If you are looking for a place to travel where you can experience wildlife up close and personal, National Geographic has your back.
In an effort to inspire travelers and wildlife conservation, the world-renowned magazine holds a contest for traveling photographers each year, and we are so glad they do!
Here are 20 of the most breathtaking images from 2018’s Travel Photographer Of The Year winners.
1. Wake up to the majesty of Lions at rest in the Serengeti
Take advantage of the decreased tourism and change in scenery by going on an African Safari in the off-season.
Also known as the wet season, from November to December the landscape is showered with “short rains”. As the water turns to vapor, you can capture magical images like this one.
2. Travel to Kenya to watch Elephants cross the Ewaso Ngiro river
The Samburu National Reserve is a wildlife sanctuary for many endangered animals. Among them are African Elephants, known to be the largest living land animals on Earth.
The reserve boasts a population of over 900 of the magnificent creatures, almost sure to be near the Ewaso Ngiro river that runs through the middle of the reserve.
3. Go Snorkeling off the coastlines with Seals
While Seals are considered to be quite common and are found off many coastlines throughout the world, not all such sites are created equal. According to Scuba Diver for Life, the top 5 places to snorkel with seals are:
Kaikoura, New Zealand,
Baja California, Mexico
Farne Island, UK
False Bay South Africa
The Ross Sea, Antarctica
4. Encounter Gorillas as you trek the Ugandan Mountains.
Mountain gorillas can only be found in their natural habitat. Fortunately, their habitat includes the Virunga chain of dormant volcanic mountains that span several National Parks.
The greatest populations can be found in the dense jungle of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
5. Observe Flamingos as you drift along the Yucatan Peninsula
Visit the small beach town of Celestun on the Yucatan peninsula to watch Flamingos as they wade through the saltwater flats of Mexico.
There you can take a mangrove boat ride and drift alongside the serene birds in their natural, and protected habitat.
6. See the Great Migration of Zebras as they run through Tanzania
Each year the bounty of the Serengeti short grass plains dwindle as the hottest months approach. When the grasses begin to wither, over 200,000 Zebras begin their mad dash through Tanzania to the promise of rich feeding grounds. The Zebras are joined in this great race by droves of Wildebeests and Gazelles.
7. Dive with the Whales in the open waters of Mexico
Sure, whale watching is exciting and amazing in its own right, but what about diving in with the whales?!
In Cabo, Mexico, you can free-dive the oceans, and you might even be lucky enough to snap a picture of a fleeting whale!
8. Challenge yourself in St. Andrew’s Bay with the King Penguins
King Penguin colonies can be seen in the hundreds of thousands in St. Andrew’s bay in the Antarctic.
The dangerously intriguing landscape has a sensitive ecology that the penguins have depended on throughout their evolution. Capturing a photo of them separate from the colony can prove quite the task!
9. Bask in the Sri Lanka evening glow with Malabar Pied Hornbills
Visit the forests of Sri Lanka to watch the evening ritual of these exotic Hornbills. Though they prefer moist deciduous and evergreen forests, you can catch them drumming up dust in openings on the forest floor.
Every evening the fly into an open space to dust themselves in an attempt to remove excess oils from their feathers, which prevents infection and infestation.
10. Watch the Black-tip Reef Shark hunt the bountiful reefs of the Maldives
If you think this is just a picture of a shark in beautiful blue water, look again. The black-tip reef shark hunts the shallow waters near the reefs, where food is plentiful.
This is a photo of a reef shark navigating his way through a swarm of sprats, a common foraging fish.
11. Take a winter trip to western Japan to visit the Snow Monkeys
Shodoshima Island in western Japan is home to the exotic Japanese Macaques, or “Snow Monkeys”. While the island is a popular destination for many tourists, many are unaware the monkeys form a large huddling mass of furry pink faces in the freezing winter months.
12. Climb the Japanese alpines to see Ezo red foxes frolic
The Ezo red fox is commonly found in Hokkaido, Japan. Though fairly independent, you can catch mates playing and calling to each other in Spring.
Once the litter of “kits” is born, the father will go back to his solitary life, but the mother will raise her babies through Autumn.
13. Witness the awesome gathering of baby King Penguins as they weather the frigid Antarctic climes
Visit South Georgia Island in Antarctica to see the vast colonies of baby King penguins as they huddle together for warmth.
At a certain stage of life, these solemn creatures will come together to survive the harshest winter months of the Antarctic. By living a communal life, the King Penguin can beat the toughest of odds.
14. Go night-diving with the squid in Moalboal
A photographer’s dream, Moalboal, Central Visayas, Philippines boasts some of the best wildlife scenes for macro photography. If you love getting up close and personal with the tiniest and most mysterious of creatures, this is the travel destination for you!
15. Snap photos of the elusive Green Anaconda in the Pantanal in Brazil.
Considered the world’s largest tropical wetland, the Pantanal is a key place to spot the Green Anaconda, as well as over ten thousand other species of wildlife.
The Anaconda pictured here is a noteworthy 18 feet long, beating the average length of 17 feet. You can spot them by looking for the crest of their heads as they swim with their eyes and nostrils out of the water.
16. Discover the majesty of Barn Owls in the Carrizo Plain
People travel from all over the world to see the 4,000 plus year-old pictographs embedded in the Painted Rocks of the Carrizo Plains.
You might be surprised to see Common Barn Owls turn into creatures of mystique and majesty as they soar through the cutaways of the ancient rock formation. You will definitely be in awe!
17. Run with the Leopards in Kenya
Go on an African safari to see these beautiful wildcats in their own turf. These two cubs were photographed as they raced to catch up with mom on a dangerous mission to cross the open plains.
Due to a decline in population caused by poaching and lack of food sources, these enchanting wildcats are on the endangered species list.
18. Watch Polar Bears in the Arctic
As global temperatures steadily rise, more and more glaciers are melting and changing the landscape of the Polar Bear’s home forever.
Book a flight to Nunavut, Baffin, a bay between Quebec and Greenland to see them in their natural habitat. You might just be amazed at the resilience you will find.
19. Go snorkeling with Crocodiles in Mexico
Book a four day trip to Xcalak and Banco Chinchorro, Mexico for an amazing diving experience. Here you can see the largest population of American Crocodiles in the world in their natural habitat, face to face. Don’t think too long about it though, these excursions sell out fast!
20. Watch Wildebeests storm the Serengeti
Travel to Eastern Africa and watch the beauty of the Blue Wildebeest crossing the Mara River in Tanzania. Don’t worry about keeping a schedule either. These gorgeous creatures can be seen grazing in vast herds both night and day.