Butterfly splendor at El Valle

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“Butterflies are self-propelled flowers.” ―Robert A. Heinlein.

“Butterflies are self-propelled flowers.” ―Robert A. Heinlein.

El Valle is magic. This idyllic setting has become home to an array of attractions so numerous that a day-trip hardly grants enough time to fit much in. To get the most from your stay, go for quality over quantity.

The Butterfly Haven is one of El Valle’s newest attractions. It is owned and operated by Jon Owens, a U.S. native inspired in similar butterfly breeding projects in Costa Rica. Now in Panama for one and a half years, he has brought his vision here. Having opened just seven months ago, the Butterfly Haven is, as Jon puts it, “a perfect fit for the eco-tourism in El Valle.”

The property extends over about a half-acre. A five-minute walk makes it the closest attraction from the market –simply follow the blue butterfly signs. A bilingual guide who leads tours and a lab technician are employed as well.

The foundation of the project is the enclosed garden, an ample and airy structure that keeps the butterflies in and protected from predation. All of the plants are local, a mix of host and nectar plants with some ornamentals: verbena, passionflower, lantana, heliconias and cacao, among others.

Jon explains in detail: “A host plant is one a butterfly lays eggs on and which the larvae feed off of. Most butterflies only host on about three or four plants. It gets quite specific. This explains why butterfly populations are declining world-wide. As land is cleared for development, the creatures lose their food stocks. Agricultural chemicals are another problem.”

“We presently have 11 species of butterflies here, including blue morphos, the most beautiful butterfly of the Americas,” said Jon. Most abundant are the malachites, whose brilliant, green hue was named after the stone.

“The butterflies only live two to four weeks for the most part, so we constantly have to replenish them,” said Jon.

“Our mission is for people to have an experience of nature and to understand the importance of preserving it. We’re really strong in the area of education and we try to present everything in an interesting way.” The Butterfly Haven is currently the top, five-star rated attraction in El Valle on TripAdvisor. “It’s an immersion experience –with the butterflies all around you. If one lands on you, that’s great –I tell people it’s good luck.”

The Butterfly Haven is located at 14 Calle La Planta; El Valle, Coclé, and is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily except Tuesdays. They are closed for the month of October. Admission is:

$5.00 for foreigners

$3.00 for Panamanians

$1.50 Children 12 and Panamanian college students with ID

$1.00 School groups who provide at least a 24 hour notice

Free when children are totally in arms throughout tour

For more information, visit ButterflyHavenPanama.com, email butterflyhavenpanama.com or call 6062-3131.

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