Season 7 of ‘Survivor’ saw its contestants shipped off to a tropical archipelago with dense vegetation, serene beaches, and minimal shelter from the elements. Jeff Probst started off the competition by dividing the 16 initial contestants into two tribes, Drake and Morgan, named after the maritime explorers and privateers Sir Francis Drake and Henry Morgan. In addition to surviving on the deserted islands with scarce resources, the tribes competed in various challenges, with the winning side receiving bounties and often forcing the losing side to vote a member off their team, making them castaways. The first voluntary quit from the show took place in season 7, with Osten Taylor leaving of his own accord.
The 2003 season followed a pirate theme, with its challenges, changes, and twists all aligning with it, throwing in numerous wildcards throughout. This has been the only season that blindsided both players and viewers, with all the castaways returning as a third, Balboa tribe. The two teams’ camps are located several nautical miles away from each other. Over the course of the season, the show took us through a quaint village, beaches, as well as serene islands, offering birdseye views of the Caribbean paradise where the challenges were set.
Survivor Season 7 Was Filmed in Panama
‘Survivor’ season 7 ferries us to Pearl Islands in the Gulf of Panama, 30 miles off the Pacific coast of Panama in Central America. The seventh season is therefore known as ‘Survivor Pearl Islands,’ since it takes place on the archipelago, known locally as Archipiélago de las Perlas. Principal photography began on June 23, 2003, and was wrapped up by July 31, 2003. Filming took place entirely on location, with the 39 days of gameplay introducing us to a few of these mostly uninhabited islands.
Pearl Islands, Panama
The entirety of season 7 of ‘Survivor’ was filmed on a handful of Isles of Pearl Islands, situated about 50 miles southeast of Panama City. While the archipelago has 183 islands, only 39 of them are sizable. They fall under the Balboa District of Panama Province, and the principal town of San Miguel serves as the seat of the district. It is situated on the northern shore of Isla del Rey, the largest island in the archipelago, and houses the San Miguel Airport. The show takes place largely on the islands to the northwest of San Miguel. The northernmost groups of Islands in the chain, including Saboga and Chapera Island, became the backdrop for season 7’s thrilling contests.
The season begins with an unexpected start; the contestants are under the impression that they are taking cast photographs, only to be informed that the competition has already begun. With only the clothes on their backs and $ 100 between each team, they head off to a nearby village to purchase supplies for their camps. This is the Saboga Village, the only habitation on Saboga Island with its landmark, the Iglesia de Saboga Chruch, visible as the contestants scramble to barter supplies from the locals. The long beach on the south of the island, Playa Larga, served as a testing ground for the survivors as they competed in a lot of the show’s challenges there.
Throughout the season, the production team also shot heavily at the Mogo Mogo Island, a Caribbean oasis just southeast of Saboga Island. Drake tribe’s camp was located on the north side of its long, crescent beach, with its members camped out on it, just ahead of the tree line. Its east beach was the site of many of the show’s challenges, including the ship obstacle course. The small island of Boya Arena south of Isla Mogo Mogo became the site of a picnic with Burton and Lill, two participants who had previously been voted out from their respective tribes.
The sandy isle later became the backdrop of the controversial voluntary exit of contestant Sue, from ‘Survivor’ season 12. A brief segment was shot on Isla Pedro González, the large eastern island having a small airstrip and relatively luxurious resorts. Contestants Jon, Darrah, and Lill visited the island for a stay at a hotel, and it also became the site for Jon and Burton’s car reward. The Pearl Islands are among the favorite destinations of the ‘Survivor’ series, with season 8, ‘Survivor All-Stars’, and season 12, ‘Survivor Panama’ also featuring the tropical paradise. Another survival show, ‘The Island with Bear Grylls,’ was also shot on the islands.