Butterfly conservation is important in South Africa. The mini-ecosystem of misty waterfalls and lush plants found in local butterfly houses is not only a charming setting for butterflies, but demonstrates the important ecological role butterflies play in pollinating plants and keeping the ecosystem balanced.

Did you know?

A butterfly called the Table Mountain beauty is the only known pollinator of the 'Pride of Table Mountain' orchid (Disa uniflora).

South Africa ’s temperate climate makes it an ideal location to host butterfly exhibits, also known as butterfly houses.

Designed to simulate a tropical rainforest environment, butterfly houses are more than just pretty playgrounds for these dazzlingly colourful, fragile creatures. Besides allowing people to enjoy a fantasy-like experience surrounded by fluttering butterflies, they play a bigger role in butterfly conservation, by educating the public on their uniqueness and importance.

South Africa has 671 known species of butterfly, of which the more common are the painted lady (with black and orange wings), the citrus swallowtail (black and cream wings and circular patterns resembling two eyes) and the African monarch (wings with a black and white border infused with two-tone orange).

Butterflies in South Africa have life cycles that are closely linked with specific plant and ant species, and many only occur in very small, confined areas. South Africa’s butterflies are also vulnerable. Two, possibly even three, species have become extinct, and a further 38 species are listed in the Red Data List, meaning they are threatened with extinction in the near future.

Butterfly education is a key part of the butterfly house experience, providing nature lovers with ideal surroundings in which to identify, admire and learn more about both exotic and indigenous butterflies. During warmer weather, the butterflies are more active, but opportunities for up-close sightings improve when conditions are cooler.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Lepidopterists' Society of Africa
Web: www.lepsoc.org.za

How to get here

There are numerous butterfly houses throughout South Africa. Contact Conservation of Butterflies in South Africa (CBSA) for more information.

Best time to visit

Butterflies are active throughout the year but are best viewed up close in cooler weather, in autumn and winter.

What will it cost

Entrance fees to the various butterfly worlds are minimal.

What to pack

Always pack a hat and plenty of sunscreen, no matter the season. And don't forget the camera – butterflies are a photogenic lot.

Best buys

Make a purchase at the butterfly-inspired gift shops at some butterfly houses. Proceeds will go toward conserving these fragile creatures.