The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda is the country’s biggest butterfly farm and well worth a visit if you want to find out more about North Queensland’s butterflies.
One of the most spectacular butterflies in this region is the magnificent Ulysses butterfly, which lives a short but very energetic life. Against the lush green foliage of the tropical rainforest, its electric blue wings are a magical sight.
The Ulysses is so admired that it has actually become synonymous with the rainforest but there are many other colourful species in North Queensland, including the equally impressive Cairns Birdwing, a huge black, green and yellow butterfly.
Of the 20,000 species of butterflies in the world, 382 of them live in Australia.
And, the vast majority of these live in tropical Far North Queensland.
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The Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary houses Australia’s largest walk-through aviary. As you step inside you are immediately surrounded by butterflies and moths and there are usually around 1500 in there at any one time.
If you go wearing brightly coloured clothes there’s also a pretty good chance they will land on you.
The aviary is deliberately large, and not just for the enjoyment of visitors.
The Ulysses needs to be constantly on the move (otherwise it falls prey to predators in the wild) and it becomes stressed and dies if it is confined small spaces.
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The thing that makes the Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary especially interesting is that you can now go behind the scenes where the staff are busy feeding and rearing new ‘stock’ for the aviary.
This is the only butterfly sanctuary in the world that is totally self-sustaining. They breed 100% of the butterflies you see in the aviary and none are taken from the wild. Pretty impressive when you consider how many they need.
In order to make this happen they raise over 23,000 caterpillars to the pupa stage each year. Every day staff cut, wash and change food plants for about 28,000 caterpillars. A lot of care is taken to breed these caterpillars into butterflies.
A quick tour around the back of aviary to see what goes on behind the scenes makes you realise that raising butterflies is a whole industry in itself.
A trip to the Butterfly Sanctuary only takes about 30-45 minutes so it’s easy to fit into a day trip to Kuranda and very reasonably priced. It is one of those attractions that will surprise and amaze you, even if butterflies aren’t normally your thing.
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- The Ulysses lives for 2-3 weeks, other less active butterflies may survive for a few months.
- Most butterflies fly by day, and almost all moths are nocturnal.
- The Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary grows its own food plants (2 acres are planted out to feed the caterpillars).
- The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is located on Rob Veivers Drive in Kuranda.
- Opening hours: 9.45am-4pm daily with guided tours starting from 10am.