Zak and I are both lucky when it comes to birthdays: my birthday almost always falls in the February half-term holiday and his will usually fall in the school Easter holidays. So we’ll always be off work and school for each other’s birthdays!
This year’s Easter break was particularly special as it was Zak’s first birthday. Can you believe it? He’s been around for one whole year – time is going far too quickly. His birthday fell on a Wednesday this year, so it was perfectly sandwiched between his two parties (the lucky birthday boy had one in England and one in Northern Ireland).
Now, Zak loves nature. Give the boy a tree to look at and he’ll be entertained for hours. The only thing that he loves more than trees is seeing an animal. Anyone that knows Laura and I will know that we are not really animal people, so I’m not sure where he gets this from! Anyway, when it was time to think of somewhere to take Attenborough Jr. on the actual day of his first birthday, we thought Butterfly World would be the ideal location.
Butterfly World is located in Stockton-on-Tees, not far from Middlesborough. We drove down for the afternoon and we were lucky with the weather – it was dry and sunny, but still a bit chilly.
I didn’t know what to expect at Butterfly World, apart from the fact that we’d see some butterflies. Really, I thought they’d be in glass boxes or something and we’d get to look at them, as you would in a museum. But this couldn’t have been further from the truth.
After parking in the free car park, we approached what looked like a giant greenhouse. I still had no idea of what to expect inside. We paid £4.25 each (Zak was free, but I don’t know at what age he has to start paying – I didn’t want to draw attention to his age when we weren’t charged for him!) and were directed towards a door that would lead us into the main room.
Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
Remember when I said it was still a bit chilly outside? Well, we were wrapped up in our coats and I was wearing my big winter boots. This isn’t exactly appropriate attire for Butterfly World. You see, the main room is set up with a tropical climate. That meant that coats were definitely not needed and it was very humid, as my glasses show!
Zak was in his element. Everywhere we looked there were butterflies flying freely. There were so many different varieties and there were so many colours. It was really difficult to take photographs of them because they moved so quickly.
And as you can imagine, nature lover Zak was in awe of the trees. We really need to take him to the rainforest one day.
We walked around for ages just looking at the butterflies flying past. Although we were allowed to take Zak’s pushchair into Butterfly World, I’m not sure I would do this if I went again with a baby. He wanted to be up and it was easier to show him the butterflies resting on leaves whilst being carried. As well as this, his pushchair took up a decent amount of the path, so people had to keep dodging us as we walked around.
I wan’t surprised to see so many butterflies at Butterfly World, but I was surprised that they had other animals. In a side room, they had a meerkat colony, as well as some other exotic animals.
We loved watching the meerkats! However, Zak preferred to watch from above and wasn’t so sure about being down on the same level as them!
Before leaving, something happened. I’m not sure how or when the transformation happened, but Laura and I became people that buy things in the gift shop. I don’t think I’ve ever made a gift shop purchase in my life, but is there some sort of parent guilt that makes you get something on the way out? Or was it just because it was Zak’s birthday? Either way, he got this cuddly lemur (he wasn’t fussed on the cuddly butterflies or meerkats!). As I could have predicted, he was really interested in it for about 5 minutes, and has barely looked at it since. But then again, that’s what always happens with gift shop purchases, isn’t it?
I can whole-heartedly recommend a visit to Butterfly World with a baby. Zak got so much out of our visit and we’re really looking forward to visiting again soon.