How Survivor’s Mark Wales and Samantha Gash’s tight-knit alliance led to romance and the most important adventure of their lives

''I’ve never felt so grounded and in love with life.''

By Tina Burke
When former SAS commander Mark Wales and endurance athlete Samantha Gash appeared on Australian Survivor in 2017, their impressive game-play and tight-knit alliance made them targets in the Asaga tribe. But while they competed to the best of their ability on the grueling reality TV show, something much sweeter was brewing beneath the surface.
The pair formed a strong alliance within the tribe, leading Henry Nicholson and and Jacqui Patterson to make moves to vote them out one after the other.
Eliminated on Day 16 and Day 18, Samantha and Mark saw their Survivor dreams dashed relatively early on in the game. But they walked away with something more treasured than the $500,000 prize-money.
Samantha and Mark met on Australian Survivor 2017. 10
Shortly after the show the duo took their romance public, much to the delight of die-hard Australian Survivor fans.
"Found this amazing babe in Samoa - lucky me," Mark wrote on Instagram in August 2017 after their eliminations had aired.
After the show, the pair were go-go-go as they travelled across Australia, Indonesia and the United States within the span of a couple of months – with Samantha saying she was "one lucky lady" to have Mark by her side.
But things were soon to slow down (well, slow down for a fast-paced couple) when Samantha announced her pregnancy in November.
Posting a photo of her ultrasound, the reality TV star wrote: "Best adventure of Mark & my lives! I've never felt so grounded & in love with life."
Throughout her pregnancy, Sam continued some of her training as an endurance athlete and kept fans posted on how she was coping with impending motherhood.
"Our baby has definitely made our relationship and love stronger," she said shortly before giving birth.
"It's surely tested us when either one of us have been selfish or a pest (which is inherent with the things we've previously sought to achieve), taught us the importance of communication & reinforced that we are better when we are a team and don't sweat the small stuff. Not long till our little miracle arrives and changes our lives forever!!"
Mark shared this beautiful photo of Sam when she was seven months pregnant. Instagram
The couple welcomed their son Harry Locke Wales into the world in March 2018, making him the first-ever Australian Survivor baby.
"Arriving at a beautiful 3.5kgs & 49cm last Friday morning. Our love for you is more than your Dad and I ever thought was possible. Most special week of our lives," Sam wrote on Instagram alongside a gorgeous photo with her newborn bub.
"Welcome Harry Locke Wales - we will lead you to water - only you can drink it. Seize the day mate. We love you xxx Mum & Dad," wrote Mark.
One year and nine months after giving birth to Harry, Sam tied the knot with Mark in a beautiful Log Cabin Ranch wedding on December 14, 2019.
Sharing the special moments from their big day with our sister site New Idea, Sam said the weekend was "magical" and involved many of their Survivor buddies.
"The ceremony was in the stables and it had a candlelit-style vibe with exposed panelling; really simple with native gum leaves and mismatched chairs," Sam told New Idea.
Samantha and Mark welcomed Harry into the world in March 2018. Instagram
"I walked down the aisle to Matt Corby's song 'Resolution', which we love. It was the song that was playing a lot before Mark proposed to me."
"We had set up three long tables under naked teepees, with native gums in the centre – it was beautiful. But then it started to rain, and obviously naked teepees don't protect you from the rain!" Sam revealed.
"While we were having our photos [taken], everyone rallied to lift all the tables and chairs and move everything into the stable."
Mark told New Idea: "I've heard it's good luck. It ended up being good, being indoors. It was much more intimate."
Officiating the ceremony was fellow contestant Jacqui Patterson, and Jarrad Seng – another Survivor cast member – was the wedding photographer.
Other tribe members were also invited, including Aaron 'AK' Knight, Luke Toki, Jericho Malabonga and Aimee Stanton.
Poking fun at the fact that she was the one who orchestrated their eliminations, Jacqui pulled up a piece of cardboard during her speech and said: "I might have voted these guys out, but today I'm voting for Sam and Mark."
Sam and Mark tied the knot in December 2019. Instagram
And while they've been there through the highs, Sam has also been open with her followers about the tough moments.
"There's times when Mark will wake up from a sleep and then he'll just say 'I had a terrible nightmare.' And it'll either be about something that did happen or a fear of what might have happened while he was out there," Sam said on the Life On The Line podcast in 2020.
Mark served in the Australian military for 16 years and was with the SAS for six of those years. On ANZAC Day in 2021, Sam dedicated a post to Mark on Instagram.
"It's important we remember the sacrifices of our fellow countrymen and women who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations," she wrote.
"Mark we are proud of you today, and every single day. It was so special to share this morning with both of our parents."
Jacqui Patterson "voted" for Mark and Sam on their wedding day. Instagram
The couple have also kept up their fitness endeavours, with Sam and Mark both competing on The World's Toughest Race alongside Bear Grylls (which you can watch on Amazon Prime Video).
Sam is also the co-founder of Her Trails - a female trail and adventure platform - and the co-founder of the charitable Relief Run.
And, in 2022, they're returning to our screens in Australian Survivor: Blood vs Water.
The season is set to include groups of family members, with host Jonathan La Paglia saying: "Survivor has always been an individual game. But this season, that's all about to change."
Mark says in the trailer: "Playing Survivor with your spouse is a very dangerous idea. But the good thing is, if one of us wins, we both win."
Sam posted a tribute to Mark on ANZAC day. Instagram
Australian Survivor returns on January 31, 2022, on 10 and 10Play.
This story was originally published on our sister site, Who Magazine.
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