If you’ve been keeping up with M-Net’s latest hit reality show, Survivor South Africa that takes place in the Philippines, you might have seen a familiar face with his trusty hat on your TV screen. We tracked down Nelson Mandela Bay local Tom Swartz, one of the eighteen castaways from the latest season of Survivor, and talked to him about surviving the elements on the island and about his role as adventure camp manager at Pine Lodge Resort.
Tom Swartz grew up in and around East London playing in the bushes, rivers and streams and his love for adventure came from his parents who were both outdoor enthusiasts. He owned a dive center and moved to Port Elizabeth to open an Anti-Poaching unit targeting abalone poachers, and now he also runs an adventure center in the Bay, doing team building for corporate and schools at Basecamp Adventures at Pine Lodge. He is also a family man and has been married for 15 years with 2 children; he describes his wife, who is one of the heads of the Anti-Poaching unit, as “one tough cookie”.
Well, from one tough cookie to another tough one, we asked Tom a few questions about Survivor SA and his favourite adventures in and around Nelson Mandela Bay.
You are one of the castaways of Survivor South Africa Philippines. Tell us more about why you entered this reality show that has been dubbed “the greatest game on earth”.
“I entered Survivor to prove to myself that I was not just a guy who read a book and watched Bear Grills and thought he could survive. I had a point to prove, and what better way than on an amazing show like Survivor (the toughest one there is!).”
How did you prepare yourself before you left for the Philippines?
“I started by cutting out all sugar, starch and other foods, I increased my cardio and stamina training. I needed to get to a stage that I could perform when hungry.”
What are some of the challenges of being a castaway?
“Trust to me was a huge challenge, I know it’s part of the game, but to trust at least 1 person would have been fine. The other challenge was the lack of food, which was huge for me.”
One of the most famous questions became a reality for you – if you were stuck on a deserted island, what would you take with you – what did you take and if you could add three more items, what would you take?
“What I would take is a knife/panga. Flint would be next and lastly my trusted hat!”
Any wise words for aspirational survivor contestants who want to follow in your footsteps for the next Survivor?
“Your mind is stronger than you think. When you think you can’t anymore, you have only reached 70% of your true potential. Then suck it up and get it done!”
Don’t forget to watch Tom in action on M-Net, Thursday, 19:00.
You are an Adventure Camp Manager at Pine Lodge Resort, what’s the best part of the job for you?
“Yes, I am. The best part is taking people out of their comfort zones to show them what they are capable of. Then spending time in the wild is just fantastic.”
Adventure and being outdoors plays a significant role in your life. Why do you think it is important for children (and of course adults) to spend time in nature?
“Spending time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life resets your clock. We are far too connected to the things that have no feeling or heartbeat. To get back into beat – go play outside. Then to show people that everything in the wild is not there to kill you, it just wants to go about its life is cool.”
During the school holidays you’re hosting a “Kids Digital Detox Camp-out. Please tell us more about it.
“So many of our children are glued to their phones and games and tablets, this is my way of getting them to play outside and reconnect.”
Here are the details.
And when the school holidays are done and dusted, locals and visitors can still look forward to experiencing some adventure. Visit the website of Pine Lodge Resort to find out more about the team building events and the activities at Base Camp Adventures.
You are born and bred in the Eastern Cape, and call the Bay home. If you had to describe Nelson Mandela Bay to a first time visitor what would you say?
“Here in the Bay you have entertainment like no other, we welcome the seas on one of the most pristine coastlines that South Africa has to offer, but a chip and a putt from the sandy beach we find our inland Eden, game reserves, parks, mountains. You have the choice that no other place can provide. Culture and arts, safe beaches and amazing views. Why has it taken you so long to get here…? But tell you what, while you are here, let me spoil you and show you around.”
What is your idea of a relaxing day in the Bay, where do you go and what do you do?
“I head for the hills or the sea, amazingly that’s not only where I take others to relax but myself too. A day scuba diving or hiking or just spending the day out at sea. (Don’t get me wrong, there are also those days when the couch calls louder than anything else.)”
What do you see as the Bay’s biggest draw cards for visitors?
“Well Basecamp is so cool for the family, the entire family, then we have our Bay World, I love it there. Addo Elephant Park is amazing. Stanley Street is a must. The Wild Side rocks.”
Are there any off the beaten path adventures you can share with us that not many know about?
“Elands River Valley offers basic to extreme adventures and nature.”
If you want to be adventurous and save money at the some time, remember to get yourself a Nelson Mandela Bay Pass and have a wild time in the Bay.