THIS TOUR HAS CHANGED DUE TO THE BATSARA PROTECTED RESERVE BEING CLOSED TO VISITORS
The new tour does not include visit to the elm forest, it follows the perimeter of the reserve and climbs up to the Tbatana range and alpine pastures. The views of Khevsureti to the west and Tusheti to the north-east are magnificent, from where it is possible to see Golden Eagles and other wildlife, as well the chance to see shepherds making cheese from sheeps milk in traditional methods.
The original Eco Tour took visitors into one of the most unique natural landscapes in Georgia, the Batsara Strict Nature Reserve. It is the jewel of Pankisi Valley and Kakheti. At this time the Batsara Reserve is off-limits to visitors. Proposals to develop suitable infrastructure to allow visitors to access the reserve are being consider though may take a long time to achieve. From Nazy’s Guest House it takes about three to four hours by horse and on foot to get to the virgin elm forest. The reserve is home to one of the oldest preserved virgin elm forests in the world, some trees are older than 1000 years. To visit the elm forest you are required to follow strict rules and be accompanied by the ranger managing the protected area. There are natural springs in the reserve for water.
It is an energetic walk or horse ride for one day into the Batsara Protected Nature Reserve. The duration of this tour is about 10 hours (9.00am to 7.00pm). This is a moderate-strenuous graded walk. The tour provides excellent views of the forests, rivers, fauna and flora, alpine pastures and High Caucasus mountains. Maximum elevation 1900 metres. Suitable foot wear, clothing and daysack required. The cost for guide is 50 Lari per day. To hire one horse is 50 Lari per day. Packed lunch is 10 Lari each.
The route follows north from the guest house along the stoney track along the western bank of the Alazani River passing the old mill, stone tower house, blue foot bridge, and the outskirts of Birkiani and Dzibakhevi villages.
After a few kilometres you meet up with the Akhmeta-Batsara Road, head north along it until you cross a bridge then take a left turn onto the dirt track. This is the start of the Batsara ravine. The track climbs and winds into the forest and after a while you arrive at a rustic broken gate which marks the entrance to the Batsara Strict Nature Reserve. From Jokolo the journey takes about 1-1.5 hours by horse to the entrance gates, then a further 2-2.5 hours climb into the ravine to the elm forest.
The nature reserve has a remarkable diverity of fauna which is found in the densee yew and beech forests. The beautiful and rare animals that inhabit these forests can be seen only by moving quietly while walking to remaining static.
Brown bears, Roe deer, Chamois, Wild boar, Red fox, Badger, Wolf, Golden jackel, Caucasian squirrel, Wild cat and even Lynx can be found thriving here. Birds find an ideal haven for their habitat here including the Caucasian chiffchaff, raptors such as the Bearded vultures, Black vulture and Golden eagle. Three reptile species in the reserve out of fourteen are endemic in the reserve including the Caucasian lizard, Meadow lizard, Artvin lizard, Colchic toad, Green toad and Common Tree frog.
The Batsara-Babaneuri Strict Nature Reserve and Ilto Managed Reserve were established in 2003 by Georgian law under the “Establishing and Management of Tusheti, Batsara-Babaneuri, Lagodekhi and Vashlovani Protected Areas”.
Georgia is home to several Protected Areas, which receive protection because of their environmental, cultural or similar value. The oldest of these – now known as the Lagodekhi Nature Reserve – dates back to 1912, when Georgia was part of the Russian Empire.
The total area of Georgia’s protected territories is 511,123 hectares, which amounts to approximately 7% of the country’s territory. There are 14 Strict Nature Reserves, 9 National Parks, 17 Managed Nature Reserves, 14 Natural Monuments and 2 Protected Landscapes in Georgia. Strict nature reserves comprise 141,473 ha, while national parks cover 270,740 ha. The total number of visitors in 2011 exceeded 300,000.
Total area of the Batsara-Babaneuri Protected Areas is 10819.1 ha and consists of three units:
The Batsara Strict Nature Reserve is located in the Batsara ravine, the right tributary of the Alazani River, near the Pankisi gorge. The Babaneuri Strict Nature Reserve is in the eastern part of Akhmeta district and is 45 km away from Batsara Strict Nature Reserve. The eastern Caucasian foothills, where the Babaneuri Reserve extends, is located near the villages of Alvani, Babaneuri and Laliskuri.
The Ilto Managed Nature Reserve covers a part of the ravine of the Ilto River near Akhmeta. The territories of Batsara-Babaneuri and Ilto are built by the sediments of Jurassic and Cretaceous age, which are presented there by sandstones, shales, argillites and limestones. Among the sediments of Cretaceous age the dissected magmatic bodies or lenses are found there.
In the middle of the ravine of the Batsara River the yew (Taxus baccata) forest has been preserved – the relict of dendroflora of the Tertiary period. The area of the forest is almost 240 hectares. Such a large yew grove is nowhere in the world. Most of the trees are 500-1000 years old, and some even older.
Batsara yews are enlaced with lianas, the Pastuchov’s Ivy (Hereda pastuchowii) and climber (Smilax excelsa). In this part of the Strict Nature Reserve the untouched beech forest (Fagus orientalis) and alder forest (Alnus barbata) are also preserved. In the upper streams of the same Batsara River the marvellous groves of high-mountain Sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) can be found. In the Babaneuri part of the Reserve there is a grove of Caucasian Zelkova (Zelkova caprinifolia) – the Caucasian-Iranian endemic species, the relict of dendroflora of the Tertiary period, which occupies 750 ha.
The ravine of the Ilto River is notable with well preserved beech forests(Fagus orientalis). Together with the beech, the hornbeam (Carpinus caucasica), maple (Acer laetum), lime (Tilia cordata), Georgian oak (Quercus iberica) and other different trees participate in creation of the forest cover. Cornel, common nut-trees, red hawthorn and honeysuckle grow in the subforest.
It is worth noting the Caucasian chiffchaff (Phylloscopus lorenzii) – endemic to Caucasus, as well as the predators: Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), Black vulture (Aegypius monachus), goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), sparrow hawk (Accipiter nisus), Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus).
Among the small mammals are notable endemic species to Caucasus the Caucasian squirrel (Sciurus anomalous) and the Radde’s shrew (Sorex raddei). And among the medium and large mammals the following species can be found in the Ilto Managed Nature Reserve: Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), wild boar (Sus scrofa), brown bear (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus), lynx (Lynx lynx), jackal (Canis aureus), Red fox (Vulpes vulpes), badger (Meles meles), Stone marten (Martes foina), Pine marten (Martes martes), wild cat (Felis sylvestris), otter (Lutra lutra). Otter is very rarely seen.
The ornithofauna of the Protected Areas is rich in species. It counts about 60 species. There nest Wood-pigeon, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Raven, Goldfinch, several kinds of woodpeckers and many other species of small birds, which inhabit the Batsara-Babaneuri and Ilto Protected Areas.
Nazy's Guest House
Republic of Georgia