Is Australian Survivor real or fake?

New Idea investigates.
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If you’re a fan of Australian Survivor like us, there’s no doubt that when tuning in from the comforts of your couch, you’ve thought to yourself ‘I could do that.’

WATCH NOW: Liz Parnov wins Australian Survivor Heroes vs Villains. Article continues after video.

But despite being a television show, it’s one tough gig both physically and mentally for contestants, who battle it out against each other and the elements as they work towards the title of sole survivor for their season. 

RELATED || Here’s where Australian Survivor is filmed

For any viewers out there who’ve found themselves pondering whether the smash hit reality show is real or fake, these past contestants and longtime host Jonathan LaPaglia are here to share some insights with you.

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JLP may get a good night’s sleep in a hotel, but the contestants certainly don’t. (Credit: Channel Ten)

Do Australian Survivor contestants really sleep outside?

Whilst JLP deals with a gruelling filming schedule consisting of rewards and immunity challenges, voiceovers, and of course tribal councils, no matter how his day on set unfolds he gets to return to a nice, clean hotel room for a quality night’s sleep. 

This is a far cry from the contestants who are forced to build shelters and live it rough if they want to win the half a million dollars in prize money that comes with winning the show.

Speaking with our sister publication TV Week about the 2019 season which was filmed in Suvasavu in Fiji, JLP revealed that the tribes were hit with plenty of bad weather.

“It was hard on the contestants because it was always at the most inconvenient time, which was at night when they were trying to sleep. So, there were a lot of late nights for those guys, and it was pretty intense at times.”

“I mean, I get woken up in my hotel room and I’d hear all the noise, and I’d think, ‘Those poor guys are out there!'”

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“You really feel like you’re in the wild.” (Credit: Channel Ten)

Can you contact your loved ones on Australian Survivor?

From the moment you leave your home to play the world’s ultimate game, you can kiss everything you know and love in the outside world goodbye – at least until your torch is snuffed. 

Speaking with in 2021, season three player Rohan MacLaren revealed that he and his fellow players were driven around in vans with blacked-out windows and weren’t allowed to communicate with their fellow competitors until they were safely stowed away in Samoa.

“It felt like I’d been abducted for the first five minutes, it was just missing the bag over my head,” he said at the time.

“Then it got quite serene. It was a nice time to sit and think. I prefer the blacked-out van. You really feel like you’re in the wild.”

Reflecting on the isolation she experienced during her time on Australian Survivor, 2023 winner Liz Parnov revealed to our sister publication TV Week just how much she struggled. 

“When you are disconnected from all your friends and family and there’s no contact, it’s challenging. Just not having communication with my partner, [or] my family, it was really difficult for me. When there’s absolutely no contact you don’t realise how much you miss people until you are in that position.”

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The contestant’s muscles rival that of JLP’s by the end! (Credit: Channel Ten)

What do contestants eat on Australian Survivor?

If the dramatic weight loss depicted by Australian Survivor contestants is anything to go by, their bland and minimal diet can’t be faked!

Model Monika Radulovic, who was a contestant in 2018, has previously revealed to our sister publication Now to Love that aside from food earned in reward challenges, cast member diets consisted of a small portion of rice and kidney beans per day, as well as anything they were able to forage such as papaya, coconut, and even fish. 

Despite this, she says the portion sizes remained an ongoing issue, especially when it came to topping energy levels up ahead of challenges.

“After a while, the beans and rice especially with some toasted coconut on top of it taste good. We just didn’t have enough to satisfy us, we had a cup per meal.”

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It may not be scripted, but crafty editing plays a hand. (Credit: Ten)

Is Australian Survivor scripted?

Like any reality television show, everything the contestants (or castmates) say is completely unscripted. 

But that doesn’t mean with some tricky editing, words and situations are taken out of context to spice things up, and amp up the level of drama for added entertainment value.

An example of this was in 2018 when Benji Wilson had his torch snuffed following a re-vote where his fellow tribemates had to choose between voting himself and future season runner-up Sharn Coombes out.

Whilst viewers were led to believe that Benji was eliminated after being caught in an uncomfortable lie where he told former AFL player Brian Lake that Sharn was “shopping his name around” (despite Brian having the individual immunity necklace), that’s not exactly how everything unfolded.

“I don’t think that moment was my downfall, that was a little bit of TV magic for you,” Benji told Mamamia after his onscreen elimination aired.

“That conversation didn’t actually happen that way. I was actually saying that Sharn would come for Brian if he let me go.”

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After all, the goal is to see if they can survive. (Credit: Channel Ten)

What can you bring with you to play Australian Survivor?

If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to play Australian Survivor, you really do go into it with just the clothes on your back. 

“We had the clothes that we wore and then you could only have five other items. Five other clothing items!” 2018 player Steve ‘The Commando’ Willis previously admitted to NW.

“You couldn’t take a pocket knife or a torch or a book or a pillow or any comfort items. You had your clothing items, and a little bag to carry your stuff in, and a water bottle.”

Shane Gould, who won Australian Survivor in 2018 but was the first to be eliminated in 2020’s All-Star season, also confirmed the five-item limit in an interview with our sister publication Now To Love.

“What they do is you have your “first-day” clothes. So they set the scene like you’ve been on a ship or you’ve been marooned on an island and you’ve only got the clothes that you’re wearing. And you’ve got only those clothes for three days.” Shane revealed.

“On the third day, you get five other items, so you have to choose which five items you want to take. And you have to choose wisely because they have to last you for up to 60 days in all sorts of conditions.”

Both Monika and Amy enjoyed having a reduced skin, hair and body self-care routine. (Credit: Channel Ten)

Surprisingly, Miss Universe Australia 2015 Monika Radulovic admitted she actually revelled in the fact that she was out of her comfort zone and didn’t have any of her usual self-care products.

“We didn’t have shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, or toothpaste, all I had was the ocean and some sand to exfoliate and that was the extent of my beauty routine and I loved it.”

Speaking with Mammamia in 2022, a Channel Ten representative did however confirm that contestants are “supplied with 50+ sunscreen that is purchased and shipped from Australia.”

That same year, Blood vs Water contestant Amy Ong made the admission that island life, and stripping back everything was actually beneficial for her. 

“Because you’re eating everything natural, rice and beans, and not using any products whatsoever, everyone’s skin just thrives,” she revealed at the time.

Believe it or not, even JLP has a go at the challenges (and he isn’t always successful at completing them either). (Credit: Channel Ten)

How are the challenges on Australian Survivor created?

In a 2023 interview with Pedestrian TV, Executive Producer David Forster revealed that there was an entire team that was tasked with bringing to life the elaborate challenges that play out on screen. 

“A lot of challenges we’ve taken and modified for our game as well. We’ve also invented challenges that they’ve taken as well. There’s a bit of an exchange of ideas between all [Survivor] franchises,” he shared with the publication. 

JLP has also admitted to our sister publication TV Week that he himself tries out the challenges so he can have a better understanding of what the contestants are going through. 

“I’ve attempted most of the challenges, particuarly the trickier elements. When I’m creating commentary in the moments it helps if I have some understanding of what the players are going through.”

In a separate interview with TV Tonight, JLP also revealed that offscreen the tribemates are given a safety briefing and more detail about the challenge before they get started. 

“The first time the contestants see the challenge -literally- is when they walk on and I’m there to greet them. The first time they hear about it is when I explain what the challenge is about.

“Then we (stand) down, and the challenge department will then walk the players as a tribe, through the challenge. So they’ll walk along the challenge and explain to them what each part is. If something is tricky, they’ll explain that obviously, in more detail than I do.

“There’s a lot of safety stuff that needs to be communicated to the players. But that’s all they get. There’s no hands-on, they don’t get to touch any of it or practice any of it. They just get information about the steps involved, and safety. Then they’re lined up and it’s off to the races.”

A dedicated team tests and retests all the challenges the players are put through. (Credit: Channel Ten)

Are the cameras rolling all the time on Australian Survivor?


That doesn’t mean however that conversations and actions taken by contestants are always filmed though. 

In a 2023 interview with our sister publication TV Week, three-time player Shonee Bowtell revealed that when the cameras “weren’t around”, players were unable to make any serious moves.

“So you’re not allowed to go and look for idols if there’s no cameras around, because then they wouldn’t be able to show it on the show. And if there’s no cameras, we’re not even allowed to talk [to each other].”

“It’s hard-lock down [without cameras]. Everything has to be filmed and we go from there.”

In the same interview, she also shared that fans forget Australian Survivor is an “entertainment show” and not a “documentary.”

“People will say things like, ‘Oh, why doesn’t this person ever talk at tribal council?’ They are talking, but that person isn’t in charge of editing the show together!”

“Or they’ll be like, ‘Why didn’t this person ever go look for an idol?’ It’s like, they were looking for an idol but we can’t have a 45-minute TV show with everyone walking around the bush not finding anything.”

Conversations like these couldn’t happen away from the camera according to Shonee. (Credit: Channel 10)

Australian Survivor premieres Monday, January 29, 7:30pm on 10 and 10Play.


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