Television producer and adventure enthusiast Mark Burnett, whose CBS reality show Survivor begins its 20th cycle from Samoa on Sept. 17 and whose new show Shark Tank airs Sundays on ABC, says anyone who goes on vacation with him for 10 days "will feel like they've been gone for six weeks" because of the full schedule. He's traveled to every continent except Antarctica and shares his travel highlights and tips with Kelly Carter for USA TODAY.
Q: Where you have been recently that you liked or were surprised by?
A: Samoa, where I spent much of the summer. It really is the idyllic South Pacific because it has the aquamarine/turquoise waters, those puffy clouds, immense waterfalls, white sands and no dangerous snakes or predators. One of the most surprising things was the people are just so happy. There are churches in even the smallest village and on Sundays everybody is in white, starched suits and hats walking to church with flowers in their hair and songs in their voices. It's romantic and very unspoiled. There is no high-rise and it really retains that special charm (of) the movie South Pacific. It has stunning beaches and from what I was told, the largest coconut plantations in the world. Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, lived out his life in Samoa and his home has been retained as a museum. It's quite a hard hike but you can hike up to the top of a mountain and his tomb sits at the top with a famous requiem that he wrote for himself way before he died: "Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill."
Q: What's the best place you've ever visited?
A: That's almost an impossible question. I've done nine Eco-Challenges, 20 Survivors and a pirate show. But what is it that I would go to tomorrow with Roma (he married actress Roma Downey in 2007) and the kids is camping in Bedouin tents in Wadi Rum, Jordan. It's a vast, grand desert surrounded by immense sheer rock faces. This is where David Lean shot Lawrence of Arabia, where the seven pillars of (wisdom) are the seven mountains in a row. Think southeastern Utah. Drop that into Arabia with real sand and you start to get the idea of the ever-changing colors. Sometimes it's yellow, sometimes purple or red. I've never been closer to the stars. It's the echo from the sheer rock faces. If you yell, you hear your voice over and over and over. Sandstorms blow through. I've seen a sandstorm disappear into a slot canyon that is only six-feet wide. It's epic.
Q: What's the most surprising/unexpected placed you've ever visited?