Karim Iliya. Behind the Veil.

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I went out to Mexico in the autumn of 2019 to watch and photograph the unique interactions that take place in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

Many miles from the colony where the pups play and the adults rest, a sea lion hunts a large bait ball of fish brought up from the depths. She works with other sea lions and striped marlin to corral the fish into a tight ball near the surface to pick them off one by one.

Here, she emerges from behind the swarm of terrified fish, looking for an opportunity: a snack for her, and the end of life for an unlucky fish. There is such a stark contrast between this large mammal that can move between land and sea, breathing air, giving live birth, caring for its young, and the thousands of fish that lay millions of eggs and spend their time schooling together in the depths of the ocean to avoid being eaten by larger animals.

Our oceans are so interconnected that all these animals rely on the health of a diverse environment. For me, it’s a strong reminder of how varied and diverse our planet is, full of vibrant life that has found very different ways to survive in the deep blue desert. 

Karim Iliya is a photographer, filmmaker, and whale swimming guide based in Iceland and Hawaii. Born in 1990, he grew up in the Middle East and Asia and developed a curiosity for the natural world. This has brought him alongside battling whales, amidst exploding volcanoes, deep within the ice worlds of the Arctic, and into many of the fascinating places that humans and animals make their home. 

In 2023 Karim will be flying in the starship rocket on a one week trip around the moon.

Follow Karim on instagram @karimiliya.

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