Skip to Content
reality TV reviews, news, and analysis since 2000

Survivor productions have trashed Panama, but US production praised for keeping it clean

International Survivor productions have left the Pearl Islands trashed, although the US producers, Mark Burnett and his Survivor Entertainment Group, has been praised for their commitment to minimizing the impact.

A scuba instructor in Panama told the Los Angeles Times that “[s]ome people come here just because of ‘Survivor.’ It makes it really attractive. The goal of people coming here should be tourism, not television. TV productions ruin islands.”

Countries that have filmed there include the United States, Israel, Sweden, Colombia, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Serbia, and the paper reports that “[e]vidence of environmental neglect and insensitivity stemming from ‘Survivor’ shoots around Panama’s idyllic settings aren’t hard to find” and one “production left a large pile of trash including water bottles and feminine napkin boxes on Mogo Mogo, and in Bocas del Toro, a group of 40 islands on Panama’s Caribbean side, a local group says the Colombian production disturbed the nesting grounds of turtles during mating season.”

A representative for Castaway Television, which licenses the format, said the company has trouble enforcing the requirement that production companies “respect the environment” and “return the location to its natural state after filming.” Julia Dick told the paper, “What we really don’t want to have is a country with a bad experience with a production and who won’t want people to use the location again. We don’t want to damage the ‘Survivor’ worldwide brand.”

The scuba instructor, Guillermo Schuttke, told the paper that “The U.S. comes in like a military expedition and cleans everything up. They don’t leave a toothpick.” And executive producer Mark Burnett said, “You can’t risk kids playing on some prop. We’re very much environmentalists. It’s very accurate to say we leave places better than we arrive.” The paper reports that “production crews are required to photograph the sites before the shoot and compare them with photos afterward to make sure the environment looks the same.”

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More from reality blurred

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion: your turn

I think of writing about television as the start of a conversation, and I value your contributions to that conversation. We’ve created a community that connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

To share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space, I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to those rules.

Happy discussing!