Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Garden in Flight

By Beth Green
Changi Butterfly Garden,
Photo by Beth Green

Downy wings fluttering, tiny legs trembling on neon tropical flowers: There’s something soothing about watching butterflies flit around.

And, traveler, where do you most need to feel calm?

Maybe in the middle of your next intercontinental trip.

Visit the butterfly garden at Changi International Airport in Singapore (airport code: SIN) to momentarily forget the stresses of air travel. Lost luggage, stiff-lipped security guards, and the ubiquitous crying baby three seats in front of you will all seem like part of a far-away world after spending time watching a garden in flight.

Located in Terminal Three, the Changi Butterfly Garden has almost 50 kinds of butterflies. The insects swoop, glide, and dart freely among the flowers and plants of this airport grotto. And, unlike most things associated with air travel these days, entrance to the garden doesn’t even cost one shiny Singapore dollar.
The garden from the upper level.

The garden is two-tiered, with a waterfall and a staircase connecting the levels. On the top, visitors get a bird’s-eye (or is it butterfly’s-eye?) view of the downstairs and a real feel for how amazingly many butterflies are loose in the garden. If you stand still enough, one of the thousand or so free-flying butterflies might perch on something of yours that’s brightly colored for a moment or two. Of course, that makes a long visit by butterfly standards, as most butterflies have a lifespan of less than two (human) weeks.

Butterfly lunch.
The bottom level of the garden is surrounded by greenery and tinted glass so that you feel completely immersed in a jungle. From the top of the stairs, however, you get a glimpse of the outside airstrip and airport workings—a truly a unique chance to contemplate the world of flight by comparing delicate butterflies and behemoth jetliners.

Downstairs, curious travelers can watch butterflies feeding on sticky sweet pineapple rounds, peek into hutches where pupae cocoon and morph, and read educational signboards about their fluttering friends.

Taking flight.
It’s also downstairs that you can see examples of jungle noir—carnivorous “monkey cups,” the dipper-shaped, insect-eating plants native to SE Asia. If it seems a bit “Little Shop of Horrors” to put these hungry flora in with the swirling cloud of resident butterflies, don’t think about the fact that in the wild some of these plants also consume vertebrates. 

The Butterfly Garden is one reason why Changi Airport is one of my favorite airports to route through. Other reasons include the airport’s orchid garden, koi pond, interactive art exhibits and entertainment deck—all free of charge to enter.

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