TV’s ‘Survivor’ to Film on Koh Rong

Television’s longest running reality show, “Survivor,” which premiered its 30th season last night in the U.S., will shoot its next two seasons in Cambodia, according to officials, who said production was already underway on the tropical island resort of Koh Rong.

The show, which debuted in 2000 and was based on the Swedish “Expedition Robinson,” maroons a group of strangers in an isolated location where they must fend for themselves, finding food, water and shelter while competing in challenges, with $1 million awarded to the last person standing.

Koh Rong (Creative Commons)
Koh Rong (Creative Commons)

Prior seasons have taken place in the Philippines, Samoa, Gabon, Belize and China. The current series is being filmed in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua for the third time in row.

“#Survivor 31 and 32 will be filming on Koh Rong Island in Cambodia,” Martin Redmond, a self-described “Survivor spoiler and reality-tv info grabber,” wrote in a Twitter message on Sunday.

Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Chhit Sokhon confirmed the rumor on Tuesday.

“The American show “Survivor” will begin filming in March in Koh Rong commune, Sihanoukville City and now they are on the island preparing,” Mr. Sokhon said, adding that a four-month filming schedule will wrap up in July and that production crews are hard at work on the island.

“They are taking a long time to prepare because they have rented out houses of local villagers as they have to cover them up to make the jungle look untouched and are decorating in the forest and along the sea,” the governor said.

With recent seasons topping 13 million viewers, having “Survivor” relocate to Cambodia will be a boon for local tourism, Mr. Sokhon said.

“Their show will especially attract foreigner tourists and the production will not have any negative impact on anything because the [producers] will protect the forest and their activities are nature-based.”

Mr. Sokhon added that permission to shoot “Survivor” in the country was granted by the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC). On Wednesday, CDC secretary-general Sok Chenda Sophea declined to answer questions about the show.

Representatives of local media production company Tunsay Khmer, which is readying Koh Rong for the contestants’ arrival next month, also declined to comment.

“Survivor” is not the first reality TV show to decide that Koh Rong’s white sand beaches and jungle make an ideal backdrop. In 2013, French “Survivor”-style series “Koh-Lanta” canceled filming on the island when 25-year-old contestant Gerald Babin died of a heart attack while taking part in a challenge during episode one.

Less than a week later, the show’s 38-year-old doctor, Thierry Costa, committed suicide on Koh Rong. In a handwritten note left in his hotel room, he said accusations in the media that he had not done enough to resuscitate the Frenchman had led him to take his own life.

Koh Rong commune police chief Doung Chandra said Wednesday that the production crew now on the island seemed well prepared and that the publicity from such a big production would be good for the island’s image.

“A group of workers is coming soon and all their equipment has arrived. The crew here now is preparing by cleaning the places where they will film,” he said.

For Kann Pheareak, who is general manager of the Koh Rong Dive Center, “Survivor” is good news for Koh Rong and for Cambodia in general.

“This is an American show filming [Cambodia]—it will not only attract foreigners but Cambodians too because some Khmer people do not know how beautiful our island is,” he said.

Provincial tourism director Nou Sophal said the two seasons would also air on national television here.

“It will not only attract foreigners but also Cambodians because it will show on Khmer TV station CTN,” he said.

“It is good that the governor allows them to film on the island—it is an advertisement for people to come.”

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