SAS Australia 2022: Inside the eerie new base camp on NSW South Coast

·5-min read

SAS Australia is not known for providing its celebrity recruits with cushy digs or VIP extras, and this season is no different.

After 2020's freezing Jindabyne base in the Snowy Mountains and last year's isolated Blue Mountains base, the 2022 recruits are in an eerie jungle camp at an abandoned mine in Huntley, near Dapto, in the Illawarra region of NSW.

Group shot of 17 SAS Australia celebrity recruits at Bombo Quarry in the Illawarra region of NSW, Australia. Men and women in camouflage pants and grey t-shirts stand in three rows with the sea behind them on rocks.
This year's 17 SAS Australia celebrity recruits – including TV personalities, actors, models and sports stars - at Bombo Quarry. Photo: Seven Network

The "brand-new base (is) in unforgiving jungle terrain, bordered by wild seas, dramatic cliff faces and rugged rocky outcrops," according to Channel Seven.

Exterior of abandoned building in Huntley NSW used in SAS Australia as a set
The decrepit exterior of the former mine site building near Dapto. Photo: Seven Network

Encroaching bush overgrows the abandoned site, with its smashed windows and broken concrete, so this is certainly no holiday for the 17 celebrities taking part.

Industrial room with mirror table and chairs and lighting used in SAS Australia
The mirror room where the directing staff interrogate the recruits. Photo: Seven Network

Even the directing staff acknowledge this year's base camp is pretty horrible.

"The recruits’ accommodation is grim, the tasks are incredibly challenging," Ollie Ollerton reveals.

New DS member Dean Stott adds: "This course is unique to previous seasons in that the tempo has stepped up another level, pushing recruits to both their physical and mental limits."

run down warehouse type building with barbed wire fence as used in SAS Australia. Shot taken at dusk as sun goes down behind range.
Through the barbed wire-topped fence, the building looks pretty inhospitable. Photo: Seven Network

The base is made up of recruit and directing staff living quarters, which are pretty basic dormitories, the Mirror Room, Prayers Room, Mess and Parade Square.

Army barracks style dormitory accommodation for SAS Australia with cots lined up against each wall and equipment boxes at the foot of each.
The recruits sleep in this basic dormitory-style room with a wood fire as their only means of heat. Photo: Seven Network
Outside toilets and hand-washing basins at derelict building as used in SAS Australia.
The basic toilet blocks. Photo: Seven Network

The mirror room is where the DS interrogate the recruits with tactical questioning (sometimes referred to as TQs or Interrogations).

And the prayers room is where the DS discuss and assess the recruits and the day’s events.

Basic medical room in disused building for SAS Australia, containing a medical examination bed, desk, filing cabinet and sparse shelving.
Even the medical supplies and treatment room is pretty primitive. Photo: Seven Network

Filming took place over two weeks in October last year, while most of us were in lockdown.

And the celebrities - Bachelor winner Anna Heinrich, AFL great Barry Hall, retired NRL star Darius Boyd, professional boxer Ebanie Bridges, rugby 7s Olympian Ellia Green, Olympic swimming legend Geoff Huegill, fellow reality TV star Locky Gilbert, singer and actor Melissa Tkautz, Olympic diver Melissa Wu, professional boxer Michael Zerafa, NRLW player Millie Boyle, actor Orpheus Pledger, comedian Pauly Fenech, motor sports presenter Riana Crehan, convicted drug dealer Richard Buttrose, model Simone Holtznagel, and AFL commentator Wayne Carey– had to tough it out to see if they had what it took to get into the SAS.

Army style parade ground in the middle of an abandoned mine site for SAS Australia
The parade square is an outdoor area on base where the DS brief and exercise the recruits. Photo: Seven Network
Mess-style hall in disused building for SAS Australia, with long wooden picnic tables and benches.
Recruits are filmed everywhere they go, whether exercising, eating or sleeping. Photo: Seven Network

Course facts

According to Seven, all participants must observe strict rules and protocols and there are certainly no creature comforts.

  • Temperatures range between 5-22°C during filming.

  • The DS run the entire course without producer direction. No one enters the base apart from the recruits, the DS and the doctor.

  • Recruits are not referred to by name – only the number on their armband.

  • Each recruit is issued with a 20kg Bergen which contains items they need for survival, including two sets of kit, a helmet, chest harness, sleeping mat, tarp, towel, water bottle, knife, mess kit, mug, toilet roll, sanitising wipes, sunglasses, head torch, notebook, pencil, toothpaste, toothbrush, belt, armband, whistle, watch, sleeping bag and compass.

A military style backpack with its contents laid out for SAS Australia, including two sets of kit, a helmet, chest harness, sleeping mat, tarp, towel, water bottle, knife, mess kit, mug, toilet roll, sanitising wipes, sunglasses, head torch, notebook, pencil, toothpaste, toothbrush, belt, armband, whistle, watch, sleeping bag and compass
A recruit's Bergen has everything they need for their time on the show. Photo: Seven Network
  • Recruits sleep on camp cots, with one sleeping bag and an army blanket. They average five hours' rest per night.

  • Recruits do not have access to hot water. They must fill a bucket with cold water from a tap and carry it to the sink area – with one sink allocated to dishwashing, and another to wash themselves in.

  • There are no flushing toilets. A "short drop" toilet (drum and sawdust) must be cleaned out and maintained by the recruits themselves, along with all other aspects of base maintenance.

  • Recruits must chop their own wood and light the fires that are the only sources of heat – two pot belly stoves in the recruit dorm. Fire is also the only means of drying their clothing, a critical nightly ritual after days spent in water, mud and ice.

  • Recruits are served three basic meals per day, consisting of oatmeal and a boiled egg for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and a protein with salad or vegetables for dinner, equating to less than 1,400 calories per person on some days.

  • Only the duty recruit can serve meals and all recruits must dine at the same time. This season, the hungry recruits devour 145 cups of runny oatmeal, 85 potatoes and 65 servings of boiled chicken in 14 days.

  • Recruits are only allowed to see the doctor when the DS approve a visitation.

  • Recruits travel in the back of cramped wagons for up to six hours a day. There are no toilets on the road to each task – recruits must “go bush”.

  • In the first 48 hours, recruits are set alight, almost drowned and must conquer a fear of heights.

  • Recruit injuries include torn ligaments, cracked rib cartilage, bruises and cuts. The doctor uses more than 290 Band-Aids, 72 metres of strapping tape and 1,000 alcohol swabs in two weeks.

  • 22 leeches are extracted from cast and crew.

  • Four pythons are spotted on base.

  • More than 200 crew work on the series. Recruits are not allowed to communicate with crew members – they can only speak to the DS.

  • 57 cameras and six drones are used to film the series.

SAS Australia premieres at 7.30pm Monday, 21 February on Channel 7 and 7plus

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