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Amazing amateur photos offer close-up look at wildlife

May 23, 2013 at 2:08 PM ET

Image: Two newly hatched Gentoo Penguin chicks get their first glimpse at the Antarctic wilderness.
Richard Sidey / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
Two newly hatched gentoo penguin chicks get their first glimpse at the Antarctic wilderness.

A family of cuddling snow monkeys, a pig swimming in the Bahamas, and a pair of gentoo penguin chicks getting their first glimpse of the world are just a few of the moments captured in photos for this year’s National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest.

For the 25th year in a row, National Geographic is accepting photos from readers around the world.

“The photo contest was created as a way to have a relationship with National Geographic Traveler Magazine readers. Our readers are active travelers and we recognized early on that they also were very avid photographers,” Dan Westergren, director of photography for National Geographic Traveler, told TODAY.com.

Image: A family of snow monkeys cuddling up together for security and warmth.
Petra Bensted / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
A family of snow monkeys cuddle up together for security and warmth. They appeared very protective of one another and seemed unsure of my presence.

Westergren said the amount of amazing photos they’ve received from readers has increased since the contest began. Over the last few years, submissions have numbered around 12,000.

“Now with digital photography and online entry, the number of great photographs is much higher. We are only able to include the top 10 photos in the magazine, but now it's great that hundreds of the entries can be shared online,” Westergren said.

Image: Whaleshark encounter in the Bohol Sea, Philippines.
Jonne Seijdel / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
Whaleshark encounter in the Bohol Sea, Philippines.

Photos can be submitted in four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place and Spontaneous Moments. This year’s entries includean amazing range of photos, including images of wildlife that took our breath away. Check out a few of our favorite photographs here, with captions written by the photographers.

If you'd like to submit a photo, you can do so on the National Geographic website.

Image: Two vultures in action from Maasai Mara in Kenya while they are fighting
Majed Ali / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
Two vultures in action in Maasai Mara in Kenya while they are fighting.
Image: A 2-year-old Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) of the Sabinyo family plays in the bamboo forest of Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.
Peter Stanley / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
A 2-year-old mountain gorilla (gorilla beringei beringei) of the Sabinyo family plays in the bamboo forest of Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. In 1981, this population fell to 240 because of rampant poaching and habitat loss. Today the population is estimated to be around 800 and rising, and this photograph represents the exciting turnaround and hope for the next generation. Thank you to the conservationists, rangers and educators working to protect these magnificent cousins of ours and their habitat in the Virunga Massif.
Image: Picture of a hummingbird taken on March 27 with a Nikon D90 + zoom 80-400 mm - 400 mm - ISO 800 - 1/3200 sec - f 7.1.
Alain Martens / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
Picture taken on March 27 with a Nikon D90 + zoom 80-400 mm - 400 mm - ISO 800 - 1/3200 sec - f 7.1.
Image: A surprise companion, the Pacific tree frog, lurking in the lichen.
Jessi Fikan / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
A surprise companion, the Pacific tree frog, lurks in the lichen.
Image: Alligator in a pond in South Carolina
Kandace Stroupe / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
This photograph was taken while I was on vacation in South Carolina. It was a rainy, miserable day until I happened upon this alligator hanging out in a local pond.
Image: Zebras in the Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa
Natalie Murray / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
This picture was taken on a game drive in the Addo Elephant National Park, the third-largest national park in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. The park contains a wide diversity of fauna, flora and landscapes and incorporates semi-arid landscapes all the way to a marine reserve. These zebra were so calm, and you just got the feeling they wanted to be photographed!
Image: Our first morning game drive on Safari in South Africa brought us this magnificent leopard.  He was bathed in the orange hues of the sunrise.
Douglas Croft / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
Our first morning game drive on safari in South Africa brought us this magnificent leopard. He was bathed in the orange hues of the sunrise and it was breathtaking.
Image: Sea lion on Pacific Coast of Oregon
Gary Migues / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
Sea lion on the Pacific Coast of Oregon.
Image: I clicked this photo as the osprey was taking off from his perch.
Mark Gottlieb / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
I clicked this photo as the osprey was taking off from his perch.
Image: Wild parrot at a cafe outside of Aquas Calientes in the Cuzco region of Peru.
Adam Lichtcsien / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
A cafe outside of Aquas Calientes in the Cuzco region of Peru has perches for wild parrots that come and feed on seed and fruit left out for them. This curious little fella was peeking out from behind a leaf to get a better look at me. Apparently he was entertained by the odd human with the camera because he let me get only a few inches away, where my ring light could better illuminate his beautiful feathers.
Image: I have seen alligators and turtles together in ponds before, but never like this!
Mary Ellen Urbanski / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
I have seen alligators and turtles together in ponds before, but never like this! I was at Bluebill Pond in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia when I saw what I thought was an alligator sunning itself on a stump. As I got closer I realized that it was actually perched on the back of a turtle! I wish I had been there to witness how this surprising esprit de corps had come to pass!
Image: This is one of the Big Major Cay's pigs swimming in the clear, turquoise waters of the Bahamas. Pigs are great swimmers!
Paul Lee / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
This is one of the Big Major Cay's pigs swimming in the clear, turquoise waters of the Bahamas. Pigs are great swimmers!


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