Savaii tribe
Survivor Gameplay
Description: A group of individuals who compete together against another group for an extended period of time.
Appearances: Every season

The competing teams in Survivor are known as tribes. Commonly, there are two tribes in a season, but there have been instances where three or four may be active at the same time. A tribe can have anywhere from four to ten contestants at the beginning of the game.

Dividing Into Tribes

Most commonly, the tribes are divided by the producers before the game begins. However, there have been exceptions.

The Schoolyard Pick

See also: Schoolyard Pick.

Some seasons have had the tribes selected by the contestants themselves. This is known as the "Schoolyard Pick".

  • In Thailand and Gabon, the oldest male and female contestants were told that elders were given utmost respect in the location, and it was only fitting that they were the ones who will pick their tribe members.
  • In Palau, the Schoolyard Pick was started by the winners of the first individual Immunity Challenge. The last two people left unpicked were eliminated from the game.

The Schoolyard style selection is not limited to just selecting starting tribes, but can be also used in a tribe switch (see below).

Tribes Preset by Production

In most early seasons, the castaways are divided into tribes semi-randomly:

  • In Borneo, The Australian Outback, Africa, Marquesas, Pearl Islands, China, and Tocantins, the 16 contestants were divided into two tribes of eight, with four men and four women on each tribe.
  • In All-Stars, the 18 contestants were divided into three tribes of six, with three men and three women on each tribe.
  • In Guatemala, the 16 new contestants were divided into two tribes of eight, with four men and four women on each tribe. The two tribes were joined by a returning contestant from Palau, both of whom were already put into tribes.
  • In Samoa, Cambodia, Game Changers, and Ghost Island, the 20 contestants were divided into two tribes of ten, with five men and five women on each tribe.
  • In Redemption Island and South Pacific, the 16 new contestants were divided into two tribes of eight, with four men and four women on one tribe and three men and five women on the other. The two returning contestants in each season (both men) had their tribes randomly drawn on Day 1.
  • In Philippines, the 15 new contestants were divided into three tribes of five, with two men and three women on each tribe. The three tribes were joined by a returning male contestant who was evacuated from their previous season, each of whom were already put into tribes.

Tribes Divided by Theme

More common in recent years is to see tribes divided by a specific theme:

  • In The Amazon, Vanuatu, and One World, tribes were separated by gender, known as the Battle of the Sexes twist. The Amazon had two tribes of eight, whereas the other two seasons had two tribes of nine.
  • In Panama, the 16 contestants were divided into four tribes of four by age and gender (Older MenOlder Women,Younger Men, and Younger Women).
  • In Cook Islands, the 20 contestants were divided into four tribes of five by ethnicity (African-AmericanAsian-AmericanCaucasian, and Hispanic). Each tribe had at least two men and at least two women.
  • In Micronesia and Caramoan, the 20 contestants were divided into two tribes of ten: one tribe containing all-new players (the "Fans"), while the other has players from past seasons (the "Favorites"). Each tribe had five men and five women.
  • In Heroes vs. Villains, the 20 contestants were divided into two tribes of ten by how they were generally perceived in their previous season(s), placing the contestants on either the Heroes or Villains tribe. Each tribe had five men and five women.
  • In Nicaragua and Millennials vs. Gen X, the tribes were divided into two tribes of ten by age. Each tribe had five men and five women.
  • In Blood vs. Water, the 20 contestants were divided into two tribes of ten, with five men and five women on each tribe. One tribe consisted of returning players (Galang) while the other tribe consisted of their loved ones (Tadhana).
  • In Cagayan and Kaôh Rōng, 18 new castaways were divided into three tribes of six, based on a major trait or quality which they individually possessed, namely Brawn, Brains, and Beauty. Each tribe had three men and three women.
  • In Worlds Apart, the 18 new contestants were divided into three tribes of six based on their professions and approaches to life: (White Collar, Blue Collar, and No Collar). Each tribe had three men and three women.
  • In Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, the 18 new contestants were divided into three tribes of six based on the positive traits commonly associated with them: (Heroes, Healers, and Hustlers). Each tribe had three men and three women.


  • Fiji was originally planned to start with 20 contestants, but one of them was unable to compete, leaving an odd number. Production rectified this by having one contestant divide the other 18 into two tribes of nine, each containing five men and four women; the picker would join the tribe that loses the first Immunity Challenge.
  • San Juan del Sur repeated the Blood vs. Water division from the eponymous season, but with all new contestants. Originally planned to consist of 20 contestants, with two tribes of ten (each five men and five women), the numbers were reduced to 18 contestants on two tribes of nine (each five men and four women) when one pair was unable to compete.

Starting Tribes


The two competing tribes of Tocantins, Timbira and Jalapao.

Each Survivor season starts with 16 to 20 contestants (dubbed as the "castaways") stranded in a remote location and will be left there for the next 39 days (42 in Survivor: The Australian Outback). The castaways will be then equally divided into teams "tribes". These tribes then will be sent out to separate camps identified by a colored tribe banner. Both camps are far apart from each other and they have an equal distance from the challenge areas, the production team's encampment and the Tribal Council set (example, if tribe A has a 1-mile distance from Tribal Council, so does tribe B; see the Camp article for more information). The resources of both camps (food and water) can be either equally found or compromising (example, tribe A's camp may have a better water source, but finding food would be difficult, while tribe B will have the opposite). From there on out, the contestants must fend for themselves in all aspects of survival (foraging for food, creating shelter, fishing, etc.). Tribes will also be given meager supplies (with a machete, water canteens, and a pot as staples), depending on the season (there are seasons that that have limited food rations, but there are some seasons that they were given only the staples). Earlier seasons allowed castaways to have a "luxury item" (a piece of home), though some seasons pit the players into the game without preparation (merely making them compete with only the clothes they are currently wearing). In Palau, running shoes were also provided for the contestants.

Names and Identification

Starting tribes are given unique names (usually based on local language, culture, or history) and identifying colors which are used on tribe flags, challenge props, on-screen text, and various other items. Each player is given a buff, an elastic ring of cloth generally adorned with the logo for the current season, that can be worn as an armband, headband, tube top, miniskirt, mask, or a bow tie. Players are required to wear the buff with the color of their tribe in a visible location at all times only being allowed to take their buffs off when Jeff Probst tells them to, allowing the audience to identify tribal affiliation.

Tribe Switch

See also: Tribe Switch.

The Malakal tribe of the Favorites drawing stones in preparation for the tribe switch.

The tribe switch is the very first Survivor twist. Jeff Probst asks the contestants to drop their buffs, signaling there will be a change in the nature and personal makeup of the tribes. In a tribe switch, the contestants will either end up at their original tribe or they will be swapped into another. They must give up their old buff and must don a new one. If there is a switch, it occurs before the merge, commonly catching players off-guard. As seen in Survivor: All-Stars and Survivor: Gabon, the switch twist may sometimes happen even when there are only ten players left, leading the remaining players to believe that a merge is coming. The logic of the switch is that the relationships from their first tribe will be tested in their new tribe, and will create additional possibilities when the tribes finally merge. Oftentimes, players who were not successful in their original tribe use the switch as an opportunity to create new bonds, and potentially last longer in the competition.


See also: Mutiny (twist).

Candice turning back from Aitutaki and to rejoin Rarotonga. Jonathan will soon follow.

The mutiny is a variation of the tribe switch. This twist allows players to change tribes at will. Like a traditional swap, the "mutineer" must surrender his/her old buff and will be given the same colored buff as his/her new tribe. The mutiny is a rare twist, as it was unpopular among players (as this is deemed a big, bold move for many, thus doing so will be very risky). Four seasons have offered a chance to mutiny, though from those four times, the offer was accepted only once.

Tribe Dissolves

See also: Tribe Dissolve.

Another variant of the tribe switch is the "dissolve." In seasons that have more than two starting tribes, a tribe dissolution before the merge will take place. The tribe will be permanently disbanded, spreading its old members into the other two tribes. Like in a traditional swap, the members of the dissolved tribe must surrender his/her old buff and must join his/her new tribe.

Merged Tribe

See also: Merge.
S15 Hae Da Fung Flag

The newly painted flag of the merged Hae Da Fung tribe (China).


The Barramundi tribe (Australia), newly merged and feasting.

The merged tribe is composed of the remaining members of the two starting tribes. Whereas the starting tribes are named by the producers, the new tribe will be usually named by the castaways themselves.

They will be given a new, blank tribe flag and buffs with some paint to decorate the new flag. Usually, a feast is held at the new tribe's camp to celebrate the event. The merged tribe camp is generally the better of the two former tribe camps, but in rare cases (The Australian Outback, The Amazon, and Redemption Island) they will be relocated to a new beach. Reward Challenges may still be team-based (depending on the number of remaining players), but Immunity Challenges will be conducted on a strictly individual basis.

The "Ghost" Tribe


The infamous Outcast tribe of Pearl Islands.

The only ghost tribe that appeared in the show was the infamous Outcasts in Survivor: Pearl Islands, where the six eliminated players returned for a second chance to play the game. This caused a mixed response from fans.

Tribe Colors Per Season

Bold Text Merged Tribe
Italic Text Dissolved Tribe
Underlined Text Expanded or "Ghost" Tribe
Regular Text Lasted until Merge

Survivor (U.S.)

Survivor (U.S.) Tribe Colors Per Season
Orange Yellow/Gold Green Blue/Teal Red Magenta Purple Black Brown
Borneo Tagi Pagong Rattana
The Australian Outback Barramundi Ogakor Kucha
Africa Boran Moto Maji Samburu
Marquesas Maraamu Rotu Soliantu
Thailand Chuay Gahn Chuay Jai Sook Jai
Amazon Jaburu Tambaqui Jacaré
Pearl Islands Morgan Drake The Outcasts Balboa
All-Stars Saboga Mogo Mogo Chaboga Mogo Chapera
Vanuatu Alinta Yasur Lopevi
Palau Ulong Koror
Guatemala Nakúm Yaxhá Xhakúm
Panama La Mina Viveros Bayoneta Casaya Gitanos
Cook Islands Manihiki Puka Puka Rarotonga Aitutaki Aitutonga
Fiji Ravu Moto Bula Bula
China Zhan Hu Fei Long Hae Da Fung
Micronesia Airai Dabu Malakal
Gabon Kota Nobag Fang
Tocantins Forza Jalapao Timbira
Samoa Foa Foa Aiga Galu
Heroes vs. Villains Heroes Villains Yin Yang
Nicaragua La Flor Espada Libertad
Redemption Island Ometepe Zapatera Murlonio
South Pacific Te Tuna Upolu Savaii
One World Manono Salani Tikiano
Philippines Tandang Matsing Kalabaw Dangrayne
Caramoan Gota Enil Edam Bikal
Blood vs. Water Galang Tadhana Kasama
Cagayan Aparri Luzon Solana Solarrion
San Juan del Sur Coyopa Huyopa Hunahpu
Worlds Apart Masaya Escameca Nagarote Merica
Cambodia Orkun Angkor Ta Keo Bayon
Kaôh Rōng Gondol Chan Loh To Tang Dara
Millennials vs. Gen X Vanua Ikabula Takali Vinaka
Game Changers Maku Maku Tavua Nuku Mana
Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers Soko Levu Yawa Solewa
Ghost Island Malolo Yanuya Naviti Lavita
David vs. Goliath David Goliath

Australian Survivor

Survivor (Australia) Tribe Colors Per Season
Orange Yellow/Gold Green Blue/Teal Red Magenta Black Gray
Australian Survivor (2002) Kadina Tipara Aurora
Celebrity Survivor Australia Kakula Moso Tanna
Australian Survivor (2016) Vavau Saanapu Aganoa Fia Fia
Australian Survivor (2017) Asaga Samatau Asatoa

Survivor New Zealand

Survivor (New Zealand) Tribe Colors Per Season
Orange Yellow/Gold Blue/Teal Purple Black
Nicaragua Mogotón Hermosa Casar
Thailand Khangkhaw Chani Phsan

Survivor South Africa

Survivor (South Africa) Tribe Colors Per Season
Orange Yellow/Gold Green Blue/Teal Red Magenta Purple Black White
Panama Burba Aguila Rana
Malaysia Bajau Iban Empu
Santa Carolina Timbila Chibudu Kululama
Maldives Eku Raituhn Goma
Champions Juara Salvation Utara Selatan
Philippines Visayas Mindanao Luzon Araw


  • Blue and yellow have been the most common tribe colors in the history of the series, with 21 tribes each.
    • On the other hand, brown is the least common, having appeared only once.
  • Several tribes have had insignias based on their tribe names (such as Foa Foa and Galu, which are Samoan words for "trumpet shell" and "ocean wave" respectively), while Manono and Salani had particular animals represent them (regular animals include stingrays and turtles).
  • Yellow starting tribes have produced the most winners, with 9, and the most finalists, with 22.
    • Blue and yellow tribes have produced the most female winners, with 5 each.
    • Orange tribes have produced the most male winners, with 6.
  • Black is the most recurring merged tribe color, with 13 merged tribes being black.
    • The only black non-merged tribe is Timbira.
    • Black is the only color to appear more times as a merged tribe than it has as a starting tribe.
  • Survivor: Cagayan and Survivor: San Juan del Sur are the only pair of consecutive seasons to lack a yellow tribe.
  • The following seasons have had identical tribe color schemes, including the merged tribe:
  • Palau had the fewest tribes, with two (Ulong and Koror).
    • Stephenie LaGrossa was only contestant on that season who was a member of both tribes, after her original tribe was conquered.  
    • Also, on the same season, two contestants (Jonathan Libby and Wanda Shirk) were never members of any tribe.