Bulent Gurcan is one of the competitors on Naked and Afraid XL: Valley of the Banished. Survivalists on this adventure must survive 40 days in South Africa, but there’s a twist: If they aren’t pulling their weight, they can be exiled from the group.
Bulent, a three-time Naked and Afraid competitor who now works as a life coach, was never afraid of getting banished. “I’m ready to do it alone,” he told Heavy in an exclusive phone interview. “If I’m not ready to do do it alone I shouldn’t be going in. I was ready to go do the entire show alone in Mexico, Colombia and South Africa. It is a chance that it might happen and I have to be already That’s how I look at.”
Bulent was partnered with Kate and Makani. To find out more about the survivalist, continue reading below for five fast facts:
1. Bulent Learned To Hunt When He Was 4 Years Old
Bulent, who grew up in Turkey, said he never got into survival because he liked camping. It was something he learned to do at a young age out of necessity. “The conditions that we lived were probably not something anybody could imagine,” he said. “I was 4 years old and me and my sister would go to the pier to dive get some mussels. We would build fire so we can have something to eat for lunch.”
“We had to go harvest our lunch. It wasn’t like when they say, ‘Oh we go camping and building shelter and fire.’ That was just a normal daily routine to us because we didn’t have the means to have lunch,” he said. “You needed to make fire so you can eat or you didn’t eat lunch.”
Bulent started his first job when he was 6 years old, where he worked at a food stand. He worked throughout his teenage years, and went to a military high school with the ultimate goal of getting into the Turkish Air Force. “I had a rifle that was as tall as me,” Bulent remembered.
In high school is also where he learned some of his survival techniques. He later got accepted into the Turkish Air Force and in 1997 he got his private pilot license.
2. Bulent Joined the U.S. Army in 2000 and Worked As a Customs Border Protection Officer
The Naked and Afraid participant is a U.S. veteran who was in Saudi Arabia when 9/11 happened. He worked as a Power Generation Specialist in Fort Bliss, Texas, from 2000 to 2003 and then did a one-year stint as a U.S. Border Patrol Agent from 2006 to 2007.
During this time, he went to college, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2006. He then went to Northwestern State University and graduated with a Masters degree in Health and Human Performance.
Once he was done with school, Bulent was hired by the Department of Homeland Security where he served as a Border Protection Officer from 2008 to 2018.
He mainly worked at the southern border in Arizona, where he went through hot weather and desert training, dealing with scorching temperatures. Agents are often stationed by themselves, which is also where he got used to being in isolation.
Bulent remembered how important it was to take care of himself when he was in Saudi Arabia because there was no one else to fill in for him and he had to get the job done. “Most people look at outdoors adventures as a hobby. For me, it’s just surviving another day,” he said.
“When I was a Saudi Arabia it was 132 degrees in the shade. I had to become a combat lifesaver. I had to give myself and IV [with fluids] because there was nobody else there. Our ration was 32 bottles of water and that finished before 9 a.m. Before you go to lunch and before you go to dinner you have to get hooked up with an IV so you will be hydrated enough to continue otherwise you start cramping,” he said, adding that once you start cramping it could take days to get better.
3. Bulent Has Been a Fan of ‘Naked and Afraid’ For Years–But His Ex Held Him Back
While some survivalists were contacted by Discovery producers, Bulent had wanted to be on the show because he was a fan of it and watched it often while he was working in Customs. The only reason he didn’t apply for the show earlier was because his ex-wife didn’t want him to be on the series.
“She was a very insecure person. She said, ‘Why would I want to see with another woman naked in the jungle with you?'” he remembered. As soon as they split up, Bulent applied for the series and got chosen right away. “The funniest thing happened,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know what it was that they liked about me.”
Bulent said the process was so fast. He flew to Los Angeles for the interview, and by the time he returned home to Washington, producers wanted to fly him back so he could get shots and sent to his first location within three weeks of his interview. “Somebody liked me, thank God,” he joked.
4. Bulent Says His Military Background Makes It Harder For Him to Relate to People with ‘Insecurities’
One of the things Bulent has become known for among Naked and Afraid fans is his blunt and harsh responses to his partners. In Mexico with Sara Burkett, the duo had different approaches to survival.
“Here’s the thing, because of my military and law enforcement background…I don’t like insecure people,” he said. He talked about his challenge with Sara, where they differed about eating freshwater snails. She didn’t want to eat them and Bulent didn’t understand why, causing friction between the two. When he asked her to explain, she shut down.
Looking back, Bulent said tensions are raised during a survival situation. “You are in an extreme environment. Your reactions are not your daily normal responses,” he said.
Part of what Bulent has to tell himself to keep in mind is that people have different philosophies. “It’s just not the communication part,” he said. “It’s me trying to remind myself that not everybody’s like you. Everybody takes things differently. Take a deep breath and just talk slowly.
5. Bulent Doesn’t Hear His Accent and Thinks It’s ‘Totally Weird’ To See Himself on TV
Bulent has watched his episodes, though he thinks it’s “totally weird” to see himself on TV.
Part of what makes it odd is the survivalist, who is a native speaker of Turkish, doesn’t hear his own accent. “I think I talk just like you, then I hear myself on the recording or on TV I’m like, damn dude you sound like Apu from Simpsons. Jesus Christ,” he said with a laugh. “So it is totally odd.”
The other thing that is uncomfortable to watch is his reactions to certain situations. “You’re in extreme locations and have extreme frustrations so your reactions are different. Sometimes you look at yourself and think that decision could have been made differently or that should have been a different response, but, you know, it’s just human nature.”
Bulent doesn’t know what his friends and family think about his stints on Naked and Afraid. “I don’t ask them at all actually,” he said when asked about their opinions.
To find out what happens next, don’t miss Naked and Afraid XL when it airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Discovery.