Yenra : Survivor : Survivor Island - Pulau Tiga - Borneo - South China Sea : Formed by a volcanic eruption off of the coast of Borneo, Pulau Tiga is the island in the hit television show Survivor

Survivor Island - Pulau Tiga - photo by CBS

Pulau Tiga, a tropical rain forested island off the coast of Borneo in the South China Sea, is the island on the television show where Gervase, Jenna, Joel, Stacey, Greg, Colleen, Ramona, Dirk, Gretchen, Richard, Sonja, Susan, Kelly, Sean, B.B., Rudy were marooned to compete for a million dollars. The island consists of three low hills that were formed when ‘volcanoes' of mineral-rich mud were spewed out from underground. Since the last explosion in 1941, the ‘volcanoes' have remained passive, leaving the island relatively serene. Coral fragments from the encircling reef, make up the fine sand of its clean white beaches, while the lush green forest is reflected in the emerald depths of the crystal clear sea. The island is a sanctuary for the megapode Megapodus freycinet, a curious chicken-like creature that produces a cat-like meow sound. Trails winding through the undisturbed forest are worthwhile exploring if you wish to glean something of its flora and fauna.


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 tall. The island is now about 2.8 miles long and 1 mile wide, for a total of eight square miles.


Pulau Tiga is 6 miles 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 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 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).

BungalowIn 1998, the Sipadan Dive Center signed an agreement with the park to develop a 20 acre 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. The simple and clean double bungalows all have shower, WC (cold water), fan, mosquito net and a small terrace.

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 in Survivor-style competitions.

Flora & Fauna

The undisturbed shoreline abounds with a colourful variety of plant life such as Barringtonia Asiatica easily distinguished by its delicate white flowers with pink stamenlike filaments. There are also Callophylum, Termanillia catappa, and Casuarina not forgetting the Ardisia, a smally bushy tree with clusters of tiny pink flowers. The Ranggu and Keruing are also abundant here. One particularly important tree among the islanders is the Hibiscus tiliaceus, a tree with bright yellow flowers whose fibrous bark is used for ropes and boat caulking. It is also a source of timber, firewood and medicine. The many varieties of birds include the fish eating frigate birds which roost on Pulau Kalampunian Damit and the unusual looking megapode. Hornbills, night jars, magpies, bulbuls, the brilliantly coloured and fast moving sunbirds and black-naped bridled terns also inhabit the islands. Long-tailed macaques are easily discernible between the foliage while bats sleep hanging ‘upside-down' from the trees waiting for evening before embarking on their nocturnal food hunting expeditions. Reptiles include the grey-tailed racer snake, the beautiful yellow-ringed cat snake found on Pulau Tiga and a large population of sea snakes on Pulau Kalampunian Besar earning it the name, ‘Snake Island'. There are also numerous water monitor lizards preying on the megapode eggs. The ‘homeless' hermit crab can also be seen moving into shells abandoned by the sea snails or other mollusc like a fugitive avoiding detection! A 7-km coral reef around the islands is home to some 35 general species and 98 species of hard corals and their accompanying ‘guests' - the brightly coloured fish and other marine life to whom the reef is home.

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 were divided into two tribes - the Tagi tribe and Pagong tribe. Each were headquartered at a beach with a name similar to the tribal name. Tagi was stationed at Tati Beach, on the southeast side of the island and Pagong was 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 each year. The average temperature ranges from about 70°-90°F.

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.

Survivor Book - You've seen the show, now read the book! Survivor is a gripping day-by-day account of life on Pulau Tiga as sixteen men and women compete for food, shelter, friendships, and one million dollars. From the shipwreck that signals the beginning of life on the island to the final Tribal Council meeting 39 days later, readers are given complete access to the Survivor experience including dozens of behind-the-scenes photographs and ends with a penetrating interview with the Survivor that completes the story. Written by the show's executive producer Mark Burnett with acclaimed adventure writer Martin Dugard, Survivor is an unforgettable look into a winner-take-all world driven by contests and conspiracies that reads like an adventure novel. It includes insights and observations about the contestants, the host, the production crew, and anyone else who sets foot on the island--no one is immune. Pre-order your copy now--the Survivor experience isn't complete without it! Praise for Martin Dugard's previous work: "Crisp vivid language...transports the armchair adventurer from the jungle muck to the mountain peak." --Esquire