The north-eastern corner of the Angkor Archaeological Park may look quiet from a quick glance at the map, but there is actually enough here to fill at least two days, or more, of active and varied exploration. From the peerless beauty of Banteay Srey temple, to the waterfalls, hiking trails and ancient mysteries of Phnom Khulen, the birthplace of the Khmer Empire, and Kbal Spean, the chance to see and appreciate Cambodia’s glorious wildlife and the important work being done to conserve it at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity, and the incredibly important work carried out and supported by the Landmine Museum to the south of Banteay Srey. But there is also another attraction, much smaller in scale, but no less full of magic and beauty.
The Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre was established in 2008 with the aim of supporting local livelihoods and conserving forests with high biodiversity. Phnom Kulen was the subject of a biodiversity study in 2013, which found the area was home to an extraordinary range of bat and snake species, as well as 24 different mammals including leopard cats, giant black squirrels, Bengal slow lorises, pileated gibbons and Indochinese silver langurs. It, and the area around it, is also home to a wide range of butterfly species, the farming of which is helping local farmers and their families earn sustainable livelihoods.
The Centre itself is a small, netted enclosure where visitors can enjoy a living exhibition of around 35 different butterfly species all of which are native to Cambodia. No one yet knows the full range of Cambodia’s butterfly and moth species in Cambodia or their populations.
Here, the visitor can wander the walkways, flanked by butterfly-friendly plants and flowers, as hundreds of colourful beings dance an agitated ballet around their heads. At the centre of the enclosure, you’ll find the nurseries where caterpillars are fed, and the pupae hang in seemingly suspended animation awaiting the day when one of nature’s greatest beauties will break its way out before spreading its wings and taking flight. This is where you’ll discover the real magic of butterflies, because the process is even more astounding than you can imagine, though we think we’ll leave you in suspense on that one because it’s even more impressive when you can see the results painting rainbows before your eyes.
The Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre is open, and we cannot recommend a visit more highly. For more information, see: www.angkorbutterfly.com