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Every year, beloved nature and discovery magazine National Geographic holds a contest for travellers the world over to submit their best pictures of nature, natural phenomena and just plain pretty pictures of Earth and its denizens. Today, the magazine announced this year’s winner: Anuar Patjane Floriuk of Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico. His photo of a humpback whale, up-close and personal, is astounding (you can see it in the gallery below).

The 17,000 photos vying for victory in this year’s National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest were nothing short of breathtaking. (The main prize of an eight-day National Geographic Photo Expedition to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal for two was some pretty great inspiration, we must concede. Enjoy that trip, Anuar!)

The magazine selected a first-, second- and third-place winner, and included seven additional honourable mentions. Feast your eyes on some of the most beautiful photos taken in 2015: