This was in our local newspaper this morning so i thought I would post her article for anyone interested.
The tribe has spoken
Belize, Guatemala reality-TV havens: They have what it takes: hot weather, great scenery and lots of adventure
Special to The Province
September 18, 2005
I'm sure my husband had imagined that our summer vacation would get his "entertainment-junkie" wife away from the usual TV shows, magazines and movies that have infiltrated our household.
He wouldn't be forced to watch reality shows in the evenings or listen to me babble about celebrity gossip that he could care less about -- our trip to Belize and Guatemala was supposed to be far away from all of that.
So, you can imagine the look he gave me when we spotted the host of the CBS show Survivor, Jeff Probst, at our hotel in Tikal, Guatemala. It was a combination of disbelief -- "I can't believe we travelled hundreds of miles and we still can't get away from reality TV" -- and a tinge of fear -- "Is she going to freak out and make a scene?"
We had just checked into our bungalow room at the Jungle Lodge Hotel, one of only three hotels located near the entrance to the ancient Mayan ruins in Tikal National Park.
The Park is 222 square kilometres of jungle centred around ruins that the University of Pennsylvania took 13 years to excavate -- the largest excavated site on the North-American continent.
Tikal is a spectacular sight -- five enormous steep-sided temples rise above the forest canopy, around which lie thousands of other structures, many still beneath mounds of earth and covered with jungle.
It boggles the mind to think that these massive structures were created thousands of years ago. There is archeological evidence dating all the way back to 900 BC, making this one of the oldest Mayan sites in the world.
Of course, my eyes were as big as saucers when I realized that the couple we had passed at the hotel was the Survivor host and a beautiful brunette, whom I later recognized as his girlfriend Julie Berry, the former Survivor: Vanuatu contestant he started dating after the show wrapped in 2004.
I spent our entire dinner trying to eavesdrop on the long table near us that seated Jeff and the whole Survivor: Guatemala crew. Thank goodness I have the ability to carry on a conversation while listening to a neighbouring conversation at the same time -- otherwise the other Irish travellers we were sharing dinner with would have thought I was rude . . . or a crazy TV-obsessed North American (which maybe isn't too far from the truth, actually).
As a typical, polite Canadian, I didn't ask for a photo because I didn't want to interrupt their dinner. But I went to bed that night kicking myself -- who was going to believe that we ran into Survivor without proof?
After dreaming all night about being a castaway in the jungle, I woke at 4:30 the following morning for our first exploration of the Tikal ruins. A guide led us by flashlight to the bottom of one of the massive limestone structures and we climbed up a set of steep, wooden steps to wait for the sun to rise. We watched the mist that hung over the jungle below lift with the approaching light, revealing the tops of other temples as we listened to the sounds of the birds and howler monkeys waking for the day.
After sunrise, we headed down to Tikal's Main Plaza where ceremonies were held for the 100,000 Mayans that once lived in the ancient city. A contact lens wearer, my eyes are usually terrible - except when it comes to spotting a TV crew. I caught my breath when I spied Jeff from across the plaza -- another potential photo op after I missed out the previous night?
A unique feature of the park was that guests were able to climb and walk on the ruins, so I dragged my husband up a structure behind the crew. We sat ourselves on a limestone step to observe them shoot a sweeping panorama of the ruins and an introduction to Survivor: Guatemala by Probst.
Heck, all we were missing was a couch and some snacks and it would have been just like a Thursday night at home.
Much to my husband's dismay, he wasn't able to escape reality TV throughout the trip. Before arriving in Tikal, we had stayed in San Pedro at Ambergris Caye, northeast of Belize City. We had rented some pedal bikes there and rode north of the town San Pedro to a resort called Captain Morgan's Retreat where Temptation Island 1 was filmed in 2001. Then, after our visit to Tikal, we almost ran into The Amazing Race at Caves Branch Jungle Lodge.
The day we were departing was when The Amazing Race was to arrive to film a Pit Stop but, unfortunately, the risk of Hurricane Emily caused their insurance to pull the plug and they had to cancel their visit.
The reality shows I encountered on our trip are not the only ones to have shot in this area. Although Guatemala has not had much reality-TV exposure before the new Survivor, Belize on the other hand, has had quite a few. When Bob Guiney and Estella Gardinier of The Bachelor headed off on a dream date in 2003, the private island at Cayo Espanto, six kilometres from San Pedro, proved the perfect escape.
Another example was in 2004 when Belize was promoted on Fear Factor. The prize for the winners of the episode was a delux vacation, which included rapelling, cave-tubing, and rock-climbing (courtesy of Ian Anderson's Cave Branch), and an all-inclusive vacation on the Moorings Signature Vacations Yacht, which came fully crewed with a professional captain and chef on board.
Thanks to my husband who asked on my behalf (even though he could care less), I did get the proof I was hoping for -- a photo with the Survivor host and the chance to chat with him, too.
When we mentioned that we were from Canada, Jeff said he would love to film the show there but the producers are convinced they should stick to the same formula for now.
Unfortunately, we are lacking the hot climate that is a Survivor requirement -- it wouldn't be quite the same if the contestants bundle up and huddle around a fire.
My husband looked relieved -- I'm sure he could just picture me dragging him around on our next vacation trying to find the Survivor: Canada location if it were close to us!
Link to article