Kiran Naidoo CA(SA) first heard of Survivor (like a lot of us) in the early 2000s during its first season. After watching one episode as a nine year old, he has been hooked ever since. What started off as a love for the physical challenges that reminded him of giant obstacle courses eventually evolved into a love of the rich psychological and strategic elements of the game. His 20-year dream became a reality at 29 when he found one of the castaways in the latest season of Survivor, where he finished 5th. He says his CA training played a huge part to being ranked one of the top strategists in the season.
Your initial thoughts when you found out that you were to be one of the castaways on Survivor South Africa: Immunity Island?
‘Jeez, I need to get into shape!’
How does it feel to have come 5th?
It’s a feeling of immense pride and immense frustration. I feel very proud to have lasted five weeks in the game and not just ‘survive’ and to really thrive as a competitor and real contender to win. Conversely, it is that same pride that leads to feelings of frustration − to have been that close to the end and potentially winning can sting from time to time!
What did you enjoy most about the whole game?
The authenticity − everything you see on the screen is real. The hunger, the cold, the hurt − all the highs and lows are extremely authentic and not manufactured in any way whatsoever. As a lifelong fan, to be able to experience the same feelings and situations as some of my favourite players was utterly surreal. I say this with rose-tinted glasses, because let me tell you − starvation is like nothing you can ever imagine.
What is your secret to being one of the top strategists for the season?
Strategy is a mix of people and context. To play the game strategically, you need to have a good, genuine understanding of the people you are playing with (their underlying motivators, their circumstances, what ultimately makes them who they are) and a good understanding of context (what are the different alliances, who has advantages, who is sitting in a good position currently). Understanding people and the context they find themselves in makes it easier to determine how people view what their most optimal moves are.
If you had to do something differently in the game, what would you have done?
Looking back, I would have tried to not stick out towards the end as a strong player. How I would have done this, though, is the million-dollar question! In the last few days my sociability was seen as a threat to players as they were worried about me getting the majority of votes had I got to the end!
What is the greatest lesson you took away from Survivor?
I learnt how devastating true hunger is. The plight of millions in this country cannot be compared to a diet − it’s much more consuming and debilitating than that. It gave me real context to understanding the impact of the current socio-economic imbalance we find in today’s society.
What is next on your agenda?
I’ve really enjoyed my time on the show, which reminded me of a long-standing dream I’ve held: to be an entertainer of sorts! So I’ve been pursuing MC and presenter work and I’ve enjoyed having a bit of a comedic presence on social media too. It’s a nice change of pace from my day job!