Butterfly World is a hive of activity over weekends, which is only to be expected if you consider that it’s virtually designed with children in mind, or certainly the young at heart. But the surprise came, despite our having read up on Butterfly World before heading out, when we entered the covered garden (after muscling our way through the gift shop filled to the brim with butterfly memorabilia, sweets and such like) to discover a tropical paradise filled not only with butterflies but a whole heap of other wonderful animals too – like marmoset monkeys, incredible iguanas, other lizards, huge spiders (good thing that they’re in locked glass boxes), scorpions, snakes and a variety of very vocal birds!
The 1 000 square metre greenhouse – the largest butterfly park in South Africa – is a feast for sore eyes. In fact, the butterflies play second fiddle to all the other activity both at knee level (various fish ponds) and eye level (see previous para but add a wonderful selection of foliage, exotic plants and conveniently placed benches for tired moms) … But the butterflies we did see, considering that it was a winter’s day, and possibly due to the tropical conditions (be prepared to peel off the layers if you are not a fan of humidity!) were incredibly beautiful.
It’s just that, well, a butterfly is a butterfly, if you’re a toddler or a child. They’re okay to look at for five minutes or if one falls over dead and you can hold it in your hands for a while.
But you’d much rather squeal whilst a marmoset monkey rummages through your mother’s handbag looking for anything resembling food or make vomitting noises when you see the colour of the blue-tongued skink’s tongue (a short-legged Australian lizard ideal for gardens with an infestation of snails).
So whilst I as an adult was mesmerised by the incredible butterflies, and would have loved to stand and watch them gorge on fruit (at various intervals, ripe fruit lies on wooden perches to attract the butterflies, flown in as pupae every week from countries such as Costa Rica, the Philippines, Malaysia and China), my tugabout was having none of it.
He wanted the action and action was what he got. After working out that the suspended wooden blocks floating between the various rooms was not a weapon of destruction but a weight for the pulley on the swing door, he yanked me, somewhat to my relief given that it was cooler there, into the spider room, past a number of slumbering anacondas (did I mention that they’re also in glass cages?).
Any indigenous spiders, other than the baboon spider, which I have now learnt does not deserve its fearsome reputation as its bite has little to no effect, were sidelined by the enormous tarantulas lying virtually inactive in their respective boxes. There are snakes here too, some of which were out of their cages for people to hold.
But on, this time past someone with a green tree iguana (they grow up to 2 metres in length, but this one was nigh on a metre) perched on his shoulder for a photo moment to a grinding halt when we sighted ‘little koala bears, mommy!’
Marmosets describe little furry guys that do indeed look a little like koala bears, but with none of the jet-lag. These little chattering new world monkeys from South America move like lightening and entertain both themselves and those around them.
The reptile room was as much fun, with various iguanas, bearded dragons and blue-tongued skinks, but it was a little hot to hang around in the gardens, no matter how beautiful, for too long.
The outdoor garden was lovely to sit in on a sunny afternoon and there is a large aviary with a collection of ducks, chickens, goats, tortoises and the like for children to interact with. And, if you could face the incredibly busy restaurant and gift shop, then I believe light meals are on the menu.
09H00 – 17H00, Monday to Sunday. Open all public holidays except 25 December.
For more ideas on what to do with kids in the Cape see “Things to Do with Kids in Cape Town“.