The thought of finding a fulfilling romantic relationship on a reality dating show might have initially been daunting for Love Island SA winner Thimna Shooto, but entering the villa brought her exactly the kind of love she was looking for.
“What surprised me the most about this entire experience was that I could actually be in a healthy relationship, which is something that was foreign to me on the outside,” the 26-year-old fitness trainer told the Saturday Star this week.
The bombshell, who hails from the scenic town of Mossel Bay in the Southern Cape, was among the original islanders who entered the Love Island villa, a mansion at the prestigious Eagles Nest Villa in Cape Town.
She was briefly paired with fellow personal trainer Durang Atembe during the show, but she then formed a relationship with then new islander Libhonogolethu “Libho” Geza.
Their relationship continued to reach new heights and eventually they were crowned the winners of the inaugural season of Love Island SA and walked away with R1 million in prize money.
Following their exit from the villa, the couple affectionately known as “Limna” enjoyed their win with their fellow islanders, but varsity rugby player Geza admitted he couldn’t wait to spend some time alone with his new girlfriend.
“I couldn’t wait to sleep in a room with my girlfriend. We were so tired after the finale, so we couldn’t wait to have a room to ourselves and some peace and quiet.”
Shooto agreed and added: “Libho and I went to Cape Town and had some down time with some of the islanders, but mostly wanted to be alone and relax.”
While South Africa watched their romance bloom on their television screens, the Love Island SA winners are eager to fully integrate each other into their lives now that the show is over.
Geza, 23, admitted that introducing his mother to his new partner over Skype in the villa was one of his personal highlights on the show.
“It was also great to hear the approval from my friends and Thimna on how I carried myself on the show.”
But as the romance continues without the nation watching, the couple are getting used to their new life together.
Geza has had little trouble readapting to the normal world, but for Shooto the adjustment has been more challenging.
“It’s been a little bit weird, I feel like I’ve been living under a rock, so much has happened and I feel like I need to play catch-up,” she said.
The Eastern Cape beauty was a fan favourite during her time on Love Island SA, with viewers also voting her as having the best style and bikini body in the villa.
“It’s been beautiful to witness the love from the public and I’m grateful for that.”
While the young lovers have gone from regular South Africans to celebrities in just a few months, they both said that the Love Island SA experience was completely unfamiliar territory for them.
“It took a week or so to get used to my new surroundings, and during that first week I had weird dreams and had to adjust to the Love Island late nights,” said Shooto.
For Geza, who was also voted “fittest boy in the villa”, the adjustment period was shorter because he entered the villa with fellow islander Chris Mouton.
“We’d ask each other questions if we were unsure of anything, just to make sure we don’t look clueless to the other Islanders.”
Being in the villa, none of the islanders knew what time it was, and they also had to contend with sharing facilities, an experience they dealt with differently.
“For me, it was so annoying because I couldn’t get over not knowing what the time was,” said Shooto.
Sharing of the bedroom was also something she wasn’t used to, but she said that it reminded her of school camps and that the adjustment wasn’t too hard.
Geza was not bothered by not knowing the time, but he admitted that sharing common areas in the house meant being considerate to others.
“You just have to be courteous in the bathroom, being aware of who minds and doesn’t mind having you in the bathroom at the same time, but once that’s sorted it’s smooth sailing from there.”
Geza is proud of the country’s first season of Love Island and he believes the local version of the international mega hit show sets itself apart from others, including the UK, the US and Australia versions.
“Love Island SA was unique because of the various languages and slang on the show.”
Shooto’s advice for future Love Island SA applicants is simple: “Be open minded, don’t have high expectations, enjoy every moment, and be honest with yourself and others.”