Numanga an iconic nominee

Wednesday March 20, 2019 Written by Published in Culture
Numanga an iconic nominee

Jake Numanga MBE, one of the Golden Ukulele Award nominees, is the face of Cook Islands tourism.


He gives visitors their first impression, is the person who serenades guests with soothing songs playing his famous kamaka ukulele on arrival at the international airport.

Over 30 years ago, chairman of the Airport’s Board of Directors at the time - Dr Robert Woonton, invited Numanga to entertain the arrival and departure visitors to the island.

Numanga worked as a firefighter; when he started singing at the airport there were only several flights a week. Today Numanga welcomes over 100,000 visitors a year through song and music.

As the flight number increased he made a decision, after 23 years with the Rescue Fire service and at just 55 years old, he took early retirement, investing his time into welcoming people to our shores.

Numanga holds a Member of the British Empire (MBE) from the Queen in honour of his services to tourism. He was awarded the ANZ-sponsored Most Outstanding Contribution to Tourism award, and in 2011/12 he won the Air NZ Tourism award.

He said in a news article explaining why he was absent to receive one of his awards:

“I had to come and meet the plane, this is my priority, I don’t ever want to be late.

People expect me to be here singing when they come.”

A humble endearing man, he is probably the ukulele player who has played the instrument for the longest time in the country. Music runs in the family, his father was a composer, and his grandfather started the Pokata Band in Ngatangiia. Numanga grew up dancing, singing and playing musical instruments; he appeared on the local music scene since the early 1960s.


  • Comment Link Justin de Silva Saturday, 14 December 2019 03:51 posted by Justin de Silva

    I would love to meet him if I can make my dream of visiting Rarotonga to listen to his music and also the technicians that I trained then.

  • Comment Link Ngaire Allott Saturday, 30 March 2019 15:22 posted by Ngaire Allott

    I have been flying to Rarotonga for the last 32 years and always wave and chat to this wonderful man whenever it’s possible. He had been a fantastic ambassador for Rarotonga and all passengers arriving into the Cook Islands for a visit. He is a beautiful soul. Truely showing the nature of the local people. ❤️

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