Soft spoken Tumutoa warrior Ngametua Mamanu received his first Tourism A1 Meitaki awards yesterday with his beautiful wife Mania Clarke-Mamanu by his side.
The couple first met on the sands of Muri at the start of last year. A few months later, Mamanu started the cultural tourism business that yesterday won the nominations of visitors and the attention of the A1 Meitaki Awards judges.
“I love it, I’m a one-man show and I love what I do, with plants, nature,” he says. “Sharing our wonderful natural culture with people.”
But Mania didn’t need any judges and awards to know he was special: “When I first met him, I saw a vision behind him, of tupuna Maori, the second was of Maui,” she says.
Mamanu returned to the island in 2014 after being away since 1982 when he left as a young boy to attend school in New Zealand.
On his arrival he felt quite emotional when setting foot on the tarmac at Rarotonga airport: “It had been so long, I knew then, I was home, back home.”
And talking with him, it is obvious he has settled comfortably back to nature, back into the simple island lifestyle, “like how I grew up when I was a boy, eating foods from trees, using the umu to cook and doing nature walks”.
Living back home in the family house, eventually moving into a tent in 2016, he felt his life changing.
“I didn’t have a family home, my parents separated a long while back, I didn’t mind a tent, it is very humbling and a simple way of life.”
Working, drinking and dancing for a cultural dance team, three things happened that propelled him to make drastic changes to his life.
Twice, he burnt his back while doing cultural shows. And then he witnessed a terrible motorbike accident outside his home. “I looked at the guy and thought, that could be me.”
That was it: Mamanu completely cut drinking alcohol and turned to the Lord.
Mania agrees. “It’s changed me, we are happy with the blessings we have received from the Lord.”
Mamanu started his self-made cultural tourism business Tumutoa Tours just over a year ago.
And the couple are building their house next to the Tumutoa Tours business grounds in Arorangi.
Until it’s built, Mania – a former high-flier at Maori Television in New Zealand – has joined her husband living in the tent.