The training programme began in August this year, with participants of many ages and backgrounds.
After what was described as a “gruelling” four-month course, 15 students proudly celebrated their graduation on Friday November 24 in Oneroa, Mangaia.
Tourism Corporation destination development coordinator Sieni Tiraa travelled to Mangaia on behalf for the graduation.
“It amazing, with a great turnout of support from the Mangaian community for the graduates,” she said.
“It was heart-warming to witness the pride in the faces of the graduates and their families.”
“Throughout our time on Mangaia it was a common discussion point amongst the local tourism industry that the island has a unique product with a rich history, unique landmarks and natural resources. However it often lacks tours to showcase their stories.
“So it has been great that this tour guide training course was developed, as it can help address this gap.”
The training led by Punarua Heritage Trust president Thomas Wynne, is the second course of its kind, with the first being held on Atiu last year.
Ngakaara Pureariki of Punarei Cultural Tours on Aitutaki provided tour guide training using a “hands-on” teaching style.
The course encourages the use of existing resources and the traditional knowledge of the local people, to share their island’s “hidden treasures” through quality eco-tours.
The training has three main modules: History, culture, and environment. A fourth module featured an exchange visit to Aitutaki where selected students experienced some local tours and had post tour-experience lessons.
Two new tours on Mangaia have emerged from the training, with more expected in the coming months, says Cook Islands Tourism.
The first is a tour of the village of Tamarua and surrounding areas. Highlights include a hike to a historical site, the dwelling of a famous ancestor of Mangaia called Rori.
Rori was famous for carving the staff gods of Mangaia in pre-Christian times. Some of them can still be found today in museums in London and Europe.
The second tour showcases the art of making the famous golden shell necklaces of Mangaia or ‘ei pupu” which are unique to the island.
The new tours expected to provide an opportunity for local businesses to flourish through tourism. Punarua Heritage Trust will regularly check on the progress of the new tour guides on Mangaia as part of the continued mentoring portion of the programme. The fifteen graduates from the course were excited at the prospect of their new skills. Janiece Moekapiti, Rouruina Taokia, Christian Tangimataiti, Moekapiti Tangatakino, Ngaruaine Tangimataiti, Inangaro Papatua, Clarke Mautairi, Teatuanui Peraua, Lynn Peraua, Vaiora Teremoana, Pangia Teremoana, Roimata Tauarea, Papa Nooroa, Abygail Teatuanui, and Poroa Arokapiti. Cook Islands Tourism will work with the tourism industry on Mangaia to help market and promote the tours.