Advertised as ‘the tropical world’s first live butterfly and insect sanctuary’, Penang Butterfly Farm is a great place to bring the kids and is also a good rainy afternoon-filler.
For travellers with a particular penchant for Papilionoidea – that is, butterflies — the conservation centre offers the chance to see a huge number of these winged wonders. At any one time, up to 4,000 flit and flutter their way around a specially designed and landscaped enclosure, which includes water features, grottoes, bridges and a whole load of butterfly-friendly foliage.
In peninsular Malaysia alone there are more than 1,000 recorded butterfly species and many can be seen here at the sanctuary. The variety of colours, patterns and sizes of wings is really quite impressive and the enclosure is also home to some very rare and exotic specimens, including the Indian Leaf butterfly, numerous varieties of beautiful Swallowtails and the elusive Birdwing.
This is very much a place where you can get up close to nature, or rather, where it can get up close to you. Don’t be surprised if butterflies choose you, rather than the hundreds of nearby plants, as a perch. They seem to be unusually attracted to their human visitors, especially those wearing red. As you walk around the main enclosure, you will also see various other animals, including millipedes (don’t worry, they are enclosed in a tank), snapping turtles, iguanas and ducks.
The Butterfly Farm is so named because it also functions as a breeding and research centre, and has the admirable ecologically-friendly goals of conserving species of butterfly and educating the public. Around the main enclosure are lots of information boards to give visitors a clearer idea about what they are looking at and how the centre is supporting these worthy ventures.
After you have seen the butterflies flying free, there is a short indoor exhibition which you must walk through to reach the exit. This is reasonably interesting and includes more information on the life cycle of the butterfly, an insect photography exhibition, animated short films featuring insects, and tanks of snakes, frogs, lizards and all manner of creepy crawlies. The glass bridge which takes you over a pit swarming with scorpions is a particular delight.
There are also hundreds of dead, mounted butterflies, which feels a bit macabre after having seen their live descendants flying around outside. However, as the boards explain, all the exhibits died naturally and you can even contribute to future butterfly research and conservation by purchasing your very own dead specimen in the shop.
Situated in Teluk Bahang, about 25 kilometres outside Georgetown in the northwest corner of Penang, entrance is 27 ringgit for adults and 15 ringgit for children. Buses 101 and 102 ply the route between Georgetown and Teluk Bahang every half hour (a single journey costs 4 ringgit).
If you want to make a day out of Georgetown, why not visit the nearby Escape theme park for an afternoon of active fun, or else stop off in Batu Ferringhi on the way back for beaches, sunbathing and watersports.