Survivor SA: Immunity Island Wraps Filming

Filming has wrapped on the 8th season of Survivor SA. Here are some questions that arose with regards to the shoot of the season.

How difficult was it to find an alternative location during Covid, what other places or options that didn’t work out or were not chosen, were in the running, and/or more broadly what kind of or type of thing/place were the production looking for to use?

While Survivor was always typically positioned in a far-flung tropical location, it has always been an incredibly agile format. With this, the show has continued to strive in the face of covid, with productions becoming more localised without quality being hindered. On M-Net’s initiative, the production team started scouting for suitable locations within SA borders only days before Level 5 lockdown at the end of March 2020. With international travel compromised and the true impact of the global pandemic still widely uncertain, it was deemed best to look locally for a place where we could film Survivor SA: Immunity Island, without the risk of international travel bans being imposed. In order to consider a location, there are a few factors to take into account: the weather conditions during the desired filming period; adequate isolation of the location from modern development, but close enough to decent infrastructures such as accommodation for crew, reliable supply lines for materials and equipment. The location should also provide beaches suitable for tribe camps, enough space for challenges to be built and a Tribal Council spot that would stay true to the production values and standards of Survivor.

How difficult/intricate was it to get permission to film (there) and who did MNet/prod had to work with, for instance is there, or what film bodies etc were asked or helped?

Once the Wild Coast was deemed the most suitable location, the production team worked closely with local stakeholders and service providers, such as Sun International’s Wild Coast Sun hotel management, local authorities, community leaders and, with the support of the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, all the location permissions and filming protocols could be secured.

What is there that is unique or special about this season’s location?

– The Wild Coast is truly wild! South Africa’s abundant wildlife feature prominently in the season. We are talking fish eagles soaring above challenge locations, snakes (the reptilian sort!) slithering through tribe camps, vervet monkeys foraging for food… Then there are the unpredictable weather phenomena where a sunny day can quickly change into a fierce thunderstorm in the afternoon or a deluge of rain will come out of nowhere to drench the earth. All of these elements contribute to a very real, very exposed environment where our castaways had to survive for 39 days.

Were the doctors or medical people/staff on location more or different or a bigger team or included different specialised people this year because of Covid? How did Covid shape the medical production side of the show on location this year?

– M-Net and Afrokaans collaborated on a strict Standards of Procedure protocol to create the safest working environment possible for crew and cast. The team from Taurus Medical provided its experience in Health and Safety measures under Covid conditions. We had a bigger medical team on-site at all times, with specialised Covid control officers dedicated to monitoring crew and cast, doing daily screenings, providing sanitising solutions and educating the crew on effective prevention measures such as social distancing, crew moving and operating in different zones to ensure social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing. All crew and cast had undergone the PCR testing for Covid-19 and spent the required time in isolation, prior to the commencement of this season’s filming. These strict protocols added an additional layer of vigilance to our daily lives, but it was 100% worth it, as we started and completed filming without a single Covid-case.

Will the show still give/create a tropical/summer feel because of the location/time of year, or how would the atmosphere/nature/look be best described for what viewers will see in terms of how the background/surroundings will look?

– This season will have the tropical, lush jungle background the viewers have come to associate with Survivor. The weather was unpredictable with swelteringly hot and humid days, torrential downpours and cold nights keeping the castaways and the crew on their toes at all times. The tribe camps are situated on beautiful, desolate stretches of coastline and definitely provides the backdrop of a deserted island location. The ocean waters of the Wild Coast are treacherous yet spectacular, adding atmospheric drama. Most of the water challenges of this season played out in rivers and estuaries, rather than in the ocean itself. All of these elements contribute to give Survivor SA: Immunity Island a truly unique look and feel, whilst still delivering on isolation, deprivation and extreme nature – important staples of the format.

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