Thursday, July 20, 2017

#19 Visit A Butterfly Sanctuary

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Blue Clipper Butterfly
And butterflies are free to fly. Fly away, bye bye.

The butterfly is a very symbolic creature to me for many reasons.

Butterflies remind me that beauty can be born from even the ugliest of circumstances.
Butterflies remind me that at any moment, I can spread my wings and fly away from anything.
Butterflies remind me that I have free will.
Butterflies remind me not to apologize for my free spirited and gypsy ways.
Butterflies remind me that I do not have to compete with anyone.

My first tattoo was of a butterfly. For the first time in a long time, I was back in the driver's seat of my life. I was ready to spread my wings and fly but was also equally terrified to do so. So.... I got a tattoo. And my tattoo is so much more than a cliche butterfly. My tattoo has a story behind it. But rather than get into the whole story, just read the above list again. The permanent ink on my back reminds me everyday of all the amazing things I have been able to accomplish when I set my mind to it. My butterfly reminds me that the only thing holding me back, is me. I control my wings. No one else.

So yes, butterflies mean a lot to me. I love observing these delicate yet powerful creatures. It's not easy breaking out of a cocoon. It takes real strength and determination to free yourself from a self created cocoon, leaving the shell behind as you bravely take flight into the light. You have to believe in all the possibilities yet to be experienced in the great big world outside of your little cocoon. I am pretty sure the butterflies do not delve as deep into their behaviors as I do. They just live. They just soar. They just inspire.

Pretty! Not sure what it's name is. 

I have always wanted to experience butterflies flying all around me. It seemed so magical to me. These enchanting creatures with their free spirited ways and sprite like souls had an aura and energy nothing short of spellbinding. I wanted to share in that on a grand scale. Some of my facebook peeps have visited butterfly gardens and such. Their words and their pictures were very inspiring to me. I decided to add this to my bucket list. It was definitely something I would not mind experiencing at least once in my lifetime. I mean who wouldn't want a bunch of exotic colorful fairies flying around their head?

I had been researching the Keys for years but it wasn't until last year that I came upon a Butterfly and Nature Conservatory located in Key West. It's been there for years but somehow I managed to miss it. I decided if I ever had the chance to visit Key West, this was going to be a must do attraction for me. And when my Florida Keys Road Trip became a reality, I think I was more excited to visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory than any other place.

When we entered the building, I became entranced by all the beautiful butterfly wind chimes, sculptures and stained glass in the gift shop. I was definitely going to take some time after the exhibit to admire such stunning decor. We were welcomed by a lovely lady whom explained the rules we were to follow once we entered the sanctuary. No texting or talking on self phones. Phones could be used for pictures but they would prefer people not be talking on their phones in the sanctuary.

I loved that rule. They wanted you to pay attention to the beauty and not interfere with other guests or the creatures all around you. To this day, I will never find blabbering at max volume on a phone in a public place, especially one where other people have paid money to experience, be it a venue, a restaurant, a movie, an attraction, etc. socially acceptable. I find it unbelievably rude and disrespectful. If people want to spend their entire time at a place texting, have at it. It's your money but at least it is a quiet activity unless you have the annoying message alert tone on. Then it is just as annoying. Sorry, just had to vent.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Back to the rules. We were cautioned to walk slowly through the exhibit as butterflies, little birds and turtles would be on the ground. They did not want anyone to accidentally step on any of these sweet, little creatures. We were not to touch any of the creatures. If a butterfly landed on you, that was okay. They just did not want us to to touch them as they are so delicate. Finally, when leaving the sanctuary, we were to check everyone in our party for any hitchhiking butterflies that could have possibly landed on us.

Good rules. Understandable rules. We were good to go. We entered the education center and looked around a little bit. There was all sorts of information on butterflies. Not gonna lie, we maybe spent a minute in there. I could not wait to get into the room with the butterflies. I know my daughter could not wait either. So, we walked over to the first set of metal doors that led to the butterfly room. Through those doors there was a small corridor then another set of metal doors.

I almost peed myself when I looked through the two little glass windows on the doors. Tons of butterflies were flying around the room. "OMG Look at them!" I exclaimed. Remember the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where they open the big door and walk into the candy jungle? Well that was totally me when we opened the door into the butterfly sanctuary. I was stunned with amazement. My eyes were wide and I probably said "Wow", "Oh My God" and "Look at them all." about a gazillion times. Pretty sure my son rolled his eyes cuz I was gushing over this place. ( For the record, no part of this exhibit was edible by any means.)

It was not a huge sanctuary but it was a a gorgeous sanctuary. The room felt like that of a rainforest. The foliage was lush and exotic, dressed in shades of pinks, purples and greens. Tropical flowers dotted the landscape and the sound of water streaming from the beautiful little brooks and ponds was very soothing and calming. Birds were chirping and cooing melodically with the exception of one bird. This bird was really, really loud. He was squawking non stop but it was hilarious. It sounded like a dysfunctional car horn, honking repeatedly. It sounded like Hazleton on a Friday or Saturday night to be honest.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
So lush and tropical!

Slowly, we walked the first path admiring the numerous varieties of butterflies fluttering all around us. The Owl Butterflies with their two toned wings were extraordinary. A cobalt blue patterned hue covered the backside of the insects while a fawn brown hue dotted with big spots that look very much like the eyes of an owl appeared on the frontal part of their wings. The Owl Butterflies were massive and plentiful. They would hover down very close to you, then fly away quickly.

Little black butterflies with yellow stripes were perched upon some of the stunning flowers. I named those butterflies Steelers butterflies because why wouldn't I? Bright orange butterflies mingled on berry bushes. We looked to the ground and saw a pair of adorable little egg shaped birds waddling along the brick, not at all phased by the foot traffic on the paths. They were so funny. We kept laughing as we watched them scurry up and down the edges of the paths. We came to find these little cuties are actually Chinese quail birds. There were grey quails and black and white quails. They were on a mission too.  I have no idea what it was but they were making me dizzy with all their zipping around.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Steelers Butterfly

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Julia Butterly

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
So Pretty

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Chinese Quails. Too cute!!

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Fluffing his feathers. 

We turned the corner of the path and began slowly making our way down, discovering more and more butterfly variations with each step. Some of them had these elaborate, tapestry like wings. Some reminded me of peacock feathers. My son was bending down by the railing along the brook checking out a butterfly when all of a sudden I noticed a little pink head bobbing over the railing directly in front of my son. "What is that?" I wondered, moving in for a closer look.

"OMG It's a flamingo!" I exclaimed. My son and I both became entranced by this bright pink bird whom was contently licking something off the railing. Perhaps it was nectar. I have no idea. All I knew was this bird was really enjoying whatever substance was on the railing and was not at all intimidated by the close proximity of my son and me. I guess some of us are window lickers and some of us are railing lickers? Doesn't matter. We are special in our own way.

What is that??
Anyways, once she was done licking the railing, she looked up at us, craning her head a little higher, then turned and walked away. I looked to the plaque by the brook. There were two flamingos in here. Rhett and Scarlett were their names. There was also another sign explaining that it was mating season and the reason Rhett was being so loud was because he was trying to get Scarlett's attention. Obviously we just met the mild mannered, rail licking Scarlett.

We walked past some bamboo trees and Rhett came into view. He was pacing back and forth, honking and squawking like crazy. It was hilarious. I kind of felt bad for the poor guy. All that noise, all that effort was falling on deaf ears. Scarlett wanted nothing to do with him. She would walk over near him every now and again, but then she would be like, hell no. Of course I do not speak flamingo so god only knows what he was saying to her.

For all I knew, he could have been saying things like "I wanna tap that." or "Get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich." or "I'm different from all the other guys." Who knows? Only Scarlett and Rhett know for sure. What happens in the sanctuary stays in the sanctuary. It was certainly entertaining though. I snapped a few more pictures of these pink, quirky creatures then turned my attention back to the butterflies.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
The lovers

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Rhett was honking like a crazy man!

Rhett taking a breather to chew some bamboo.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Rhett notices Scarlett. Damn!!!! Woman, you fine!

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Scarlett is like ummm....I don't think so. 

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Scarlett would much rather chill in the pond.....alone!

There were little feeders set up all around the sanctuary with banana and mango slices for the butterflies to enjoy. In fact one feeder looked like a butterfly BBQ because there were about 5 or 6 of them congregated on a plate of oranges, mangos and bananas. They looked hammered. They were just lying on the fruit slices all drunk from their sugar high. I sat on a butterfly shaped bench and watched that plate for about five minutes. Not one butterfly moved. One looked like it was about to fall over but he did not. That is talent right there.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Happy Hour on the fruit dish! 

It kind of reminded me of last call at the Roadhouse on a Friday night back in the day with my peeps. Good times man. Good times. Anyways, we spent a good hour in that room trying to see as many butterflies, birds, plants and other creatures as possible. Unfortunately the turtles were hiding that day. However, there is a little lab located near the exit of the conservatory where we were able to watch a butterfly emerge from it's cocoon. That was pretty neat.

They had all the cocoons labeled by butterfly type. Some were just teeny tiny little cocoons. Some were very colorful cocoons. There were also cocoons that looked like little lumps of the shiniest sterling silver I had ever seen. There were a few emerged butterflies hanging on the windows in the cocoon lab. They were probably saying " Get me out of here mister." I am sure in due time they will be released into the wild of the conservatory where they can go partake in the drunken shenanigans of the other butterflies passed out on the fruit plates. Don't grow up too quick butterflies.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Let me out!!

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Big Beautiful Atlas Moth

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Tailed Jay. Gorgeous lime green and black.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Gossiping in the garden. 

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Let's get this party started!!! 

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Did not see any turtles but they are in there.
In closing I will say this was definitely the experience of a lifetime. I was not expecting to see as many butterflies as I did. Like I said before, they were everywhere. As for this conservatory, hands down they are an amazing facility. They went out of their way to recreate an exotic scene straight from the Amazon Rainforest not for the guests to enjoy but for the plants and creatures living in this environment to flourish and thrive.

The fact that they allow the public to get a glimpse of this incredible place is just an added bonus. This was money well spent. For less that $33, because we had a $2 off per person coupon, my family and I got to travel to the rainforest without having to get immunizations nor worry about scary snakes or other intimidating critters. Every single creature and plant in this facility is well loved and well taken care of. There is no doubt in my mind. There is a reason The Key West Butterfly and Conservatory is ranked as the #1 thing to do in Key West on Trip Advisor. If you have a chance to visit Key West, this is a must!

Check it out here 🦋!

The Florida Keys Chronicles- My Adventures


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