Palmerston North woman Karla Karaitiana fulfilled a promise to her then 20-year-old self and won a spot in the Survivor New Zealand tribe.

"I watched the first series 18 years ago and was absolutely taken with it.

"I said at the time that if it ever came to New Zealand I'd apply."

And now the series is in the bag, Karla, 37, can talk about the lead-up to her preparation for the New Zealand version of the reality TV show, filmed earlier this year in the Thailand National Park.

Advertisement

She worked a lot on her physical fitness and endurance, and then Christmas happened not long before filming was set to start.

"I ate all the foods and at that point it suddenly became more important to enjoy quality time with my kids."

Karla Karaitiana is back from her stint on Survivor. Photo / Merania Karauria
Karla Karaitiana is back from her stint on Survivor. Photo / Merania Karauria

Karla said it was her parents who jumped in to take care of her son and daughter; it was one place she knew they'd be happy, loved and supported.

It's her kids who keep her going now she's home, expressing to her every day how proud they are of her.

"They are my biggest supporters along with my parents."

Being a single mum, it required mammoth effort to "get my ducks in a row and step away from my life".

"My 9-year-old Awhina was so excited and my 16-year-old appreciated all that I had to do.

"He understood how hard it could be out there."

Karla Karaitiana and Kaysha Whakarau at the launch of Survivor NZ. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Karla Karaitiana and Kaysha Whakarau at the launch of Survivor NZ. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

Surviving the heat was not an easy task.

"You were in a constant all-body sweat and state of dehydration."

Sitting in the shade was fine, Karla said, but stepping into the daylight was so much harder.

Strategy was a mental tool that each contestant equipped themselves, but surviving was unpredictable.

Karla Karaitiana was until recently a reporter for the Manawatu Guardian.
Karla Karaitiana was until recently a reporter for the Manawatu Guardian.

"You have to remain pretty flexible minute to minute."

And for anyone wanting to test their talents in a Survivor series?

"Just do it, don't hesitate. I'm proof that you never know what might happen when you go after a dream."

Will Karla be sole survivor? Survivor New Zealand starts on Sunday, April 22 on TVNZ 2.