The 27 Most Amazing Animal Pictures Of 2018

You really have to love animals if you decide to dedicate your life to wildlife animal photography. Without a doubt, it is one of the bravest professions in the world. More often than not, photographing animals demands reaching remote and challenging sites- like the sharp rocky grounds of the Falklands – as well as places surrounded by dangerous man-eating predators – like the shark-filled oceans. Let’s take a look at the 27 most impressive pictures of animals taken in 2018. #20, #8 and #4 are amazing!

#27. Hidden Albatrosses

This photo depicts the main colony of black-browed albatrosses in the world. It was taken at Steeple Jason, one of the most remote islands within the Falkland Islands. So if you wish to see this rare bird species, then Falklands is definitely the place to go, because that’s where 70% of the world’s albatrosses live! But I must warn you: these birds are known for being extremely noisy, as they cry out to mark their territory.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Not only are the birds beautiful, but also the setting. This vast portion of grasslands now covered by albatrosses was once land used to graze thousands of sheep and cattle. Now, it is a natural reserve. Even though it’s quite far off, it can still be visited. As you can imagine, the island receives very few tourists per year. Now, if you’re a bird fan, don’t miss the following picture!

#26. Unusual Hairstyles

It’s quite hard to find an animal as funny-looking as these yellow-crested red-eyed macaroni penguins. I know what you’re probably thinking: it seems like they have just dyed their hair at the barbershop. But this is not their only unique feature: unlike the traditional royal penguin, its face is black instead of white. They are also the largest of the six species of crested penguins.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

But just as impressive as their yellow crests are the breathtaking views of sub-antarctic Marion Island, South Africa. Even though we can’t really tell by the photo, this waddle of penguins is actually trudging over an old volcano crater. And the amazing scenery that lies behind them contains a series of terraces, worn down by the penguins’ nesting and molding. These birds sure picked a nice place to live at! Now if you like penguins, don’t miss the next photo.

#25. Rockhoppers

Yes, that’s right. Penguins once again! Even though at first glance they seem identical to the Macaroni penguins previously shown, they actually aren’t! Yes, it’s true, they are also yellow-crested, black-faced and red-eyed, hence the confusion. Nevertheless, these are the Southern rockhopper penguins. After looking at the photo, you can probably imagine where their name comes from. There’s not much mystery into it!

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Even though penguins are usually more skillful at sea, these guys are excellent climbers and jumpers, given their natural habitat. As one may imagine, they must stroll through rocky cliffs and crashing waves when coming to and from Marion Island, South Africa. Here’s another fun fact: scientists have such a hard time distinguishing males from females, that they have to perform DNA tests on these penguins’ feathers in order to determine their gender.

#24. Sun Stars

The lighting and the quality of this picture is so perfect, that it almost seems as if it was taken above water! On the very contrary, sun stars live way at the very depths of the sea. Here, we can see it clinging to a tree, in what seems to be an underwater rainforest. The picture was taken along the South Atlantic coast somewhere near Bird Island, in the British overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Sunstars are very particular creatures. On the one hand, it is one of the few animals that can reproduce asexually. Equally as striking is the fact that they can regenerate parts of its body, such as arms, and sometimes even a whole limb! I wish humans had starfishes’ superpowers! Needless, to say, starfishes are one of many species that inhabit the depths of these waters: the sea beneath the Falkland and South Georgia Islands harbor an extremely rich marine world, attracting a huge series of fish, mammals, and birds.

#23. Amid The Mountains

Pumas are one of the most beautiful creatures in the world. But not only that: it is also quite admirable how they manage to adapt to such remote environments. This photo was taken in the middle of the Andes, the biggest and longest mountain range in the world. In the middle of a hill and surrounded by a bunch of pincushion shrubs and shards of rock, we can spot three pumas resting side by side. I bet many of you wish you were one of those pumas, just to be surrounded by the beauty of the Chilean mountains of the Torres del Paine National Park.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

The female puma is the one in the middle. It happens to be that the puma is a matriarchal species. Being the matriarch, however, entails many responsibilities: it implies raising generations of cubs and spending most of your life hunting for food. They are especially fit for hunting since they can reach speeds of up to 80 km p/h. Almost as much as a car, right? Let’s just hope you’re never chased by a puma! And if you happen to like them, don’t miss the following picture.

#22. Professional Climbers

Even though both were taken at the same place – Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park – this photo is probably even more breathtaking than the previous one. To begin with, it gives you a sheer feeling of vertigo. Who wouldn’t be afraid of standing on the tip of that rock on the edge of that mountain?

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

The puma standing on the left is four-year-old Chaqueado. He is pursuing a female, gnashing his teeth in order to impress her. According to photographer Ingo Arndt, just before the picture was taken they had mated for five times in only an hour, and in a quite exposed spot. After that, as if seeking privacy, they strolled through the mountains until reaching this headland, located at a private ranchland. Let’s hope they found the privacy they were looking for.

#21. Stranded In The Forest

This picture shows an elephant sneakingly peering through the foliage in Bangladesh’s Inani forest. There are many things about elephants that make them likable. To begin with, they are extremely intelligent creatures: to your surprise, they’re even capable of handling tools! Secondly, they literally spend almost all day eating: they can eat up to 16 hours per week, and up to 600 pounds per day. That’s like over nine thousand 30-gram hamburgers!

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Sadly, the elephant portrayed in the photo is one of the forty of its kind that is currently trapped within the Inani forest, and all due to ethnic conflicts. In 2017, more than 600.000 Rohingya, or Burmese Muslims, escaped Myanmar’s anti-Muslim government, crossing to Bangladesh. Most settled in the Kutupalong refugee camp, the biggest one in the world, situated right on top of a vital elephant migration path. Thus, these elephants are stuck in the forest. This sadly shows how military conflicts can also destabilize nature and wildlife.

#20. Cycle Of Life

Taking a good picture of a feline hunting its prey is no piece of cake: basically, had the photographer pressed ‘click’ one microsecond before or after, the photo wouldn’t have been as perfect. So it’s just a matter of seconds. Before leaping upon that poor guanaco, the puma must have spent a long long time waiting: sometimes, they observe them behind the bushes for as long as two whole hours! Can you imagine having to wait so long for each of your four daily meals?

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Guanacos, however, also know how to defend themselves. In the picture, we can see a strong male guanaco performing some acrobatics in order to escape from his predator. Spoilers alert! Do you want to know what happened to this guanaco? In the last of the series of photos recorded of the scene, the guanaco gallops away, practically uninjured, probably reaching high speeds thanks to its powerful back legs. Who would’ve thought, right?

#19. Nocturnal Creatures

Talking about at the right moment and at the right time… take a look at how photographer Anand Varma managed to capture this woolly false vampire bat flapping its wings across a moonlit sky. If you pay attention, it kind of looks like a mouse with wings, doesn’t it? The photo was taken at Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. In fact, those stone walls are actually the ceiling of a Mayan temple, just outside the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

If you ask me, I wouldn’t like to be a rodent and be wandering around at night at Mexico’s southern jungles. The night is especially dangerous for many small mammals since that is the time when bats leave their roosts and roam through the skies seeking prey. After hunting, they return to their roosts for dinner. It’s curious how cooperative bats are, for they may bring food back for members of the group that aren’t able to hunt, such as females with their offspring.

#18. Napping On Ice

To be honest, this photo almost seems animated, almost as if it were a screenshot from The Ice Age. But believe or burst, its real! These two seals seem to be napping on a quite thin block of ice, in the middle of the most isolated part of the world: the Antarctic Peninsula. The so-called crab-eater seals spend plenty of time on top of these floating blocks of ice: they use them to nap, give birth, and even to hide from killer whales or other predators. In fact, if you look closely, you’ll notice the scar on one of the seals.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Despite their name, crab-eater seals don’t really eat a lot of crabs. Instead, they mainly feed on krill. Their mouth is specifically designed for that purpose: they suck in water containing krill, close their jaws, and then force the water out between their teeth, trapping the krill inside their mouth. Did you know that their hunting can last up to 16 hours straight? It’s lucky that finding food is much easier for humans! Now if this photo doesn’t seem real, wait until you take a look at the following one.

#17. Moon Jellies

This picture almost seems like an X-ray, right? Spread all throughout the world, moon jellies are named after their translucent bells. Brainless and invertebrate creatures, they sweep food into their mouths with their hair-like cilia, also called oral arms. In some species of jellies, these oral mouths even have mouths of their own! If you find that surprising, take this: moon jellies can change color, just depending on what they eat!

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Anyone who has been stung by jellies when going for a swim at the beach knows how painful it is. Like most species of its type, moon jellies have nematocysts or stinging cells, but they’re so small they don’t hurt humans. So even though you’ll probably never come across one given they live at the depths of the ocean, if you do, don’t you worry about a thing! Now if you find this picture kind of cartoon-like, wait until you see the following one.

#16. The Colors Beneath The Sea

I know exactly what you’re thinking: this animal just can’t be real. First of all, why are the tips of its tentacles so perfect and colorful? However, if you find its appearance funny, wait until you find out its name: these curious creatures are named… flower hat jellies! As to the scientists who came up with that name, we must give them some credit, because it really does seem as if they had a flower for a hat.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

As most medusas, these bell-shaped jellyfish are both delicate and menacing. While they patiently sit on the seafloor waving their colorful bright tentacles, they stalk fish, sting them, and finally eat. As one may expect, they use their tentacles to inject venom on their pray, since that’s where their stinging cells are. So in the end, they’re not as friendly as they seem.

#15. A Bird Called Edward

Now that we’re covering the topic of funny-looking creatures, let’s continue with this incredible photo of an Edward’s fig-parrot. One may wonder how the photographer managed to take such a perfect close-up of this bird: you can appreciate each and every detail of its eye, as well as the dozens of different color tones of its feathers. I’m pretty sure that it’s possible to count ten different shades just of green, not to mention the rest of the colors!

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

As its name suggests, Edward’s fig-parrots eat figs, as well as other fruits and nectars. Despite the fact that they live in forests, they also feel comfortable living near human settlements. Thus, in many towns of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, it is not uncommon to go for a walk and encounter one of these birds flying through the trees or tightly clutching themselves onto a tree branch. But beware! These parrots are incredibly loud and destructive! You also can’t get rid of them easily, because they have a lifespan of up to 80 years, just like humans.

#14. Recondite Nesting Site

Back to the albatrosses! But as you can see, the scenery and the habitat are rather different. Far away from the Falklands, this sheltered nesting area is found in New Zealand’s remote Chatham Island, in a site called Te Tara Koi Koia. This strange site – with an even stranger name – is a pyramid-shaped pinnacle which harbors a big natural cave, precisely the one shown in the picture!

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

This natural cave is very strategic for the albatrosses. Inside it, nests can be protected by erosion caused by wind and rain. These nests form some sort of pedestals, which pretty much look like hats. This place seems completely inhospitable and recondite… well, actually it is! As a matter of fact, more people have been into outer space than have set foot on this nesting site. Are you fond of these birds? Then it’s your lucky day because we’ve got more to share!

#13. Sky Calling

Unlike the last two albatross pictures, in this one we can appreciate their features with much more precision and detail, considering how close they are. Behind them, the sun is setting above the incredible mountains of South Africa’s Marion Island. Although one can’t really tell by the picture, these birds are performing a sort of ritual dance, which consists of a complex suite of calls and gestures, including a “sky calling” display from the bird located at the very right.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

It has been found that these wandering albatrosses mate for life, something not at all common among animals. The dancing behavior mentioned above, usually performed by subadults, is a way of pursuing a life partner. To put it in human terms, one could say that the albatross at the right is doing some flirting!

#12. Natural Swimmers

This picture was taken at the Falkland Islands, which shelters the biggest colony of gentoo penguins in the world. While the rockhopper penguins stand out for their ability to jump through the mountains, the gentoo penguins are much more skilled underwater. In fact, they swim at a faster speed than any other bird on the planet, reaching as much as 22 miles an hour. Lucky that they don’t prey on humans, because it would be impossible to swim away from them!

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographics

Gentoo penguins can spend over a day hunting in the ocean, although generally close to the shore, as shown in this picture. Believe it or not, they have been known to perform as much as 450 dives in only one day in the quest for food. Here’s another fun fact: both male and female share the incubation of their eggs, changing duty daily. So funnily enough, humans have much to learn from gentoo penguins’ gender equality!

#11. Butterfly Catcher

This picture presents a fabulous blend of colors, to the point in which the tablecloth and the butterflies seem to intertwine. The picture was taken at the island of Bali, Indonesia. The man whose hands appear in the picture happens to be a butterfly catcher. Funnily enough, the ring on his right-hand matches the black and turquoise butterfly.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Many of you will be probably surprised to learn that in Bali, some people actually earn a living as butterfly catchers. Many people follow their migration pattern from December to March, moving up to hundreds of miles just to grab hold of new specimens. As a matter of fact, Bali exports butterflies mainly throughout Asia, but also to collectors all over the world. Even though it’s hard to believe, dealers can pay up to one hundred dollars for a butterfly, while collectors can pay a lot more!

#10. Kings Of The Sand

We have already seen several penguin pictures, but what about the most famous of them all? In this photo, we can see a waddle of the well-known king penguins strolling along the white bright sand of Volunteer Point on East Falkland Island. During the late 19th century, seldom were these penguins seen at the Falklands. However, fortunately, ever since the 1970s its population has begun to steadily increase. Today, a thousand breeding pairs frequent the island.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Unfortunately, the beaches where these penguins settle have been privatized approximately some 50 years ago. Thus, if you want to see king penguins, the Falklands is not the place to go. It’s a real shame: not only because of the beauty of these birds but because of the shiny sands and clear blue waters that you can very much appreciate above.

#9. Saker Falcons

This picture is quite awesome: it almost seems as if these birds were glaring directly at us! But luckily we weren’t the ones who took the picture, because I’m pretty sure the photographer felt intimidated when being fiercely stared at by these female saker falcons. The thing is, female saker falcons, as most birds are extremely protective with their offspring. In this picture, we can see an adult female guarding her chicks —called eyases— in their nest, overlooking the beautiful and remote Mongolian planes.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Many few people know this, but falcons are literally the fastest animals in the world. The peregrine falcons, a species similar to the sakers, can dive at a speed that exceeds 240 miles per hour! Unfortunately, nowadays, saker falcons are one of the world’s many endangered species. There are two main reasons for their threat: habitat loss, and illegal wildlife trade. Apart from this, many falcons are killed on insulated power lines. It seems like a joke, but it’s really not: around 4000 saker falcons are electrocuted each year.

#8. Birdbrains

Falcons aren’t the only high-speed species of bird that exists in the planet. In fact, northern goshawks have nothing to envy them. The goshawk in the picture is named Ellie and is owned by Lloyd and Rose Buck in England. The photo catches the exact moment in which she tucks in her wings and streaks through very narrow openings across the trees. One may wonder how these birds manage to sneak themselves through such small openings at such high speed, without bumping into any branches!

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

According to aeronautic scientists, these birds are so smart that they are actually capable of assessing the density of the trees and based on that, they intuit how fast they can fly, thus ensuring that they’ll find the necessary openings and avoid crashing. Quite impressive.

#7. Birds Of The Far West

When you first glance at this picture, you can’t help but be blinded by the rising sun. At the far-west state of Wyoming, USA, this picture shows a male sage-grouse standing in the middle of an arid and plain sagebrush. Their puffy chests seem like a human winter coat. They look so fluffy, that it really makes you want to touch them! Equally as impressive is its tail: it looks so sharp, that it really makes you not want to touch it!

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

As soon as the sun shines over Wyoming’s mountains, sage-grouse’s mating ritual begins. The males, like the one shown in the picture, strut around, puffing their white-feathered chests and displaying their splayed tails. They then begin to chase one another, violently beating their wings and thunking loudly. It’s all quite pointless: even though the aim is to impress the females, they usually just stand still, boringly staring at them.

#6. Domestic Insects

This picture is so funny that it seems fake. In the center, we can see a goliath birdwing hatching in the kitchen of what seems to be a tourist house, in the Indonesian island of West Papua. An adult birdwing, most likely its mother, is aiding the hatching goliath. On its side, we can see a total of nine future birdwings, waiting to hatch. Oddly enough, they are all clutched in brooks. So the question is: how distracted must the owner be in order not to notice that a whole flutter of butterflies is about to be born, right in the same place where they must hang their clothes?

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Unfortunately, just like Bali’s butterflies, goliath birdlings are killed to feed a worldwide illegal market of insect buyers. Hatchlings are usually killed at a very young age: in that way, their wings can be best preserved. After all, it is just the wings that middlemen and collectors care about. Let’s just hope that someday, butterfly trafficking comes to an end.

#5. Musical Birds

All over the world, people have grown used to seeing cats and dogs inside people’s homes. However, coming across certain species of animals within a household can be somewhat shocking. This is clearly the case: what on earth is this European starling watching and listening to a man play the piano, instead of soaring through the skies?

Photograph: Courtesy of National Geographic

This starling is called Arnie and lives with Lloyd and Rose Buck in the English town of Somerset. There seems to be something about classical music that these birds find appealing, given that Mozart also had a pet starling, who even sang some of his music. One the one hand, that is impressive. On the other hand, listening to a starling squeaking Beethoven’s music in high-pitched sounds doesn’t seem like the best thing since sliced bread.

#4. Aquatic Birds

The fact that penguins are talented swimmers is common knowledge. However, little do people know that there are plenty of other birds that have the courage of diving in the water to find some food. In this picture, a young blue-eyed shag is attempting at what seems to be its very first dive, in what is probably the Antarctic Peninsula.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Many different species of flying seabirds nest or feed along Antarctica. However, they must do it quickly: if not, seals luring by might attack them and have them for supper. Currently, many scientists are investigating how climate change is altering life for seabirds on or near the Antarctic Peninsula.

#3. Bird Workers

This photo is quite perturbing. It shows a flock of falcons tied to their perches and with their faces hooded. The explanation behind this confusing picture is that, particularly in many Arab countries, falcons are frequently trained by people for hunting. Hooding, a technique developed by ancient Arabs, has proven to keep then calm, so they resort to this whenever necessary.

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

Using falcons as hunters is not a 20th-century idea: as a matter of fact, Genghis Khan is said to have kept hundreds of the birds for hunting. But why falcons? Well, their vision is so acute that even subtle movements or small changes in light can startle them. This makes them suitable for hunting mammals or birds, from which humans can obtain meat, fur and feathers. Now get ready for the last two pictures!

#2. Underwater Predators

Technology advances so quickly that today’s professional underwater cameras allow photographers to obtain incredibly high-quality pictures of the very depths of the ocean. Here, photographer Laurent Ballesta has spotted a frenzy of gray reef sharks in the south channel of Fakarava Atoll, in the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia. He and his team have undergone a diving expedition that lasted 21 whole weeks – about 3000 diver hours overall! Amazingly, they have managed to spot 700 sharks in a single dive! And with no cages!

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

One may wonder why so many sharks congregated in a single spot, especially when considering how vast the Pacific Ocean is! It turns out that every June, thousands and thousands of groupers – the species of fish which gray reef sharks mostly feed on – gather at the channel near Fakarava to lay their eggs. And obviously, sharks don’t lose their chance for easy prey. Ballesta’s team managed to stop over 17,000 groupers! Now I get it: with so many fish, why bother attacking a poor crew of photographers?

#1. Against The Tide

Reading so much about Laurent Ballesta’s diving expedition during moonless nights at French Polynesia probably left you wanting to see more of his pictures. If that’s the case, then it’s your lucky day, because here comes some more!

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

In order to take this picture, Ballesta’s team had to swim against the tidal current, while holding the powerful lights they needed to photograph sharks underwater, just as they search for groupers hiding beneath the reefs. And don’t forget that they did this without weapons, and with no cages. Just think about how many people were needed just to take one photograph: not only are there a group of men behind the camera aiding the photographer, but you also have those three men holding the lanterns which are shedding light on the sharks. Impressive.

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  • About Author

    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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