They flutter through the giant mirrors to the awe of the visitors who flock to the house every day just to catch a glimpse of the spellbinding beauty. For the hundreds of tropical butterflies that form a spectacular display of colors in the Mombasa Butterfly House, it’s just normal life. Yet millions have visited the tourist attraction in Kenya’s coastal town of Mombasa, to experience what has been billed as one of the most enthralling live butterfly exhibits in Africa.
The Butterfly House purchases butterfly pupae from communities near some of the most iconic and threatened forests in the coastal region. The communities have traditionally felled trees as sources of income until a butterfly-raising initiative was introduced some 15 years ago, giving them an alternative money-making venture while easing pressure on the forests. At the moment about 700 farmers earn their income from selling the pupae to the Butterfly House. They source the butterflies from the forests, rear them, breed them and tend to the pupae before selling them to the Butterfly House.
Some of the pupae are also exported to different destinations in Europe and North America. While some are sold to live butterfly exhibits, others find their way to private garden farms while fashion designers use them to inspire new clothing designs. They have also been used in weddings in Spain and the Netherlands, where they are released when the bride and groom leave the ceremony in a display of colors that not even flowers can match.
The house sits next to Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese in the 1590s to protect the coastal town from attack, and is an architectural masterpiece, comprising a flight cage and a conservation exhibition. Its lush greenery and a wide array of flowers combine to display the rich biodiversity that the Kenyan coast has to offer.
On average, the exhibit houses more than 600 butterflies. Just a few of the butterflies in the house include the Flying Handkerchief, Tanzanian Diadem, Gold Banded Forester and Forest Mother-of-Pearl. The storyboards give visitors a chance to learn about the butterflies’ lifecycle, their importance and the basics of breeding. The butterfly fun facts also offer a lively experience in understanding the reproductive cycle of the butterflies.
A garden amphitheater inside the Butterfly House provides the perfect spot for photo shoots, seminars and picnics. This is complemented by an open view of the resplendent Indian Ocean from all angles of the garden.
To further bolster its relationship with the local community, the Butterfly House has a gift shop that stocks a wide array of items produced by the community, including high-quality honey. ■
For more information visit: Mombasa Butterfly House.