"Jess just feels right. We click, and I'm beyond lucky to have found him," Todd Herzog tells PEOPLE

By Steve Helling
August 20, 2019 08:25 AM

Earlier this month, more than 100 reality television stars gathered at Discovery Cove in Orlando to swim with dolphins and interact with the marine animals. It was the weekend of Hearts of Reality, an annual fundraiser for Give Kids the World, a children’s charity that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.

But Todd Herzog, the winner of Survivor: China, had an additional plan. The 34-year-old reality star was going to propose to his boyfriend, Jess Hermansen, while swimming with the dolphins.

“I’m excited,” he told PEOPLE before the proposal. “It’s going to be great.”

Herzog had hand-picked a group of fellow reality stars to watch the proposal. In addition to his Survivor: China castmates Peih Gee Law, Denise Martin, and Leslie Nease, he also asked Amazing Race winner Scott Flanary to be on hand.

courtesy Discovery Cove

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For nearly an hour, the group swam and interacted with the dolphins, posing for pictures and swimming around the lagoon. Then, the Discovery Cove employees told Herzog and Hermansen that they wanted to take some additional pictures of the duo while everyone else got out of the water.

Hermansen was so into the dolphins that he didn’t even notice that nearly 70 people had gathered around to watch.

courtesy Discovery Cove

As Herzog and Hermansen took photos, a dolphin swam over with a buoy in her mouth. “Will You Marry Me?” it read. Underneath, it read “When the day meets the night,” a reference to the Panic! At the Disco song.

Hermansen said yes, and the crowd on the beach began to cheer. Then, the couple got out of the lagoon and Herzog proposed again on one knee.

Even the ring had special significance. Designed by Herzog’s Survivor: China castmate Law, it was carefully planned out.

“He knew he wanted something that was half black gold, half yellow gold, with a Sun and Moon feel,” she told PEOPLE. “He wanted me to use [the Panic! at the Disco song] as inspiration for the rings.”

courtesy Discovery Cove

After the engagement, Herzog — who previously battled alcoholism — told PEOPLE that the proposal seemed natural.

“One thing people keep asking me is if I was nervous,” he said. “But I wasn’t nervous at all. Jess just feels right. We click, and I’m beyond lucky to have found him.”

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