IN the middle of an industrial area lies a tropical butterfly centre that provides an oasis for nature lovers and an idyllic escape from the bustle of business. This is Butterflies for Africa - a butterfly farm at 37 Willowton Road, housing butterflies from around the world.Founded in 2001, owner Brett Cooper explained how Butterflies for Africa originated. “My father ran Natal Compounds in the industrial area and owned the land. There was a garden there with plants that attracted over 100 species of butterflies, which smell their food up to three kilometres away.” This spurred the idea for the family business which is the second butterfly farm to have opened in Africa.This tourist attraction, offering guided walks through the butterfly house, allows visitors to view butterflies, birds, fish, Cotton-top Tamarin monkeys and now also hedgehogs.“Hedgehogs were introduced last year after one of the employees rescued two that were attacked by dogs. We then got three more and there are close to 20 hedgehogs now,” Cooper said.Butterflies for Africa was approached to house Cotton-top Tamarin monkeys, an endangered species that live naturally only in Colombia, as the farm provides an ideal climate closest to that of the monkeys’ natural habitat. Visitors are able to tour the monkey enclosure at 11.30am and 1.30pm with a tour guide.“We do not allow visitors or staff to touch the monkeys - they will approach visitors if they want to,” Cooper said.Schools may enjoy educational and awe-inspiring outings to Butterflies for Africa.“The guide, Madodomzi Mbeni, recently took a group of preschool children through the live butterfly enclosure, the museum and display area after they had watched a short audio-visual show,” said Jeni Cramer, who works at Butterflies for Africa. “They enjoyed learning about the all the interesting animals, birds, insects and fish. The age group of children was from 18 months to preschool age and even the youngest had a special experience with the beautiful butterflies.” Butterflies for Africa serves as a valuable educational tool and means of conservation, while also allowing visitors a place to unwind. It boasts a butterfly-themed store packed with gift ideas and souvenirs, a garden, event catering and venue hire for functions, the Painted Lady Coffee Bar and the Blue Caterpillar Art Gallery.The gallery covers two floors of the Butterflies for Africa complex and exhibits and sells a range of artwork. “We also buy work by well-established South African artists. Contact us if you have a painting you’d like to sell,” said Cramer.Currently on exhibit is a selection of paintings by Louise Ghersie that Cramer describes as “emotive paintings of sometimes just everyday objects, or just a special moment in time”.“Her acrylic on canvas captures the colours and textures of her imagination and her range of work includes both portraits and her own ideas,” added Cramer. The work can also be viewed online at www.art sales.co.zaButterflies for Africa is open to the public and school and tour groups. Visit www.butterflies.co.za or call 033 387 1356 for inquiries.