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Butterfly World, Coconut Creek, Fort Lauderdale
BUTTERFLY WORLD, COCONUT CREEK
If, like me, you are fascinated by beautiful butterflies, then you won’t want to miss a trip to Butterfly World, just 10 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, and north of Miami, on the East coast.
Whilst having taken parties of school children in the UK to visit a butterfly farm, which was small, hot and humid, and just one large greenhouse, this Butterfly Farm bears no comparison. The site covers 2.8 acres, and its Tropical Rainforest Aviary is absolutely huge. This enormous 8,000 sq. ft. screened construction encloses 240,000 cubic ft of space, allowing over 80 species of butterflies to fly free inside, in an open-air environment.
It is a far cry from the small and cramped butterfly farm we visited in the UK, and soars up to 30 feet in height. Inside there is everything to make the over 5,000 butterflies feel at home. There are flowers and trees, tropical plants, a waterfall, a cave, and everywhere a cooling mist to keep up the necessary humidity.
Butterfly World was a joint project, started in 1988 by an American, Ronald Boender, and an Englishman, Clive P. Farrell. They leased the land and spent $1.2 million dollars making it into a unique scientific and educational facility. It is visited by tens of thousands of school children every year. Children will love being able to walk through the fragrant blossoms, trees and vines, just as if they were in a real rainforest, whilst getting close to the colourful and exotic butterflies flying, feeding or just resting on the foliage. They can even feed the fish.
The colours of the butterflies are truly stunning – vivid azure blue, dazzling turquoise, yellow and pink, like a giant artist’s palette. Then there are those that are cleverly camouflaged, like the Owl butterflies, one of the Amazon’s largest species. The large eye spots on their wings are there to scare away predators, or to re-direct them away from their bodies. The Blue Clipper has white wing patches which give the illusion of the billowing sails of the clipper ships. But if you want to see a truly enormous moth, then look out for the Giant Atlas Moth, which has a wing span of over 8 inches, and is really gigantic. Each one is fascinating and beautiful. You might be lucky enough to see a butterfly feeding, uncurling its delicate proboscis and dipping it into the nectar, found deep inside the blooms.
In the breeding labs you can view many species of butterfly eggs and caterpillars, as well as chrysalides which are waiting for the butterflies to emerge. What better way to show the children what metamorphosis is all about – and they will love learning a new word, too! The Museum and Insectarium has mounted exhibits of exotic butterflies and moths as well as unusual insects, and is worth visiting it you have time.
Outside there are many gorgeous gardens, including the English Rose Garden, the Lakeside Garden walk and the Secret Garden, which holds one of the largest collections of flowering Passion Vines in the world. As you look up through the vine covered canopy you can see the wonderful hanging bunches of lavender flowers which belong to the Sky Vine. The butterflies love to feed on the giant Dutchman’s Pipe blooms, too. Of course, these gardens are home to hundreds of native Florida species which fly freely. They feed on the nectar and caterpillars which these fabulous gardens supply in abundance.
A walk across the Tinlandia Suspension Bridge takes you to the Hummingbird Aviary. This bridge, which is a copy of one found in the rainforests of Ecuador, really does rock and swing – but the children will enjoy it! Called the ‘Jewels of the Sky’ aviary, it is a paradise for these tiny, delicate creatures, whose wings flap so fast that the human eye cannot see them. They can fly up, down, forward, backward and sideways, and they can even stop in mid-air. Watch them as they appear to hang in space as they feed on the nectar. Their wings make a kind of whirring sound when in flight, and they can fly up to 60 miles an hour – an amazing feat for a bird so small and delicate- looking. The hummingbird can consume up to 50% of their body weight in sugar from the nectar solution each day. The Aviary houses eight different species, making it the largest live collection in the world.
Another interesting aviary is ‘The Lorikeet Encounter.’ These birds love people, so you can have your photo taken holding one, and you can even feed them by hand. Their tongue is like a bristle brush, which it uses to suck up the sweet nectar – they do not eat seeds. They are often called the ‘clowns of the bird world.’ With their rainbow colours, their shrill shrieking calls and their ability to hang upside down, they are fascinating to watch.
It is a good idea to arrive early, as the butterflies are at their best early in the day. You can find Butterfly World at 3600 Sample Rd, Coconut Creek, on the Tradewinds Estate, just
¼ mile west of the Florida Turnpike.
It is open daily from 9.00 am – 5.00 pm except on Sundays, when it is open from 1.00 pm – 5.00pm.
Admission is $17.95 per adult, and $12.95 per child
27th July 2005
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