Did you know it was constructed at an abandoned fort near a river bed? That what you think is water trickling down the walls isn't even water at all!
Something big and amazing in the set had to be toned down - and another Tribal Council element kept wreaking havoc on the set. And just take a guess what it's all made of!
These are just some of the amazing secrets behind the making of this wonderful section of the show, and the production company is spilling some of them.
Anton Burggraaf, the head of entertainment television at Endemol South Africa, the production company behind the 5th season of this local version of the reality show for M-Net, reveals the secrets of the Tribal Council area.
(If you click on the photos, they will open up bigger, and you can study the amazing details.)
What big factors impacted on and were important for the design and look and feel of this season's Tribal Council area?
The biggest factor in the design of Tribal Council for Survivor South Africa is the general thematic thread of the series, which this season is a Chinese pirate theme, influenced by the folklore and history of the people and countries on the South China Sea.
Tribal Council is also a great opportunity to reference similar events that must have happened within pirate groups in the 18th and 19th centuries: meeting to decide the fate of retrobates and deserters - or cutting down on numbers when times were tight - a very familiar idea to Survivor!
Another factor in the design is the shoot location and here the first prize is getting the best out of a found location.
We used a dry river bed and a massive tree and built around both so we could maximise the moat idea and the moonlight moodplay for atmosphere.
The voting booth seems so much smaller than in the past and gives a "claustrophobic" quality to the look this season compared to previous seasons. Is that just an optical illusion or is it really built smaller?
The voting booth was purposefully small and dressed to give the feeling of being dungeon-like.
The flame lighting gives that "feeling of heat" idea. The use of a wide-angle lens gave a further sense of claustrophobia in that the subject looks larger than their surroundings bur that you are able to see the entire room. So in some sense it is an optical illusion, but an intentional one.
The water seen running and the seepage on the surrounding "walls" - who has to turn open the taps and remember to close them? And why the element of water on the walls?
The effect was an addition once we had done initial camera tests.
I hate to ruin the illusion but this is not water - it is a shiny epoxy paint effect that mimics water! No taps needed!
Where within and around the Tribal Council area were cameras positioned and compared to previous Tribal Council areas, was it easier accessible or more difficult to film?
Barring the featured tree and the background trees, the area we used was quite open.
So what you see with the "river" in the background is the full extent of the featured set and behind all the shots is lots of room to move and have the crew work. This is standard for most Tribal Council sets.
What broke or went wrong or didn't quite work or had to be constantly adjusted?
One of the design features is the "skull" in the back wall. This was rather theatrical on camera and kept pulling focus, which would have taken viewers' attention unnecessarily off the conversation,so this was toned down.
The skull face had a much less menacing cheek bone and teeth once the set artists were put back to work!
Is their a favourite thing, section or element of the Tribal Council area for people who worked on the production?
I think most people's favourite part was the voting booth because it was so unique.
It always gave us a sense of thrill and completion, mainly also because the entire sequence on set happens in total silence - the crew can't hear the whispers of the castaways explaining in the booth who they're voting for.
How would you describe the theme of the Tribal Council area and what things were added and created and put in there physically to create this theme?
It's a Chinese pirate theme. What may be interesting to viewers is that the entire Tribal Council set is made of locally sourced wood.
The "stone effect" is all art department working their magic. Even the canons are not real!
This brought back statues, boxes, figurines, pots, plates and all kinds of artifacts that services the Chinese pirate theme.
Survivor South Africa: Champions is on M-Net on Sundays at 17:30