This year's National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest attracted over 17,000 entries, but this photo snapped by Anuar Patjane Floriuk off the western coast of Mexico in Roca Partida has bested the lot:
Bagging the grand prize, which includes an eight-day National Geographic Photo Expedition to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal for two, Floriuk says the photo was not planned. He says it happened on the spur of the moment when the whale moved away from him and towards the group of divers.
At second place is a portrait by Faisal Azim, taken in Chittagong, Bangladesh:
And coming in at third is a camel race shot by Ahmed Al Toqi in Badīyah, Ash Sharqiyah, Oman:
The seven other photos that claimed the Merit Prize:
A Night at Deadvlei
"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."
Catching a Duck
"Two boys are trying to catch a duck at the stream of the waterfall."
Kushti, Indian Wrestling
"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."
"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."
Sauna in the Sky
"A sauna at 2.800 MASL high, in the heart of Dolomites, Monte Lagazuoi, Cortina, eastern Italian Alps."
"Traditional haymaking in Poland - many people continue to use the scythe and pitchfork to sort the hay."
Romania, Land of Fairy Tales
"White frost over Pestera village in Romania."