Last year was a big one for incredible photos of the "big blue" and its inhabitants. From rare jellyfish to close-up crocs, photographers from all corners of the planet delivered the goods. And as we dive into the new year, things are looking even more promising – just take a look at these winners of the 2016 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition. We've rounded up our favourites for you, from swimming grizzlies to baby shark supernovas. Sit back, relax and get your nature zen on.

Talk about a brave endeavour. To photograph this grizzly mid-swim, photographer Mike Korostelev built a custom cage to crouch in. "I waited many hours in the cold water for the bear to come close enough to make my photo," he recalls. "The bear’s strategy is to start by sitting down, putting his head under the water and looking for fish. Once the fish start to ignore him, he creeps closer before making his crucial lunge to snare a large salmon in his paws, or teeth. Each time, he caught about 5 fishes and then went for a rest on the beach." Image: Mike Korostelev/UPY 2016 
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It might look like this porcelain crab is tending to its eggs, but hiding in each of those tiny spheres is a lump sucker fish (Cyclopterus lumps). But fear not, the crab is actually helping the developing embryos by eating parasites off their egg casings. Image: Dan Bolt/UPY 2016
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When it comes to eggs, nudibranch sea slugs know what they're doing. The so-called "egg roses" can contain millions of young, laid side by side like a string of beads. The coil is held together in a jelly mass to protect the eggs from predators and bacteria. Image: Vania Kam/UPY 2016
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No list would be complete with a great white, right? Photographer Theresa Guise managed to snap this incredible show off Isla Guadalupe, where you'll find some of the largest great whites on earth. "I was observing five great whites feeding on tuna served up in the water when, out of the blue, a turtle entered the mix," she says. The sharks paid little attention to the turtle until it tried to eat the tuna, at which time the sharks nudged it away from the food. When the turtle returned, an exasperated shark grabbed the turtle with its massive jaws." Amazingly, the animal swam away – talk about turtle power! Image: Theresa Guise/UPY 2016
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Alejandro Prieto had set off to photograph humpback whales when, out of the blue, this endangered Hawaiian petrel took a dive for a chance at some tiny crustaceans. By moving in slowly, Prieto managed to snap a few shots of the bird while it munched away. Image: Alejandro Prieto /UPY 2016
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We might not have settled the "octopuses," "octopodes," "octopi" debate, but one thing's for sure: these 8-legged animals are amazing. And their babies are even cooler! This little guy was making his way to the surface to feed when he encountered the beam of Helen Brierley's dive light. Image: Helen Brierley/UPY 2016
Holy crab! Every year, millions of crabs (Polybius henslowii) gather along the coast of Portugal – but seeing this many in the water together is quite rare. "On this day we first spotted some dispersed crabs," recalls photographer Rui Guerra. "But it took us almost an hour to find a higher concentration. And a further 20 minutesof blue-water diving until I noticed this immense 'red cloud' made up of maybe several thousand crabs swimming through the water." Image: Rui Guerra/UPY 2016
Pilot whales are notoriously territorial and aggressive, but this chance encounter was anything but. Captured in the Mediterranean sea by photographer Greg Lecoeur, the photograph shows the moment before the whales came in for a closer look. "They were turning around me," he says. "It was an amazing experience." Image: Greg Lecoeur/UPY 2016
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It's easy to see how this image of a small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) egg, also known as a "mermaid's purse", was chosen as a title winner. The image was shot off the coast of Devon in England, where a small reef acts as a nursing ground for these bottom-dwelling sharks. Image: Dan Bolt/UPY 2016
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Jellyfish might get a bad rep, but they're not always the stinging menaces they're made out to be – and clearly, not always on top of the food web! This green turtle (Chelonia mydas) wasted no time before feeding on a large mosaic jellyfish in Thailand. 

"The turtle obviously wanted to keep the jelly close to the surface," says Photographer Richard Carey. "So every time it swam deeper the turtle would bite onto it and drag it back upwards. I spent a few minutes watching it and taking photos, and then left the turtle to finish his meal in peace." Image: Richard Carey/UPY 2016 
Someone call Mulder and Scully (and cue the X-Files music)! This transparent creature might appear extraterrestrial, but what you're looking at is a larval lobster. The beautiful crustacean was caught using a pelagic jellyfish for protection off the French coast. Image: Greg Lecoeur 
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And we'll leave you with this beauty. The magnificent crown jellyfish (genus Cephea) was photographed in the waters off South Africa. Image: Pier Mane/UPY 2016


Top header image: Davide Lopresti/UPY 2016