Former I’m A Celebrity champion Joe Swash admits if it weren’t for his Australian jungle experience, he would never have met his now wife, Stacey Solomon.

Joe, who won the hit ITV show in 2008, went on to present I’m A Celebrity’s spin-off series a year after being crowned ‘King of the Jungle’. In 2010, he met Stacey, who had also just won the series, and the pair started dating. They have since gone on to have three children together and the happy couple tied the knot in 2022. “I’m A Celebrity holds a big place in my heart,” confides the 40-year-old. “I won it and I was lucky enough to go on to present the spin-off series on ITV2 for ten years. I met Stacey whilst I was out in Australia and me and Stacey have now married and we have had kids. Doing the all-stars series is closure. It finishes off the circle.

“Stacey is over the moon about me doing it. The jungle holds a big part in both our hearts. Without the jungle, we wouldn’t have each other. In a way, we owe it to the jungle to say goodbye.”

Over the years, Joe, who also won Dancing on Ice in 2020, has taken part in many Bushtucker Trials as part of his presenting role on the spin-off series but the TV star admits today he is nervous about what lies ahead in South Africa.

“I have done so many Trials but they don’t get any easier,” he reveals. “I find them hard and I especially hate the eating Trials. I do think I am going to struggle. I am a bit of a gagger and screamer!”

“But when I see Ant & Dec, the first thing I am going to say to them is ‘hello boys!’ I haven’t seen them for a while and it will be nice to see them again as well as the rest of the team on I’m A Celebrity.”

Reflecting on why he loved doing the programme so much, Joe says the jungle experience gave him the confidence to believe in himself. Explains Joe: “Doing I’m A Celebrity did change me – in a nice way. Before I went in, I always thought of myself as an imposter and I felt I wasn’t meant to be there. Doing the jungle gave me the confidence to believe in myself and it was a huge turning point in my life and career.

I can’t express enough my gratitude for the fact I met Stacey on the back of it, had my kids and it gave me a whole different direction with my career. Everything I am doing now stems from 14 years ago going in the jungle.”

As well as meeting his now wife, Joe says he will always be grateful for making so many new friends around the campfire. He also admits he loves watching the series at home. “One of my standout best moments was when Stacey was on a secret mission and she had to get Dom Joly’s attention, so she threw a stone,” he adds. “Dom was sleeping at the time and it accidentally landed in his eye! I love watching people unravel. You can’t go on I’m A Celebrity and have a game plan. I also love watching the Trials and I think the reason why the show works so well is Ant & Dec. They are people’s people. You watch them and you think you could be mates with them”.

As for whether he would like to be crowned the first I’m A Celebrity Legend, Joe admits it would be ‘amazing’.

“Of course it would be amazing to be crowned the champion,” he adds. “But I am mainly doing this programme to say thank you to the jungle and put a full stop at the end of the journey.

“My eldest son, Harry, was one when I did the jungle and he is 16 now! I want the kids to watch I’m A Celebrity… South Africa and for both of us to be able to tell them ‘I’m A Celebrity is where mummy and daddy met’. The jungle is always going to be a big part of our family.”