Jeff Probst, the host of Survivor since the show's inception in 2000, has traveled to every continent except Antarctica— "Not that I have anything against penguins," he quips — and dozens of countries. This season's finale from Tocantins, Brazil, airs May 17 on CBS. He shares his travel highlights and tips with USA TODAY.
Q: Where have you been recently that you liked or were surprised by?
A: Obviously I travel a lot internationally, but I recently took a road trip to Arizona to visit the Grand Canyon. I hadn't been there in years and I was reminded of how beautiful and massive it is in scope. Truly breathtaking. I sometimes forget that some of the greatest destinations are right here in my own backyard. They're also inexpensive enough to make them affordable even in these tougher economic times.
Q: What's your favorite vacation spot?
A: Survivor has taken me to some breathtaking spots around the world. I think the most beautiful is Palau in Micronesia. The water is so clear you can see 30-40 feet. It is home to some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the world. The most famous dive spot in Palau is called "Blue Corner" where the current is so strong that you must clip onto a rock and just hang out watching the entire sea world swim past. For something very different, try scuba diving ship wrecks and Japanese zero planes left over from WWII. Jellyfish Lake is one of the most amazing one-of-a-kind experiences ever. There is a section of fresh water where thousands of non-stinging jellyfish live. It's like swimming in a kaleidoscope. It's absolutely stunning and because they have lost their necessity to sting, there is no worry. Food tip: The Bem Ermii Hamburger stand is a fixture in Palau. Order a burger with the works.
Q: What's the best place you've ever visited?
A: Kenya, Africa, is probably the one place that spiritually moved me. We lived in tents in the middle of a game reserve while shooting Survivor, so I would wake up every morning to a different collection of wildlife. One morning it would be zebra, the next morning a pack of wildebeest. The sunsets in Africa are incredible and at night the stars seem so close you truly believe you can almost touch them. We were also able to spend time with some Maasai warriors from the Samburu tribe and learn about their culture and daily life. An African safari is an absolute "must do" for any semi-serious traveler. It's that good.
Q: What's the most surprising/unexpected place you're ever visited?
A: I was most surprised to discover that the Amazon rainforest is so fun! We all know that the Amazon provides more than 20% of the world's oxygen and is home to the anaconda. But you spend a few days there and you'll discover more mammals, lizards and bugs than you ever dreamed existed. We stayed at the Ariaú Amazon Towers (in Brazil), which sits atop 70-foot catwalks to allow for the incredible rising water levels that happen seasonally.
Q: Can you offer an insider tip for your favorite vacation spot?
A: If you find yourself in Guatemala, visit the city of Chichicastenango, where you will find one of the greatest flea markets in the world. The market is a maze of covered stalls with every kind of handicraft made in Guatemala. I spent an entire day working my way from one vendor to another. My favorite purchase: a pair of quilted pants that looked amazing in Guatemala and ridiculous when I got back home to Los Angeles.