At a botanical garden in Jamaica, he got the idea for a small viewing window.
IF YOU GO
The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory: 1316 Duval St., Key West
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.
Admission: $10 for adults; $8.50 for seniors and military; $7.50 for children ages 4 to 12; free to children 3 and younger. The last admission ticket is sold at 4:30 p.m. Note: The gift shop and gallery is also now located here.
The rain forest at Heron House 512-520 Simonton St., Key West
Rooms range from $119 to $369, depending on size and season, and include a breakfast buffet every morning and a wine and cheese hour every afternoon.
- Out of the blue
- Winging it
A wall he saw in Thailand was the inspiration for his Plexiglas borders. (The wall had been made from pond stones, stacked in rows and cemented in the back, so there were no grout lines.) Geibelt duplicated the wall, using black and dark charcoal pond stones from Mexico. Hundreds of them. It took weeks to create. And no, there are no grout lines.
Geibelt is happy to tell you how he did it. And why. ("So that it would look natural.") He knew he had to have mature trees, right from the beginning. Palms that were 15 to 20 feet tall. The problem was, how to get them into the narrow space?
"I felt like I was building the Pyramids," he says. "I'd fill a wheelbarrow with soil, walk up the ramps I had to construct. The wheelbarrow would be teetering; I could have been killed."
Now ask him about the 1,200-pound boulders.
Of course, you can't have a rain forest without fog. This one, a reverse osmosis system to keep the water pure, has 80 emitters hidden among the rocks. Fifteen pumps with four different filters distribute the 4,000 gallons of water for the freshwater tropical fish from Africa and South and Central America. The rummy nose tetras, with their little red noses, are fascinating to watch because they move together in schools.
The black tetras love to swim into the bubbles of the waterfall, only to get spit out in all directions from the force. Geibelt finds the behavior "inexplicably unfishlike. They really seem to like the sensation," he says.
With tourism down, Geibelt says this is a good time to offer something unique. One of those "value-added attractions" that will make people choose Heron House over other accommodations and allow him to say to guests:
"Did you hear the weather report? Fog on the north side."
Dale Koppel's last story for Travel was on Naples, Fla. She lives in Boca Raton.