What an amazing response to our 2012 Cover-More ‘Essence of Travel’ facebook photo competition. With more than 1000 entries from all over Australia, we had so many personal moments shared with us it was just incredible. The photos were taken in some amazing locations with gorgeous scenery, often inspiring every part of the traveller within us. Many photos depicted nature at its best, some showed word history or architecture, some were unexpected moments or a chance photo and some were purely about those special personal moments that made that individual just want to re-live their adventures over and over through their photo. All of the photos however, depicted to the photographer the ‘Essence of Travel’. This made for an amazing assortment of special moments that makes travel so special. So, here are the winners. Our overall winner receives a $2000 travel voucher and our Runner-up winners receive $50 gift cards.

Entries were judged by Craig & Caz from yTravel Blog who summed up the winning photo nicely when writing “I think when we look at that photo we immediately get a sense of travel, being free, enjoying fun with our friends, seeing amazing sites and just living life to the full. Travel is so great at helping us live life to the full. The essence of travel is more about our discovery, those random moments we have and who we share that with on the way.” If you look closely at Dan Moore’s photo the tattoo says ‘life to the full’. This certainly seems to be captured in this moment.

Overall winner

Photo of Dan & friends at the Les Arenes in Nimes, France

Photo by Dan Moore – “Live life to the full”

Country stop # 4 on a solo adventure of a life time. I found myself climbing the awesome Les Arenes in Nimes, France with my sister and brother in law. How often do you stand on top of a huge amphitheatre built in 70AD.... (not that often). We felt like we had gone back in time, not a person in the place, every word we spoke echoed, standing on top of Gods creation, family, friends, sunshine and one awesome photo later....now this is what I call "Life to the Full!" Device: Canon G12

Secondary prize winners

Sunrise photo from Salar, Bolivia

Photo by Jason Young – “Mesmerised” Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia

It was a 4am rise in order to get to the Salar for sunrise. It was the wet season so the entire flat was covered in about an inch of water. The result of this at sunrise is positively trippy! You can hardly work out what is the horizon, what is sky and what is reflection. In the distance were a couple of other 4WDs and they looked like boats sailing towards us. The sky started out as a rich deep blue with a hint of gold on the horizon then striking golden tones of the sun appeared, warming the dark moody clouds. All of this reflected in the massive expanse of the watery Salar means you feel suspended in the clouds. You are surrounded by this magical image, above you, below you and all around you! We felt like we were in heaven!! We really did! Too unbelievable for words. As the sun rose we watched the 360 degree image evolve and felt blessed to be up in the clouds, lucky enough to experience such another otherworldly sight and to be sharing it with friends. A very special morning, beautiful people and a magical journey.

Photo of the back streets in Bari, Italy

Photo by Rieanna West – “Getting lost in unknown cities”

There are times when a moment appears in front of you, unexpectedly, which makes you think "wow". You don't have time to take out your camera so you quickly snap away on your trusty smart phone. This is what happened to us in Bari, Italy in August 2012. Lost in the back streets of a town which was foreign to us was where this photo took place. It was the moment, the timing and the unknown location of this picture which makes it so special to us.

Photo of little Fijian girl - Kasalia

Photo by Jessie Pellizer – “Fijian Girl”

This little village in Fiji has me going back every year to spend time with the locals and see the children grow up. I'm lucky enough to have my own little namesake in the village after one of mothers asked to name her child after me! This little cherubs name is Kasalia and I caught this photo whilst she was playing around in her church dress. The essence of travel is all about culture, connections and spending time in places you never thought you could hack it. Drop toilets, ponds for bathing, no roads, cars or shops...all part of the most incredible experiences of my life :) I look forward to many more in the coming years!

Sunset photo from Seminyak, Bali

Photo by Joanne Taylor - "Seminyak Sunset - Bali 2012"

We were sitting at a little cafe on Seminyak Beach, the sun was going down and the locals were out playing soccer and the tourists were still swimming. The sky became such a surreal colour and I could not take my eyes off that sunset. Just another reminder of how perfect nature is, if we just take the time to appreciate it.

Photo from Himba Village Namibia

Photo by Lisa Fryar – “Exposing my children to one of the greatest pleasures in life: meeting people from all walks of life. Himba Village Namibia.”

I took this photo on my “big birthday” holiday doing a road-trip around Africa with my family. The birthday had a 4 and a 0 in it! We hired a jeep from Johannesburg and drove through Botswana, Namibia and Zambia before returning back to South Africa. We spent time in camp grounds and villages along the way, our car had two tents on the roof to keep us out of harm from elephants during the night! This photo was in a Himba village in northern Namibia where most of the children are orphans as a result of HIV- which continues to spread through Africa at alarming rates. My sons were 7yrs and 13yrs at the time and despite being well travelled, were absolutely moved by the spirit of the Himba children singing, dancing and playing with us. The little boy in the photo was so adorable and covered in ochre (cuddles meant we too were covered in ochre!) We took some soccer balls and a pump with us and at every village started a game of soccer. It was a great way to break the ice and meet people – and we then left the balls as a way of giving to the community. That was another brilliant holiday.

Photo from Grindelwald, Switzerland

Photo by Phillip Minnis – “Christmas Morning in Grindelwald, Switzerland”

For many years my family and I dreamed about experiencing a white Christmas. Our dream was realised in December 2008, when we flew to Paris, and then gradually drove to Switzerland, where we spent Christmas in a traditional wooden chalet, in the breath-takingly beautiful village of Grindelwald. On Christmas morning, I awoke before sunrise, and walked out onto the balcony, to take in the unbelievable view. To my left was the mighty 3,970 metre high Eiger, and in the valley below, were dozens of the traditional alpine chalets. The sun was yet to rise, the air was crisp, the snow was deep, the sky was clear, and there was complete silence, except for the occasional sound of a snowmobile in the distance. For a moment, I pinched myself, realising that my dream had come true.  I grabbed my camera, placed it on the balcony's wooden railing, and captured this scene. I woke my wife and teenage daughters, and urged them to join me on the balcony, to take in the moment.  We stood together, in our pyjamas and dressing gowns, and hugged each other, gazing in amazement, and almost disbelief, at the view. It was quite an emotional moment, which we all savoured together. Since then, we have been to Europe on two occasions, but nothing compares to those unforgettable few minutes we stood together, on that balcony, on Christmas Morning, in Grindelwald. For me, that was the true 'Essence of Travel' experience!

Photo of Maria, young girl from Tanzania

Photo by Jason Young – “Beautiful Maria”

My wife and I did a month's voluntary work (in the year we travelled) in a tiny village in rural Singida, Tanzania (helping build a school). Maria was a local girl (she had a sister and a brother) who used to hang around our camp and would play with us, or just hang out with her brother and sister. The experience was one we will never forget and was truly the highlight of the whole year trip.

Photo of pigeons from Mumbai

Photo by Simon Linge – “Outnumbered”

On my last day in Mumbai, I decided to get up early for sunrise and take some pictures around the Gateway of India. I headed out with my travel tripod to take some long exposure shots of the architecture and when I saw all of these pigeons I set up my tripod. Shortly after, something triggered the birds to take off suddenly and I held down the shutter button and sprayed off about 5 consecutive shots. It all happened so quickly that I didn't have much time to change any settings on my camera, but lucky enough I had it set so that it resulted in a slightly longer exposure which captured the motion of the birds while the tripod prevented the scene itself from any camera shake blur.

Photo of 4 friends in Phuket, Thailand

Photo by Tahlia Crinis – “The Beach”

It was last year when I won a trip through work (I was a travel agent at the time) so I went on this whirlwind 7 day trip with a group of other travel agents through Phuket in Thailand. After days of rain we managed to get the perfect weather for our day trip out to the islands and Maya beach was my favourite spot. Even though it's very touristy, it still has an eerie untouched vibe. You could imagine a time when it was untouched, magnificent nature at its best- The crystal blue water, white sand and surrounding jungle.

Photo from the Great Wall of China

Photo by Gerard Ahrens- “Great Walling it up!”

OK, so I got my dream job to do rollerblade stunt shows in Beijing china at a theme park called happy valley and on my day off I wanted to see if I could find anything to skate (rail or ledge etc.) at the Great Wall of China. So I took my backpack with my skates and hiked up through the great wall. I didn’t find anything to skate but just being at the Great Wall of China with the fog/pollution sky line made it an amazing sight so I snapped this photo.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of Cover-More Insurance.