10 Stunning Photos From National Geographic's 2015 Traveler Photo Contest

One word: wanderlust.

The National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is an awe-inspiring source of wanderlust. And after judges searched through nearly 17,000 entries, the winners are finally in.

Anuar Patjane Floriuk of Tehuacán Puebla, Mexico is the first place winner of the contest. He wins the grand prize, an eight-day National Geographic Photo Expedition to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal for two.

“The photo wasn’t planned,” Floriuk said of his image showing divers near a humpback whale. “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.”

Scroll down to see the second and third place winners, as well as the seven merit winners (which are listed in no particular order). The photographers' descriptions of the winning shots are included.

First place: Whale Whisperers; Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico

"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." -- Anuar Patjane

Second place: Gravel Workmen; Chittagong, Chittagong, Bangladesh

"[This] gravel-crush working place remains full of dust and sand. Three gravel workmen are looking through the window glass at their working place." -- Faisal Azim

Third place: Camel Ardah; Badīyah, Ash Sharqiyah, Oman

"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 the camels reactions are unpredictable [and] may get wild and jump [toward the] audience." -- Ahmed Al Toqi

Merit winner: Sauna in the Sky; Monte Lagazuoi, Cortina, Eastern Italian Alps

"A sauna at 2,800 meters high in the heart of Dolomites." -- Stefano Zardini

Merit winner: Romania, Land of Fairy Tales; Bran, Brasov, Romania

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

Merit winner: A Night at Deadvlei; Windhoek, Khomas, Namibia

"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." -- Beth McCarley

Merit winner: White Rhinos; Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Uganda

"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." -- Stefane Berube

Merit winner: Kushti, Indian Wrestling; Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India

"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." -- Alain Schroeder

Merit winner: Catch a Duck; Nong Khai, Nong Khai, Thailand

"Two boys are trying to catch a duck at the stream of the waterfall." -- Sarah Wouters

Merit winner: Highlanders; Rzepiska, Poland

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

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