In 1967, when Geoffrey Gomes was just 7 years old, he saw for the first time on television a documentary series called The Undersea World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. From those first amazing moments onward, he was decidedly dedicated to studying, observing, experiencing and exploring as much of the wildness of nature as he possibly could. Lucky enough to be born in Trinidad, the foremost "nature island" of the southern Caribbean but also into a business oriented family that did not really appreciate natural history as a viable field of study far less a likely avenue for career opportunities and advancement, Geoffrey was not encouraged in the direction of his passion during his schooling years but instead, privately, read everything he could put his hands on in the fields of zoology and marine biology. (Later in life he did manage, however, to complete several ornithology, wildlife/game management and dendrology courses.)
Becoming a serious amateur naturalist during his teens, he became an experienced undersea diver, exploring the seas off Trinidad's north coast and around the islands between Trinidad and mainland Venezuela with his cousins and schoolmates. He was also at that time an avid member of the Trinidad & Tobago Field Naturalists Club, enthusiastically accompanying fellow naturalists and scientists on countless field trips all over the twin-island state.
By age 26, he was invited to join the management committee of the Emperor Valley Zoo by herpetologist and then Curator, Hans Boos, during which time he participated in many field trips with zoo personnel and independently, to collect snakes of various species, Spectacled Caiman (in Tobago), as well as Woolly Opossum and bats of various species for display and/or study in Trinidad. He served on the Zoological Society Board for 10 years. During these years and beyond, he furthered his study of local birds and ornithology in general, participating also in several bird conservation efforts in both islands. He also developed a strong interest in Trinidad's bats during this period, participating in many mist-netting and species identification exercises all over the island with Director Farouk Muradalli (see Dark Banquet by Bill Schutt) and crew supervisor Franklin Thruab of the National Animal Disease Centre. He also led many field outings to discover and explore the various bat roosts on the island of Trinidad. It was around this time in the mid 1980s that he met the person who would become his mentor in the study of Trinidad's bats, American bat scientist, Arthur Greenhall. They would remain friends until Arthur's death in 1998.
By the late 1980s, Geoffrey was representing Trinidad & Tobago on the board of the United States based Society of Caribbean Ornithology, on which he served for 4 years and by the late 1990s, he was invited by Richard ffrench (author of The Field Guide to the Birds of Trinidad & Tobago) to join The Rare Bird Committee of T&T, a position that he still holds. Geoffrey also currently serves as ornithologist on the Government appointed Wildlife Conservation Committee, a group that advises the relevant Government Minister on all issues concerning the wildlife of Trinidad & Tobago.
His naturalist-guiding career began in 1992, after a chance meeting with Nick Upton (Television producer for the BBC and the National Geographic Society) in Tobago while Nick was in Tobago directing sequences for Sir David Attenborough's Trials of Life, sparked the creation of the multi award winning wildlife documentary Devilbirds, Vampires and Spirits - Tales of the Calypso Isles.
Geoffrey's suggestion to Nick was to create a Natural History film incorporating the folklore (mythology) of the forests and the silk cotton tree in particular.
The film was made during 1992/3 and went on to be a great success around the world. It has been shown in over 20 countries and has won a series of prestigious awards at international film festivals notably six awards including Best of Festival at the International Wildlife Film Festival in Montana 1995, the Jury prize in France and one of only 4 film awards given annually by the Earthwatch Organisation. Geoffrey worked along with Upton and his crew as consultant on the project with particular reference to scenes research, as liaison between the Emperor Valley Zoo and the film crew over some of the filming, as well as assisting in the field with the filming of Bats and Oilbirds in remote parts of Trinidad.
"....if I needed advice or assistance on almost anything, Geoffrey always seemed to find a way to help, and he was always good company. "He was incredibly reliable: no matter what time he said he'd be somewhere, he'd be there, and I've met no-one who knows their way around the remoter parts of the island better than Geoffrey. He is also a wonderful ambassador for the islands: like so many people who live there - he has a great love for them and will go to extraordinary lengths to show off the best places and sides of life in T&T to visitors - and I was lucky enough to benefit from this. "When I returned for a holiday in April '94 with my wife, and various relations, it was good to meet up with Geoffrey again and visit some old haunts - such as Tamana bat cave - together."
Geoffrey has been leading research scientists and naturalists into Trinidad & Tobago's forests, swamps, seas and caves for many years, and his experience in the field should speak for itself. The year 2008 finds him living in both Trinidad and the United States with his American born wife, Stephenie. While in the U.S., he markets his T&T tours and works on a variety of wildlife related projects. He continues to serve on the T&T Wildlife Conservation Committee, focusing on bat conservation initiatives and wildlife habitat protection, as well as on the T&T Rare Birds Committee, a group of bird specialists who monitor and catalog records of rare bird sightings reported in Trinidad & Tobago.
"Dear Geoffrey & Stephenie,
Thanks so much for all your most deeply appreciated help with our BCI - Founder's Circle trip!!! You both were really outstanding. I've now led these trips in more than 10 countries where we've used a wide variety of top outfitters, guides and naturalists. Your help was definitely world class, not surpassed anywhere. Together, you make a truly incredible team. Please let me know if ever I can return a favor. I'd be happy to unconditionally recommend you."
- Merlin Tuttle - President & Founder of Bat Conservation International and National Geographic Photographer (2010)
"Geoffrey is an excellent field naturalist and a highly competent birder who has worked throughout Trinidad
and Tobago with a number of visiting scientists. He has conducted several biodiversity surveys and has also participated in various Environmental Impact Assessments. He currently leads science, wildlife filmmaking and eco-tourism excursions all over Trinidad & Tobago."
- Dr. Floyd Hayes, Lecturer in Zoology and co-author of "Birds of Trinidad and Tobago" (2008)
"... I just want to thank you for the 3 marvellous days we spent with you. You made us feel really at ease and it was more like being out with a friend
than with a guide. We appreciated the fact that you went out of your way to share the Trinidadian culture with us (shark and bake for example) and used the holistic approach to birds and nature
which is close to our hearts. We hope to return next year for the turtles and will of course be wanting to use your services again."
- Ann Gifford (England)
"While in Trinidad on a long term work project, my wife and I would go out into the bush as many weekends as possible with Geoffrey. Those tours were so gripping, so rewarding, so outstanding...that it seemed a travesty to have to wait a week for the sequel to some other spot in the rainforest on the following weekend. It was a birding and wildlife voyeur's dream....and Geoffrey is an absolute bird magnet!!"
Michael Van Buskirk - Seattle, WA.