Ajameti Managed Nature Reserve
Ajameti Managed Reserve is situated in the districts of Baghdati and Zestaponi municipalities, at a distance of 230 km from Tbilisi and 15 km from Kutaisi. The Botanical Reserve was established at the ground level of Ajameti forest massif, which became a strict nature reserve in 1946, integrating two protected areas: Azameti Mukhnari (3742 ha)-in the area of Rioni River and Vartsikhe massive (1106 ha)-on the left side of Khanistskali.
The reserve area is characterized by a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Oak forests cover-4723 hectares, hornbeam forests-93 hectares, oriental hornbeam Carpinus Orientalis-23 hectares. Dendroflora is presented by a variety of 60 species: sweetbrier, medlar, rhododendron, and common hawthorn Crataegus monogyna.
Several species are on the Red List of Georgia: Georgian hazelnut (Corylus colchica), Imeretian oak (Quercus robur subsp. imeretina), Pastukhov's ivy (Hedera pastuchovii), Zelkova or caucasian elm (Zelcova carpinifolia), wych elm, wingnuts and others.
A wide range of animal species inhabits the reserve area, namely: mammals-European pine martens, foxes, Martes martes, roe, squirrels, rabbits, badgers, the forest chicken, dormouse; endemic species- Caucasian mole Talpa caucasica, European hare Lepus europaeus, ordinary squirrel Sciurus vulgaris, Mehelys horseshoe bat, southern white-breasted hedgehog, Erinaceus concolor, common bent-wing bat miniopterus schreibersii, Rhinolophus mehelyi, Gueldenstaedts shrew Crocidura gueldenstaedtii; amphibians-triton, common frog, green frog, marsh frog; a reptiles-grass snake (Natrix natrix) and dice snake (Natrix tessellata).
Rare and endangered species from the Red List of Georgia are-Caucasian squirrel, forest dormouse, noctule bats, dormouse, and Caucasian otter lutra meridionalis.
Ajameti and its surrounding areas have a major potential for ecotourism development, arranging cultural tours and automobile-led tours to Sairme and Zekari overpasses. However, the entire infrastructure must be better utilized.
Here is the list of some cultural and historical monuments, that one shouldn’t miss while visiting the vicinity of Ajameti Managed Reserve:
- Vartsikhe Borough-located in village Vartsikhe of Baghdati Municipality, 0.5 km away from the administration. Earlier called as "Vardtsikhe" ("Fortress of Roses") and being of the most important towns in Egrisi Kingdom, referred to as Rodopolis in Greek sources. Due to its geographic location, Vartsikhe was of the significant strategic importance-a number of trade roads passed through the town. Archeologists discovered ruins of the town surrounded by a fence with towers, dating back to the 4-6th centuries. From the late 15th century into the early 19th, Vartsikhe functioned as a residence of the Imeretian kings. Currently, only ruins of the old town are preserved, as well as local and imported ceramics artifacts. Vartsikhe is considered to be the birthplace of Georgian cognac: in 1860 Vartsikhe wine and brandy factory was built here and during the 19th century the Sarajishvili family produced first Georgian cognac.
- Vartsikhe Fortress-former Summer Residence of Queen Tamar, located in the village Vartsikhe of Baghdati Municipality, 3 km away from the administration. The ruined castle is inscribed on the list of the Immovable Monuments of National Significance of Georgia. Archaeological material uncovered at Vartsikhe, includes pottery, glass, and iron-ware, that used to belong to the settlements of Late Antiquity.
- Vartsikhe Palace (12th-19th cc)- former palace of Sarajishvili, cognac producing family and the area of Vartsikhe is one of the highlights of civil architecture of 19th century.
- Onanov Governmental Residency of village Vartsikhe-was built in 1860. Located in village Vartsikhe of Baghdati Municipality, about 10 km distance from the administration.
- Vladimir Mayakovsky House and Museum-a memorial house of the Russian poet, playwright, and one of the founders of Russian futurism- Vladimir Mayakovsky, located in Baghdati Municipality, at a distance of 8 km from the administration.
- Ancient Residence of Baghdati-Vani Eparchy- located in Baghdati Municipality, within 8 KM distance from the administration of the managed reserve.
- Remains of Village Geguti Fortress- a large ruined winter and hunting palace, that once belonged to the Georgian monarchy. Located in the village Geguti of Tskaltubo Municipality about 5 km distance from Kutaisi and 10 km away from Ajameti Managed Reserve. The palace was built in the 11th century on the remains of a Roman castellum, which can be identified as being that of Mocheresis, mentioned by ancient authors. The building covers about 2000 square meters, conveying an impression of greatness even in its present dilapidated state.
- Sairme Resort-a balneological-climate resort in the forested mountains of the Bagdati District, 30 km away from the managed reserve administration.
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