How hard will Survivor: Samoa be?

Last updated 12:32 21/05/2009

TOUGH TIMES: Eighteen strangers will be forced to work together to 'survive' for 39 days on Samoa's tropical beaches.

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The worst kept secret in reality television is official - the 19th edition of CBS' Survivor series is heading to Samoa.

OPINION: Other than the fact that it has wrecked wedding plans for dozens of New Zealanders, the real question is this: How hard can surviving on Samoa be?

I did it for years, tackling endless multicourse umu or feasts, complete with freshly plucked fruit and delicately roasted pork. Then there was surviving Vailima beer, the sunburn on the stunning beaches and the odd falling coconut or children stealing mangoes.

And yes, all those Samoans. Large, warm, friendly, romantic and so darn hospitable. Surviving Samoa’s jungles? No snakes, wild animals or anything threatening, other than getting mud on your Nikes.

Sure it rains, but it never gets cold.

Back in February reported that Samoa was the next venue for the series. The Samoan media were not allowed to report it because Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefoni heaved reporters to keep it secret.

He lured them to his office and, according to one who was there, the reporters were confronted by "a Caucasian man who claimed to have been a journalist representing an overseas company filming a popular TV reality show on CBS that claimed 100 million TV viewers worldwide". 

He told them that Samoa’s media were not allowed to write a word and were warned of unspecified consequences if they did.

Survivor host Jeff Probst last week got around to telling the world what every Samoan already knew.

"Deep in the exotic waters of the South Pacific, 18 strangers will be abandoned on the rugged islands of Samoa, a tropical paradise straight from Robert Louis Stevenson’s legendary tale, Treasure Island," said Probst during the preview.

"This majestic land of towering waterfalls, mysterious rainforests, and a fierce warrior culture will be the castaways’ home for 39 days.  Forced to work together, they must learn to adapt or they will be voted out."

The problem for Samoa has been that the delicate Americans involved in making the programme are not interested in surviving - they want comfort.

Thus, they have taken over Aggie Grey’s Lagoon, Beach Resort, at Satuimalufilufi, near the airport.

I’ve survived it several times, finding gruelling the part between where you order a coconut from the fridge and wait two long minutes for its delivery.

Some of the locals remember when there was a graveyard on the spot the resort was built and fear ghosts, but in my survival experience the only spirits were in glasses.

Its long white beach and the view across the Apolima Strait to Savai’i make Aggie’s Resort a popular spot for weddings, mainly from New Zealand. Hundreds have had to be cancelled to make way for surviving Americans.

I used to know the late Aggie Grey quite well; she was always upset that people thought she was the model for "Bloody Mary" in the musical South Pacific. She would simply not have shafted her guests in the way the resort is now doing.

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And the last time I had to survive the original Aggies hotel in Apia it was in the Marlon Brando Suite. It was as tough as it sounds.

Survivor have taken over a couple of beaches, notably a place called Return to Paradise Beach on Upolu’s south coast. It was last famous in 1953 when Gary Cooper starred in a movie there.

I’ve survived its warm waters and white sands. We had to pay the matai to be there. Then we tried to light a barbeque but could not as the wood was damp. A 10-year-old village girl came by and did it for us.

Last time I was there I was covering a conference; Helen Clark and John Howard were staying and some local Samoan wrestler called Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was, well, surviving. Shared a resort toilet briefly with him - and two security guards.

The locations suggest the “jungle” to be used by Survivor is the area south west of the capital Apia. It is where we went one day to hunt the fierce wild Lake Lanoto’o goldfish.

It’s not far from where Taito Philip Field got some Thais to do some tiling.

Survivor: Samoa will need to learn survival techniques when facing the classic ‘ava ceremony - Samoans let them run, fiercely, for hours.

Of course these sensitive Americans will have to be warned about the fierce wit and freely offered wisdom of the fa’afafine.

There is, however, one big serious survival event looming ahead.

In Samoa they drive American style, on the right hand side of the road. In two months, in a day destined to be utter madness, they are going to switch over to driving on the left hand side.

Surviving in the jungle may be the safest place to be.

- Fairfax Media


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