Flora & Fauna

THE NATURAL WORLD

“No country in Europe possesses such rich flora and fauna as Georgia, nor such a diversity of landscape preserved so close to its original state and in such a small area.” (Prof. Michael Succow, from the World Wide Fund for Nature).

Georgia’s natural environment is one of the most special in the world. Geologically it has more compressed into its surface than many large countries and its landscape diversity ranks in the world’s top twelve. In a mere 67,000 square kilometres (the size of Ireland) you can find 5000 metre peaks; glaciers, alpine meadows; sub-tropical coastline, high desert, semi-desert, fertile alluvial valleys, wetlands and of course large swathes of virgin forest. As a result the riches found in our natural world are exceptional .

Eco-TourismThere are few countries better suited for the eco-tourist. Thanks to its relatively unspoiled status and absence of mass tourism, the amateur botanist/zoologist/birdwatcher will find themselves in a genuine heaven of rare plants, animals and birds. Furthermore they will find a growing population of Georgians keen to show these treasures of their own natural world to visitors.

GeologyIn a country as physically dramatic and varied as Georgia geology must be counted as a direct tourist attraction. Georgia is like a magnificent landscape sandwich with fertile, alluvial lowlands set between the snowy Greater and Lesser Caucasus mountains. The Caucasus are geologically young mountains, only 25 million years old. Damp Black Sea winds blow in from the west toward the drier but still humid Caspian basin to the east. This gives the whole region plenty of rainfall, so erosion is strong. But still the mountains are growing, pushed up by the collision of tectonic plates below the surface. In Georgia you will find volcanic plateaux (at 3000 metres); high desert (2000 metres); numerous mineral and hot-water springs; wonderful rock formations, naturally carbonated lakes, numerous mineral deposits, precious and semi-precious – all within half a days journey from the capital.

AnimalsDue to its large areas of uninhabited forest, low levels of tourism and remote high alpine zones Georgia has more species of animal than any country in Europe (except Russia – the largest country in the world). This includes a number of endemic species – perhaps the most notable being the Caucasian tur (‘jikhvi’ in Georgian). Related to the European Ibex it comes in two version, eastern and western. The western Capra Caucasica is unique for its splendid laterally curved horns – representations of which are found in ancient Colchean jewellery and pottery found in western Georgia. Besides this Georgia has many animals now departed from western European countries. It has brown bear, lynx, wild boar, bezoar goats, chamois, wolves, jackal, wild cats, a number of endemic butterflies, lizards, snakes and of course numerous tortoises. Recently the critically endangered Anatolian Leopard has been caught on remote cameras in the Vashlovani National park – although it has yet to be seen by naked eye.

Bird places. – Stepantsminda (Kazbegi) – see all three of Georgia’s endemic birds here as well as the vultures and many eagles and raptors.

David Gareji – a favourite haunt of the beautiful Egyptian Vulture, also many of the lower land finches, shrikes, warblers, larks.

Svaneti – a raptors paradise among the highest mountains and glaciers in Europe.

Flowers The Caucasus are famous for their botanical resource and many flowers and trees found in gardens across the world originated from our landscape. Georgia has between 4000 and 4500 species of vascular plant. Of these an estimated 15% are endemic to the Caucasus with about 300 species endemic to Georgia alone. One such is the dwarf Caucasian rhododendron with its beautiful white and yellow flowers only found high in the mountains. Another is the superb Iris Iberica that gives a white and violet flower every spring.

Flower places.
Tbilisi’s Botanical Gardens
Batumi’s Botanical Gardens
Tusheti National Park
Upper Svaneti
Racha