It’s been more than a year since the last televised season of The Amazing Race ended. After delays and pushbacks, the drought finally ends tonight. The Amazing Race 32 will officially return this evening on CBS following Big Brother: All-Stars, and like most super fans, I am hyped up, especially because it's unclear when we'll get another season. A man can only wait so long between U-Turns before he starts to get antsy, but fortunately, I actually found a show recently that helped hold me over.
World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji might be a mouthful to say out loud, but it is an absolute delight to watch and builds on so many core elements of The Amazing Race. In short, it follows four person mixed gender teams as they navigate across a brutal 400 mile plus course set in Fiji. The racers are way more experienced, and the challenges are way harder, but the balances between strategy and execution and skill and luck are still there. There's also the same sense of accomplishment and disappointment.
I don’t want to spoil too much here, but the basic idea is the race is separated into 5 legs and 31 checkpoints. Tasks include everything from white water rafting to mountain climbing to trekking through the jungle. There are some forced break periods, but in general, teams are allowed to decide when they want to sleep and when they want to keep moving. This adds a really interesting long-term cat and mouse element. The visuals in Fiji are, of course, spectacular, and just like The Amazing Race, the show does a really good job of highlighting the backstory of contestants so you can identify favorites to root for.
None of this should come as a surprise since the show is produced by Mark Burnett, who is the man responsible for Survivor (another show sadly delayed). Because the course is way bigger and producers have less control, there’s a bit more chaos involved in World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji. Not every single key moment is caught on camera, but there is still a level of professionalism and polish that are obvious throughout.
Eco-Challenge is not the same show as Amazing Race. The former is a sport done by professionals or semi-professionals who have an impressive level of experience in adventure racing, Iron Man competitions, marathons and more. Most of the participants have been doing this kind of thing for years, and many have extensive backgrounds in military, special forces and/ or general survival. If you enjoy watching nice, well-intentioned people navigate courses and race in some of the most beautiful locations on Earth, however, you will absolutely love this show. I have been disappointed to see it hasn’t gotten more publicity so far. So, when you’re done watching Amazing Race tonight, I highly encourage you to check it out.
World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. It is absolutely worth your time if you’re into this sort of thing.