Being stranded naked on a deserted island in the Bermuda Triangle and competing for food with hungry sharks might sound like a nightmare to most, but for Kiwi twins Amber and Serena Shine, it was just another day at the office. Well, kinda.
The 30-year-old sisters – from Waiuku, in rural Auckland – had already appeared on Discovery Channel series Naked And Afraid in 2019, living off scorpions, and being stalked by leopards and hyenas while spending 21 days without clothing in remote northern South Africa.
So when, in early 2020, the network asked them to return to the show, living on a tropical island for two weeks for a Shark Week special, they couldn't resist saying yes again.
"We're actually pretty conservative, so the idea of being naked on TV didn't appeal to us at all when we were first approached," admits Serena, who is the owner-operator of Glam Camping at Castaways Resort.
"We actually thought it was a scam and ignored the messages at first," laughs civil engineer Amber.
But when the adventurous pair – who call themselves "The Wild Twins" on social media – finally decided to look into the series, they realised its popularity in the US and eventually their minds started to change.
"After watching a few episodes, we saw how much of a survival aspect the naked part of it is," explains Amber. "It just makes everything that much harder."
While seeing her sister stark naked wasn't the most comfortable thought, Serena says they quickly forgot about their appearance when the challenge started.
"We're close, but we'd never been naked around each other!" she laughs. "When we first stripped off, I was like, 'OK, here we go!' But there are so many bigger things going on. Instantly, we were so focused on surviving, finding water and hunting food."
In Africa, the duo was ravaged by thorns, and forced to sleep on dirt and gravel that left their shoulders and hips bruised. At one point, an elephant invaded their campsite in the middle of the night and they had to scare it away by banging a cooking pot.
Every decision required extra planning because they had to protect their naked bodies. But if they thought their tropical island escape a year later might be a little easier on their bare skin, they were wrong!
Serena continues, "We had two other contestants with us for this second show, which was a bit different. And for the first five days, Amber and I were on separate islands. I was the lucky one who had to deal with mosquitoes on my island. It was out of this world. I've never experienced anything like it!"
The other contestant on Serena's island ended up going into anaphylactic shock due to the severity of his bites. She tells, "There was no escaping it. We would try to get in the water, but they'd still bite our face and then eventually, at night, it was just too cold to be in the water. It was absolute torture."
Catching their meals became the next big challenge. "The only place to get food was in the water and as soon as you got in, it was only minutes before the sharks came – we had to be constantly on guard," recalls adrenaline junkie Amber.
"We made spears out of sticks and, if a shark got near, we would hold that out in front of us to deter them. But there were plenty of times where they would knock or brush up against the stick, which gave us a hell of a fright!"
Thankfully, they did manage to collect quite a lot of kaimoana. Sabrina laughs, "It was the best seafood I've had in my life! One day, we even managed to catch an octopus."
However, sharing meals and exhausting themselves to catch food meant they lost over 7kg each – the exact same amount they dropped during the African challenge.
Returning to normal life after filming was hard on both occasions, but particularly after the Shark Week special, which saw them return home to Waiuku just a week before Aotearoa's first lockdown.
Now the border's been shut for over than a year, the twins have come to appreciate their international adventures even more.
Serena explains, "I've never regretted either experience. I definitely had points where I thought, 'What am I doing here?' But it's always going to be a memory I treasure – and because of Covid stopping us from going overseas, it makes us treasure those memories that much more.
"There were so many amazing moments with both shows. I remember one day we sat down at a watering hole at sunset, and it was incredible watching all the elephants, giraffes and zebras come in. You just don't get that anywhere else."
Both challenges have forever changed how they look at the world. Amber smiles, "It really makes you appreciate the small things in life – like beds and going to the pantry to get food!"
As for their next challenge? Amber and Serena are currently keeping things a little more on the safe side as they tackle writing their first book, due to be released later this year.
But when it comes to the possibility of another naked challenge, the girls smile and simply say, "Never say never!"