Text by Andrew Burmon
Photograph courtesy of Jeffrey R. Staab / CBS
A cloud of malarial mosquitoes is never kind. Jeff Probst knows this, having spent the better part of three months inside one to film the 17th season of Survivor. So before he takes the stage at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles to emcee the 2008 Emmy Awards this Sunday, Probst may spend a little extra time in the makeup room. Don’t blame him. Blame the Wonga-Wongue.
Probst has been living in the remote Wonga-Wongue Presidential Reserve, a tract of rain forest on the coast of the central African nation of Gabon. The park, which was established through the efforts of National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence Mike Fay, attracted an advance team for Mark Burnett, the reality television hegemon. Untouched beaches, roaming gorillas, impenetrable jungle—if they could just get Probst and the cameras in place, the season was bound to be a success. But reality has a way of impeding Hollywood’s best laid plans. The very inaccessibility that makes Wonga-Wongue a perfect place for a reserve also makes it the most difficult conceivable setting for a television show. After accidents, mishaps, and few close calls, it fell to Probst to get the production back on its feet. No easy task in knee-deep mud.
Next Thursday, when Survivor: Gabon: Earth’s Last Eden finally debuts on CBS, audiences across America will probably be too caught up in another season of treachery and action to give a second thought to all that went into the show’s production. That’s just fine by Probst. It is supposed to look easy. ADVENTURE spoke with Probst while he was stationed in Libreville, Gabon.
- Nat Geo Expeditions