Eco Camp at Pulau Tiga a.k.a Survivor Island
Survivor Island @ Pulau Tiga [CREDIT to About.COM Geography]
Just over a hundred years ago, a tiny island was formed by a volcanic eruption off of the coast of Borneo. Since that time, the island of Pulau Tiga was essentially unknown to the world until just a few weeks ago when it became a household place name in the U.S.A., thanks to America’s popular television show, Survivor.
Survivor is a reality-based television show on the CBS network based on Sweden’s Expedition Robinson. Last spring, sixteen Americans were “marooned” on Pulau Tiga and their every move was filmed by television cameras. The contestants in this twisted game show have to slowly vote each other off the island and the end result, after 39 days, is that only one “survivor” remains – and that person wins $1 million. The 39 days on the island were broken up into 13 one-hour episodes that air every Wednesday night on CBS.
Pulau Tiga (the name means “Island of Three”) was formed on September 21, 1897 when a large earthquake on the Philippine island of Mindanao triggered a volcanic eruption just north of Borneo. The eruption of mud and rock formed a new island 66 feet (20 meters) wide. Over the next four decades, subsequent eruptions of the volcano and the development and eruptions of two additional adjacent mud volcanoes expanded, coalesced, and formed the island in its current state. The last eruption of the mud volcanoes on the island was in 1941 but warm mud continues to ooze from these geothermal vents on the island. Though it’s mostly a low-lying island, Pulau Tiga’s highest peak is approximately 330 feet (100 meters) tall. The island is now about 2.8 miles (4.5 km) long and 1 mile (1.5 km) wide, for a total of eight square miles (20.7 km2).
Pulau Tiga is 6 miles (10 km) offshore of the island of Borneo, to the northeast of the country of Brunei. The Malaysian island’s absolute location is 5°44′ North and 115° East. To get to Pulau Tiga, most fly to Kota Kinabalu (the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah) from major Asian airports – including Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia’s capital), Singapore and Taipei (Taiwan’s capital). The island is located about 37 miles (60 km) southwest of Kota Kinabalu, a 90 minute car ride followed by a 30 minute powerboat trip to the island and its national park.
National Park & Resort
Pulau Tiga National Park was established by Malaysia in 1985 to protect the uninhabited island of Pulau Tiga and its adjacent coral reef-filled sea plus two adjacent islands (Pulau Kalampunian Besar and Pulau Kalampunian Damit – also known as Snakes’ Island). Seventeen governmental park employees live on the island year-round and national park cabins on the island can house up to twenty visitors. In addition to park headquarters and a lighthouse-beacon, seven miles (11 km) of hiking trails exist on the island, including one which passes the now-famous “mud volcano,” (where one Survivor tribe had a volcano mud bath).
In 1998, the Sipadan Dive Center signed an agreement with the park to develop a 20 acre (8 hectare) resort consisting of 42 wooden cottages. The development of the resort proved fruitful for the 98-person CBS production crew (including a three-person medical and mental health team) that stayed on Pulau Tiga during the six weeks of filming of Survivor.
Although foreign tourism to the island is low, 170 foreign tourists visited Pulau Tiga in 1999, the resort expects that the top rated television program in the U.S. will help make Pulau Tiga a desired destination for thousands of Americans in the near future. The producers of the television show imported a plethora of props – from fake boulders to a fake plane for a crash-scene backdrop. Many of the props were salvaged by the resort to appeal to fans of the TV show. Tourists will even be able to purchase “I Survived Pulau Tiga” T-shirts and compete inSurvivor-style competitions.
Flora & Fauna
The pristine natural environment of Pulau Tiga Park is protected by the Malaysian government. Harming native vegetation and animals is illegal and carries a punishment of up to three years in prison. The producers of Survivor demanded that contestants on the island not harm or eat the native species, although the eating of the non-indigenous rats was permitted. Pulau Tiga and its surrounding sea is home to a diverse number of interesting animal species. Poisonous sea snakes, proboscis and macaque monkeys, flying foxes, bats, sharks, monitor lizards, barracuda (a total of 132 species of fish exist in the park), sea turtles, and a plethora of birds – including megapodes, hornbills and sea eagles all call Pulau Tiga home. The sea snakes, twice as poisonous as the King Cobra, are capable of killing a human with its venom in approximately five minutes. The megapode birds build their nests on the ground and lay their eggs a few feet deep in piles of sand and debris; when the chicks hatch they dig their way out of their nest, unguarded by their parents.
Though Pulau Tiga is home to more than fifty species of tree and countless species of plants in mangroves, swamps, and lowland forests, the producers of the show planted tapioca and sugar cane for the contestants to discover. They also rented animals such as tarantulas and lizards from Hollywood-based animal rental facilities to make the island seem more “dangerous” for the filming.
Contestants on the island are divided into two tribes – the Tagi tribe and Pagong tribe. Each is headquartered at a beach with a name similar to the tribal name. Tagi is stationed at Tati Beach, on the southeast side of the island and Pagong is stationed at Pagong-Pagong Beach, on the northeast side of the island.
Climate & Weather
The taping of the show took place on Pulau Tiga during the February through April “dry” season when the sea around the island is relatively calm. Despite the notion of the “dry” season, viewers will realize that the island is near the equator and is located in a rain forest climatic zone. The island receives about 100 inches of rain (250 cm) each year. The average temperature ranges from about 70°-90°F (22°-33°C).
Pulau Tiga is located in what’s known as the “Land Below The Wind,” an area just to the southeast of the typhoon belt. Almost year-round monsoons hit Pulau Tiga and Malaysia hard. From April through October, the monsoons from the southwest strike and then from October through February, the monsoons are reversed and come from the northeast.
As more than 20 million Americans tune to CBS every Wednesday night for the latest episode of Survivor, they’re watching geography at its finest – human interaction with the land and environment. When Survivor II: Australian Outback is filmed in October of this year and airs in the spring of 2001, it’ll be an entirely different ecosystem but will be just as fascinating to watch a group of castaways “survive” in the Outback.
CREDIT to About.COM Geography