Batsara-Babaneuri Strict Nature Reserve
Batsara-Babaneuri Strict Nature Reserve and Ilto Managed Reserve were established in 2003, by the Georgian law on the “Establishing and Management of Tusheti, Batsara-Babaneuri, Lagodekhi and Vashlovani Protected Areas”.
Batsara Nature Reserve was created in 1935, in Pankisi gorge, at an altitude of 700-2,000 meters above sea level. Its main objective is to preserve the relict of dendroflora of the Tertiary period-the unique yew (Taxus baccata) forest, which cannot be found anywhere in the world. The total area of the forest covers 240 hectares: 68% of which are beech forests, 12.1%-hornbeams, 9.1%- grove forests, and shrubs (nuts, red and black hawthorn, swida and others), 7.8%-yew, 4.6%-chestnuts.
Babanauri Nature Reserve was founded in 1961, in the eastern part of the Caucasus Mountain, at an altitude of 380-1,100 m. The purpose of the reserve is to protect 83 Caucasian-Iranian endemic species of the Tertiary period- Zelkova (Zelkova carpinifolia) grove-about 240 ha, included in the Red List of Georgia. 28.2% of the territory is dominated by Zelkva groves, 43.4%-are hornbeams, 8%-Georgian oak forest, 12.8%-beech trees and the rest 7.8%- floodplain forests and shrubs.
Ilto Managed Nature Reserve, established in 2003, covers part of the ravine of the Ilto River near Akhmeta, extending up to 900-2000 meters. The protected area is committed to protecting and restoring precious wood species and characteristic fauna-with beech forests (Fagus orientalis) being a great part of it.
The territories of Batsara-Babaneuri and Ilto consist of sediments of Jurassic and Cretaceous age, presented by limestones, argillites, shales and sandstones, among which the dissected magmatic bodies or lenses can be found.
Biodiversity of Batsara-Babaneuri Protected Areas is distinguished for its unique flora represented by 733 species of the highest plants: 41 fernies, 1 gymnosperm, and 1 691 floral (134 species of monocotyledons and 557 species of dicotyledonous). Plants mostly to be found are yew, zelkova, Georgian oak (Quercus iberica), hornbeam (Carpinus caucasica), elm, maple (Acer laetum), beech, alder, grove oak, lime (Tilia cordata), cornel, common nut, honeysuckle, red hawthorn, lonicera, wingnut, etc. 9 species from here are on the “Red List” of Georgia : Colchis boxwood (BuxuscolchicaPojark), floodplain oak (Quercuspedunculiflora C. Kock), chestnut (Castanea sativa Mil), wych elm (UlmusglabraHuds), walnut (Juglansregia L), common elm (Ulmus minor Mill), wingnuts (Pterocaryapterocarpa (Michx) Kunth), Zelkova (Zelkovacarpinifolia Pall) and yew (Taxusbaccata L).
The Reserve is notable for diversity of fauna, including 16 endemic species: the Caucasian squirrel (Sciurus anomalous), Radde’s shrew (Sorex raddei), Mehely’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophusmehelyi), Black rat (Rattusrattus), Leisler’s bat (Nyctalusleisleri), Pond turtle (Emys orbicularis), Striped lizard (Lacertastrigata), Mediterranean tortoise ((Testudogreaca), ViperaDinikii (ViperaDinikii), Meadow lizard (Darevskiapraticola), Caucasian chiffchaff (Phylloscopuslorenzii); medium-sized and large mammals: red fox (Vulpes vulpes), wolf (Canis lupus), lynx (Lynx lynx), jackal (Canis aureus), brown bear (Ursus arctos), wild cat (Felis sylvestris), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), stone marten (Martes foina), badger (Meles meles), chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), otter (Lutra lutra), pine marten (Martes martes), hedgehogs, rabbits; About 60 Ornithofauna represenatatives: Caucasian chiffchaff (Phylloscopus lorenzii), Goldfinch, Raven, Wood-pigeon, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, woodpeckers, Black vulture (Aegypius monachus), kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), falcon, sparrow hawk (Accipiter nisus), Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), buzzard and endangered species from the “Red List” of Georgia: Golden Eagle (Aqulacrysaetos), Egyptian vulture (Neophronperncopterus), griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), boreal owl (Aegoliusfunereus), black stork (CicOnianigra), barn owl (Tyto alba) and cinereous vulture (Aegypiusmonachus).
About 14 species of reptiles inhabit the Protected Areas, among them: Georgian lizard (Darevskia rudis), Caucasian Viper (Vipera dinniki), Meadow lizard (D.praticola), Mediterranean Tortoise, Artvin lizard (D. derjugini), Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca), Caucasian lizard (Darevskia caucasica).
There are also 7 species of amphibians, including trout, Asia-Minor frog, Colchis Toad, Common tree-frog, Green Toad and others.
Besides preserving unique flora and fauna, Babaneuri Strict Nature Reserve is considered to be an important historical site of great significance. Archaeological excavations nearby-in Cheremi and Gavazi, discovered bronze weapons, agricultural tools, crypts, and ancient ceramic art pieces of the Bronze Age. On the Ilto Riverbank stands the historical town-fortress Kvetera (Kvetari, Kueteri). Several cultural landmarks are still well-preserved: the palace of King Erekle of 18th century in Telavi, Gremi fortress and church of 17th century, the new and old Shuamta monastery complexes of 6th and 16th centuries, Ikalto Academy built in the 12th century, Alaverdi cathedral of 11th century, the palace of Chavchavadzes in Tsinandali surrounded by the magnificent park, the church of the Blessed Virgin, etc.
Batsara-Babanerui Nature Reserve allows visits for educational, non-manipulative scientific research, offering its guests educational, adventurous, botanical, photo-video, ecological, horse-riding, bird-watching, archeological, and wine tours.
There are several comfortable hotels and family hotels in Telavi and Tsinandali, that provide food and comfortable accommodation by advanced reservation.
Batsara-Babaneri Protected Areas currently does not have a well-arranged visitor center and exhibition hall, the administration is located and operating in Akhmeta, Chavchavadze str. N105.
To book private tour from Telavi or Tbilisi, please contact our travel expert here.