Tropical North Queensland is no stranger to extremes. It’s home to the Daintree Rainforest, which is the oldest living rainforest in the world and 80 million years senior to the Amazon. The region’s capital, Cairns, is the most popular base for visiting the Great Barrier Reef, which is the world’s biggest living structure. Cape Tribulation is the only place in the world where two UNESCO World Heritage sites collide, where the Daintree Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. It makes sense that this larger-than-life slice of Queensland is also home to the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, which is the biggest butterfly sanctuary in the world.
The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is up in the mountains outside Cairns, in the historic rainforest village of Kuranda. The spectacular Kuranda Skyrail and Scenic Railway journeys to and from Kuranda make it a worthwhile day trip from Cairns, even if you’re not mad for butterflies.
I was travelling around Tropical North Queensland and the Whitsundays with my best friend Chloe. The day trip up to the mountains was a nice way to mix up a week of beach hopping and swimming.
The beautiful glasshouse is full of tropical rainforest plants and hundreds of butterflies, from tiny black and white ones, to inquisitive purple ones and the elusive Ulysses butterfly. The famed Ulysses was a flash of electric blue as it fluttered around the sanctuary, stopping to rest on a plant only when you’d lowered your camera. The best I could capture was a blur of blue. Fortunately, some of the other butterflies were much more obliging.
Many landed on us and we found they took a liking to bright colours – because they resemble flowers. Chloe’s bright purple iPhone case made a popular landing spot, as did her red camera and our colourful shorts.
There’s a small collection of preserved butterflies in the back room as you leave, which is really interesting. One that caught my eye was the iridescent, pearly blue-lilac butterfly as big as my hand. With it’s luminous wings, you could understand why ancient cultures could have believed in fairies – what else could explain such a magical looking creature?
If it wasn’t so humid in the sanctuary, we could have stayed in there all day. We quickly drained our water bottles and spent the last fifteen minutes sitting on a small, shaded bench. Just as we packed up our cameras to leave, a large Ulysses butterfly landed on my décolletage. I froze while Chloe scrambled for her camera. Of course, just as she focused her camera, it flew away.
Next time, I’m wearing head to toe florals.