For around 36 years, day and night since the airport opened in the early 1970s, Numanga has greeted and sung farewell to visitors from around the globe
He is so dedicated to the job, he was not even present to receive his ANZ-sponsored “Most Outstanding Contribution to Tourism Award” back in 2011, because he was busy farewelling a planeload of passengers.
He had received a number of other accolades both before and since then, but his biggest reward, he says, is the pleasure he sees his music bringing, especially to Cook Islanders returning home.
He sings a blend of well known and loved traditional songs and old favourites, and relates in a personal way with visitors, who often ask to be photographed with him - their last link to an island paradise holiday.
As passengers awaited their departure on Tuesday, Jake addressed them with a hint of melancholy and plenty of humour.
“Oh well, it’s time to go, to say goodbye, goodbye to everyone. Thank you for coming to Rarotonga. I’m sure you had a good time, but it is time to go back now. Back to the cold. But we hope to see you again,” he said, before breaking into a round of the popular NZ folk song “Pokarekare Ana”.
As passengers started filing out of the departure lounge to board their aircraft he sang the John Denver song, “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, with its well-known refrain, “Don’t know when I’ll be back again.”
Many sneaked one last look back. It was to Numanga they looked - and it’s more than likely they were already planning their return trip to Rarotonga.