From the article: “Survivor SA: The secrets behind tribal council”

Cape Town – For the sixth season of Survivor South Africa the production wanted to do something they’ve never done before – build a tribal council area on the water. 

But achieving this would be no easy feat as they were faced with adverse weather conditions and the tide. 

We go behind-the-scenes to find out how they created this magical place. 


During the initial phase of building, the construction team had to work odd hours during low tide to lay the foundation of the deck.

The location was hit by a number of cyclones and the extreme weather not only delayed the build schedule but also made it too dangerous to work on the water. 

It took the production a month to complete the build and to create the set pieces with a team of 30 people. 

“The local Filipino crew had incredible knowledge about the ocean floor and how we could build the support structure in the ocean without causing damage to the marine life in the bay. It was amazing to see the fish around tribal council while we were working there,” says art director Val Groenewald.


Val did a lot of research on local mythology and she was drawn to the myth of a dragon called Bakunawa. Stories about the myth have been published as early as 1637.

“Bakunawa is a dragon that lives in the ocean and loved the 7 moons so much that he had to swallow them. The locals used to believe that when a lunar eclipse happened, he was about to swallow the last moon, so they would bang their drums, shout, sing and make a lot of noise to scare him off, and the moon would return,” explains Val. 

The platform was inspired by lotus flowers and water channels were added to create a the temple feel and to play with reflections and to add depth. 

The temple structures are mainly there to hide the technical crew, but also added to the temple feel.

 “We wanted a magical place where the castaways are immersed in the sanctity of Tribal Council. It is such a pivotal element to the Survivor universe and our art team really executed Val’s vision to create this incredible environment, says executive producer Handrie Basson. 



– There is the large fire pit in the middle,
– 12 fire altars on the main platform, and
– 36 smaller fires on the ramps.
– Some of the fires, like the large fire pit, were fuelled by gas, whilst other fires, like the cauldrons and torches, used jet fuel to burn.


– Designed in 3 sections – head, spine and tail – each section has a steel skeleton with a polystyrene body that we carved in the shape of the dragon. This was sealed with styroskin and covered with a concrete foundation to create the look of a statue.  We then scenic-ed it to look withered, like it has stood there for a very long time, adding moss, caulk stains etc.  It had to be strong and absolutely weatherproof.


– The two tigers flanking the voting booth are close to 3m tall. 
– They each have a wooden skeleton and polystyrene exterior, coated in a tarnished gold. Actual gold dust was used in the process.

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