Forrest Galante is not your average Santa Barbaran. California-born, Galante was raised with his younger sister in Harare, Zimbabwe, where his family ran a safari business. When he wasn’t fishing or heading up the junior herpetology society, he spent most of his free time in the middle of the African bush. The outdoor skills he learned in his youth would come in handy during his stint as a contestant on the Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid last year.
“I grew up there having an incredible childhood and then went to an English boarding school very much like Harry Potter with prefects, corporal and physical punishment,” Galante said. In 2001, however, political uprising forced his family to return to the States; their farm was invaded and burned down, and they were held at gunpoint and forced to pack up and leave within 24 hours. Settling in Cayucos, California, Galante finished high school and went on to study Biology at UCSB.
Now, 25 years old and a freelance biologist, he travels the world exploring unique environments and exotic species. “I’m a wildlife biologist and passionate conservationist. I’m very different in that regard, more like your Steve Irwin, very hands on in the field, catching things and studying them,” Galante said.
With 36 countries under his belt, Galante has experienced some pretty remarkable events — such as surviving a plane crash, being mauled by a lion and bitten by a poisonous snake, and falling off a waterfall. But none of that has stopped him from continuing to push his limits. A case in point: his application to be on the Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid — a 21-day survival challenge where two strangers, one man and one woman, are paired together, dropped naked in the middle of the jungle, and forced to survive on their own.
“Jessica [my fiancée] and I were just sitting around flipping through the channels, and the show was on TV,” Galante explained. “She said to me, ‘You have to apply for that show,’ so I sent in the most half-assed application, and sure enough, I got a callback the next morning.” The next thing he knew, he was in the far northwestern part of Panama walking naked on the beach toward his partner.
Being dropped in the middle of a jungle with no supplies — and no clothes — is a tough experience for anyone. Fortunately for Galante, his diving and fishing skills separated him not only from his partner, but also from the other couple that later joined them in the show. “I was living, and they were surviving; they were scraping above the bottom. They had sharp skills, but they were doing the bare minimum,” Galante said. “I was enjoying myself, collecting oysters and taking walks on the beach… I was never really miserable. I was cold and uncomfortable.”
Although Galante was able to easily catch seafood, he struggled when it came to making a fire and keeping it lit. “The show was very humbling. I’m a cocky guy because I’ve done this and that… I’ve always had creature comforts, a sleeping bag and a pillow, a box of matches, and without all of those things, I wasn’t as good at being outdoors,” Galante said. “I would go in a heartbeat to do anything like this again. I’m not someone that says no to any opportunity in life.”
So what’s next in his journey? Recently engaged to his high school sweetheart of 10 years, Galante will be busy planning a wedding, working on establishing an adventure resort in Belize, and his international cuisine-based website, travelgrub.com. Needless to say, his journey has only just begun.
To see some bonus clips of Galante and his survival challenge, visit discovery.com/tv-shows/naked-and-afraid.