One of My Favourite Places in the World

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There is a hidden gem about a twenty minute drive from my home. It’s the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory, and I love it to bits. I missed it so much during the COVID-19 lockdown. But now it is open to the public again–hooray!–with timed tickets and mandatory masks. The kids are away at the cottage today so I decided to go by myself and take my time. A rare indulgence.

(Whenever I bring my kids, my 10-year-old son gets bored after five minutes and my 7-year-old daughter is afraid of butterflies. She tries her very hardest to be brave. But with those two factors combined, it makes for short visits. Too short for my liking!)

So this morning I bought my ticket bright and early so I could visit as soon as it opened. I donned my special butterfly mask (thank you to my sister- and mother-in-law for making it for me!), and I was all set to go.

Me being a colossal nerd with my butterfly mask.
I made it!

The outdoor sign says it is still booking weddings. Funny enough, as soon as I pulled into a parking spot I saw a bride and groom leaving the conservatory looking so lovely. I called, “You look beautiful!” and they managed to hear me despite me being muffled by my mask. Seeing them as soon as I arrived made me think that this was going to be a good visit. (I didn’t take a picture of them. I thought that would be weird.)

Once inside I bypassed all the displays and headed straight to see the real, live butterflies. And oh man, they did not disappoint! They were flittering and fluttering everywhere, occasionally landing for a photo op.

Hello! You are beautiful.
Hanging out together.
Look at my proboscis (tongue) rolled up in a circle.
So bright and orangey!

There were a lot of butterflies chowing down on rotten fruit and syrup-soaked sponges.

A Blue Morpho and friends enjoying bananas and oranges.
Mmmm, rotten banana…
I like to show off while I eat.
Mmmm, love me a sponge soaked in sugary water!

However, the first sign that this was an out-of-the-ordinary visit was seeing an Atlas moth perched on a leaf. Atlas moths are one of the largest moths in the world, and they are apparently quite shy. But this one was out in the open, soaking up the rays. I had never seen one before. Absolutely gorgeous.

An atlas moth. It was way bigger than my hand.

Next stop was the butterfly nursery, where the chrysalises hang and new butterflies are born. After emerging, the butterflies hang out a while to let their wings dry out and to pump fluid through their wings to make them rigid.

Brand new butterflies!

The second sign this was a special visit: not one, but three new Atlas moths emerged!

Welcome to the world!

Close to the nursery was another feeding station where a bunch of Blue Morpho butterflies were fluttering about. Sign number three: one landed on me! A staff member who happened to pass by said that after feeding on fermented fruit, the butterflies are a little drunk and they fly around rather erratically, and tend to land on people.

Hello, you sweet little drunkard, you!

In behind the nursery was a staff workstation, and sign number four was that I saw an employee trying to give the resident parrot, Cheecho, a bath! Unfortunately, Cheecho was having none of it.

Cheecho did NOT want to have a bath. He stayed perched on the plastic container that the staff member is holding.
Cheecho, after refusing a bath, looking rather pleased with himself.

There are other birds at the conservatory…

Snack time!
Well aren’t you the little rainbow.

…as well as a turtle.

Peekaboo!

All of the tropical flowers are quite lovely, too.

I think this is a Frangipani…

It pays to keep your eyes wide open and look in inconspicuous spots. This little guy was hanging out under a leaf. Look at how different its wings are on the top and underneath.

Hello! I almost didn’t see you there.

And finally, to top it all off, a Muppet Tree!

This isn’t actually called a Muppet Tree. I have no idea what it is. But it’s pretty darn cool.

But wait! The final sign that it was a special trip was that after I left the butterflies and shut the door behind me, I saw a big Blue Morpho butterfly that had escaped. It was bumping up against a window. Bump, bump, bump. The poor thing. I reached up and caught its wings in between two of my fingers (I saw a staff member do this to an escapee butterfly on a previous trip.) I opened the doors and released it back inside, where it flew off as though nothing happened. Phew!

Gotcha! And now I’ll save ya. The escaped butterfly in mid-flutter.

That was quite an action-packed visit. Well, as far as butterflies go. See you again soon, my lovelies!