My neighbour Ken flies choppers. He’s currently in Nicaragua, flying on back-to-back series of Survivor and Celebrity Survivor, a fanciful TV entertainment loosely based on tribal customs but owing its success largely to the titillating presence of a bevy of scantily clad contestants purportedly battling the elements. The series has reaped rich reward for many. Gauging the actual benefit the show has brought to its many exotic locations is much harder. Contestants, in particular the winning Sole Survivor, certainly depart clutching wads of cash. But what exactly do they and the series put back in return?
There’s an alternative tribal venture that offers a more practical, realistic and proven way to make a positive input in far-flung regions. The Tribewanted project began a few years ago as an online community, then morphed into a real tribe on the real island of Vorovoro, off the north coast of Fiji’s second largest landmass Vanua Levu. Ironically, the island chief had turned down the lucrative opportunity to host Survivor Fiji.
The Tribewanted concept is a community (tribe) of like-minded travellers who get the chance to live in remote communities while helping the locals build a sustainable village. Since September 2006, says Tribewanted, more than 1000 tribe members have spent an average of two weeks on Vorovoro and more than two million Fijian dollars has been injected into the local economy. A village and a dam have been built. There are compost toilets and small amounts of wind and solar energy generated. The lease agreement with the landowners has been extended a further five years .
Says founder Ben Keene: “I don’t particularly see Tribewanted as voluntourism – its more adventure meets education meets community – it’s tribal tourism.”
In October a new tribe will set foot in West Africa to start building a new life alongside a Sierra Leone fishing community. Tribewanted is currently seeking tribe members.