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These Photos Remind Us How Awe-Inspiring Nature Can Be

 The Nature Conservancy has unveiled the winners of its 2021 photo contest. Last year, the competition had to pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, it’s back this year and with a bang, showcasing some truly stunning images of nature from around the globe.

This year, the contest received more than 100,000 entries and the Grand Prize went to a photo of a western lowland gorilla walking through a cloud of butterflies in the Central African Republic. Other photos include a guide caught in the midst of a sand storm in the Sahara Desert, a magical shot of the Serra do Mar mountain range, and cheetahs trying to cross a river in Masai Mara, among several others.

These powerful photos capture the magic and mystery of our planet and remind us once again how gorgeous and awe-inspiring nature can be. Let’s now take a look at some of the best-winning images from this year’s Nature Conservancy Photo Contest.

Related: The Universe's Greatest Photographs: 12 Contest Winners

Grand Prize. Photo: Anup Shah, United Kingdom.

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest, gorilla
A Western lowland female gorilla walking through a cloud of butterflies she has disturbed at Bai Hokou, Dzanga Sangha Special Dense Forest Reserve, Central African Republic.

People's Choice Winner. Photo: Prathamesh Ghadekar, India

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest, Fireflies
Fireflies congregate on a tree in Central India.

Landscape, First Place. Photo: Daniel De Granville Manço, Brazil

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest, Carcass of a Pantanal alligator
The carcass of a Pantanal alligator (Caiman yacare) in the dry soil on the banks of the Transpantaneira highway, municipality of Poconé (Mato Grosso).

People and Nature, Second Place. Photo: Tom Overall, Australia

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest, Sahara Desert
A guide in the Sahara Desert caught in the midst of a sand storm.

Wildlife, Honorable Mention. Photo: Thomas Vijayan, Canada

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest, orangutan
An orangutan sits sadly on tree stumps that have been recently cut down. Orangutans live on trees and feed on wild fruits and other foods. 

Water, Third Place. Photo: Man Wai Wong, Hong Kong

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest, Iceland
A stunning aerial shot shows a waterfall in Iceland during the winter season.

People and Nature, Third Place. Photo: Sebnem Coskun, Turkey

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest, mixed medical wastes
A disturbing shot of mixed medical waste used during the COVID-19 pandemic dumped into the Mediterranean.

Landscape, Second Place. Photo: Denis Ferreira Netto, Brazil

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest, Serra do Mar
The photographer came across this surreal sight of the Serra do Mar mountain range in Brazil emerging from the clouds during a helicopter flight. 

Water, First Place. Photo: Kazi Arifujjaman, Bangladesh

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest,
Water and people.

People and Nature, First Place. Photo: Alain Schroeder, Belgium

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest, female orangutan
This picture shows the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme team working together to prepare Brenda, a 3-month-old female rescue orangutan, for surgery. The photo was taken at Sibolangit, in North Sumatra, Indonesia.

Water, Second Place. Photo: Joram Mennes, Mexico

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest,
Swimmers, freedivers, and divers enjoy their respective sport/recreational activities in a freshwater mass known as the Cenotes - Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico.

Wildlife, First Place. Photo: Buddhilini de Soyza, Australia

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest, cheetahs
A group of male cheetahs try and cross a river in terrifyingly powerful currents when rains in Masai Mara had caused the Talek river to flood.

Wildlife, Second Place. Photo: Mateusz Piesiak, Poland

2021 Nature Conservancy Photo Contest, birds
Greenfinches, goldfinches, and bramblings have fun in this giant field of sunflowers in Poland during winter.
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