Air Rarotonga has transported more than 200 passengers to the islands on 17 flights – some chartered, some scheduled, some put on as extra.
Today’s tradition also marks vaka Marumaru Atua’s first voyage to the island.
Captain Peia Patai said the trip was significant, “and what is important is that the children and people of Mangaia have the opportunity to see and experience the waka and have memories they will treasure.”
Sam Napa Jr, a seasoned vaka sailor, landed at Mangaia for the first time. “We sighted the island about 5am and had a pod of humpback whales welcome us.”
Napa, who also holds the title of Tupeariki Rangatira, will represent his mother Pa Tepaeru Teariki Upokotini Marie Ariki of Takitumu at the occasion, as she is in New Zealand.
“My tupuna also come from here, my grandfather George Peyroux’s mother comes from Ivirua. It is special to be here during this time to witness such an historic event.”
The island has been abuzz for the past week; they have cleared venue sites, maintenance, raised live stock for the feasts, grown crops and harvested seafood.
Formalities begin this morning at 6am with the hoisting of the flags.
At Te Maruata-Nui-o-Numangatini marae, each puna will present Tereapii with pieces of traditional attire.
The procession will then head towards the Oneroa Cook Islands Christian Church for a service conducted by Reverend Tereora and Oneroa Ekalesia.
Numangatini Ariki will be returned to the marae on a pa’ata carried by puna Keia warriors.
The master of ceremonies will confer the warrant of appointment of Te Ariki Numangatini to the House of Ariki, followed by the traditional o’ora (presentation of gifts).
MP Tamaiva Tuavera, who has Mangaian heritage, was glad to be able to attend the investiture – his first. “This spells out a new generation, a new leadership and someone who will be living on the island, this is a new leaf being turned over for Mangaia,” he said.