If you haven’t watched the show, you’ve certainly seen the commercials for Discovery’s “Naked and Afraid” and wondered aloud, “Who would ever want to do that? It’d be bad enough with clothes on, but naked? No way.”

Key Wester Andrew Forestell, 38, not only wanted to attempt the outdoor survival challenge, but got his chance last December. 

The show pairs two skilled survivalists — a man and a woman — in a remote wilderness environment. The contestants have to fend for themselves — making shelter, hunting and gathering food, lighting a fire, boiling water and staying alive — for 21 days.

The show also features shorter, 14-day “fan challenges,” to give those who usually scream at the TV from the comfort of their couch a chance to put their own skills to the test.

Forestell was chosen for a 14-day fan challenge that found him and his partner, Ali Moxley of Montana, in the wilderness of South Africa in December 2020. 

Forestell’s episode just aired on Sunday, Sept. 5, finally revealing how things went for their 14 days spent naked and afraid in South Africa.

(Spoiler alert: Forestell and Moxley “tapped out” after nine of 14 days, finally succumbing to unexpectedly cold temperatures and ceaseless rain that eventually extinguished their fire.)

My partner was a rock star. Ali and I got along great and were always taking turns gathering firewood, boiling water, doing all the things required just to survive in that environment. We were there in December 2020, so we had to stay tight-lipped and not say a word about how things turned out for almost a year.

Of course, it was the most awkward situation in the world, first meeting this naked stranger that you’re going to live and survive with for two weeks. I had played out our first meeting in my head. I needed to make sure I was looking at her eyes and nowhere else. 

Romantic sparks? Nah, honestly, she’s awesome, but I came to view her as my sister and my teammate. You’re so busy trying to stay alive and keep your fire going, you’re not thinking of much else.

Yes, we had to tap out on Day 9 of 14. It still haunts me that we didn’t have a better shelter with a roof over our heads. We actually had started building a roof, but that’s when the rain started and the temperature dropped from about 90 degrees during the day to 48 degrees at night, in the pouring rain. We didn’t know how cold it really was, but we did notice the film crew was wearing long pants and coats, and we were still naked and freezing.

We ate wild spinach and cactus. If I never eat wild spinach again, it’ll be too soon. It tasted like spinach boiled in mud. The cactus was more palatable, then I found that one tiny egg in a bird’s nest.

People don’t realize when they watch from home how little sleep you get at night. It is next-level darkness. You hear animals walking all night long, all around your boma (an African enclosure fortified with branches and thorns to keep predators out. A fire is typically lit inside the boma for warmth and protection.)

There were few truly scary moments, like the giant camel spider that terrorized us for the first few nights. These things were bigger than scorpions. Massive. Totally terrifying. Another time we had that herd of cape buffalo, which they call the “black death” because of how they stampede and kill humans, encroaching closer and closer to our camp. The producers had really driven home how dangerous they are. So that was an eye-opener.

From the time I got my first email from the show, until I was in South Africa, was about eight months. But I didn’t know I was going to Africa until a month prior. (Note: The show has sent other contestants everywhere from the Amazon jungle to the rainforests of Central America, desolate islands in the Bahamas, the plains of Africa, the Florida Everglades and the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia.)

I was really surprised by the lack of food resources. But I think a lot of it had to do with the unseasonable amount of rain that kept things like birds, snakes and lizards — protein that we desperately needed — all hidden away. I had studied the average rainfall of that region, and we learned after the fact that we had basically gotten their entire monthly rainfall in one day.

Each person is allowed to bring one survival item. I brought a fire starter; Ali brought a machete and they gave us a pot to boil water in. 

People always ask how “real” the show is. It’s the real deal. The camera crews are instructed not to talk to you or interact with you. They’re not allowed to eat or drink in front of us, and at night, they leave. They set up mounted cameras, and they’re gone. We do have handheld radios to call for medics in case of emergency.  

Ah, yes, the Naked and Afraid necklaces and burlap bags that are ubiquitous to each episode. In fact, the necklaces are microphones. Since contestants aren’t wearing clothes, lapel mics aren’t possible. And the burlap bags contain a battery pack for the microphone.
Absolutely, I’d do it again. No doubt about it. I want my redemption. And the producers are well aware that I’m ready for round 2.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.