geographic is here to help. Its 2015 traveler photo contest is a breathtaking escape from the  grind of work and household chores. This year’s competition attracted 18,000 submissions and awarded prizes to 10 photographers in the following categories: travel portraits, outdoor scenes, sense of place, and spontaneous moments.

The first-prize winner was granted an eight-day photo expedition to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal, including airfare for two. The second prize winner got a six-day photo expedition in Yellowstone National Park. Third place came with a six-day cruise for two in Maine aboard the windjammer Schooner Heritage. The remaining top 10 place winners received $200 gift cards to B&H Photo.

Behold the 10 winners, along with descriptions by the photographers.

1st place: “Whale Whisperers” by Anuar Patjane Floriuk

Whale whisperers
Image: National Geographic/Anuar Patijane Floriuk

“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.”

2nd place: “Gravel Workmen” by Faisal Azim

Gravel workmen
Image: National Geographic/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.”

3rd place: “Camel Ardah” by Ahmed Al Toqi

Camel Ardah
Image: National Geographic/Ahmed Al Toqi

“Camel Ardah, as it 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.”

4th place: “A Night at Deadvlei” by Beth McCarley

A Night At Deadvlei
Image: National Geographic/Beth McCarley

“The night before returning to Windhoek, we spent several hours at Deadveli. 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. Deadveli means “dead marsh.” The camelthorn trees are believed to be about 900 years old but have not decomposed because the environment is so dry.”

5th place: “Catching a Duck” by Sarah Wouters

Catching a duck
Image: National Geographic/Sarah Wouters

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

6th place: “Kushti, Indian Wrestling” by Alain Schroeder

Kushti, Indian wrestling
Image: National Geographic/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.”

7th place: “White Rhinos” by Stefane Berube

White Rhino's
Image: National Geographic/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.”

8th place: “Sauna in the Sky” by Stefano Zardini

Sauna in the sky
Image: National Geographic/Stefano Zardini

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

9th place: “Highlanders” by Bartłomiej Jurecki

Image: National Geographic/Bartlomiej Jurecki

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

10th place: “Romania, Land of Fairy Tales” by Eduard Gutescu

Romania - Land of Fairy Tales
Image: National Geographic/Land of Fairy Tales

“White frost over Pestera village.”