Today we drove to Valle de Bravo, a small, lakeside pueblo magico 100 miles west of Mexico City. After a pleasant lunch with our new friends Aiko & Axel and their two daughters, we walked up cobbled streets to the picturesque town square, but not for long.
The real reason we were in this neck of the woods was literally the woods. Half an hour east of the town is the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Which sounds a bit quaint, perhaps even dull… but hold onto your hats. Here is home to millions of them (some estimates say around a billion).
In the so-called winter they migrate here from eastern USA and Canada. That's around 2,000 miles - tough for a bird, but for a butterfly!?
But here's the weird thing. They don't all migrate. Only the 4th generation does. These Monarchs live 6-8 months, arriving in Mexico in late October and returning to Texas in early March. The next three generations live for only about 6 weeks each time and migrate relatively short distances. Each year (different generation), they return to the same wintering sites and even to the same tree as their ancestors. No-one knows how they do it.
On the way to the sanctuary we drove through a swarm (ok, correct proper noun is a kaleidoscope) of them, slowing down traffic. But the main habitat is up in the pine forests (a particular type of fir tree, the Oyamel). And to get there we rode horseback, dismounting half an hour later and walking the last few hundred yards. And there they were: millions of them, filling the air and covering the trees It was difficult to really capture them on camera, especially against the foliage, so check out this 2-minute video.