From the snowy heights and alpine meadows of the Caucasus to the semitropical coast of Adjara and the semidesert border with Azerbaijan, Georgia has a fantastically diverse ecological make-up and is a nature lover’s delight. Flora and fauna are particularly diverse in the Caucasus, where wildlife includes bears, wolves, boars, deer, lynx and the two species of Caucasian tur (ibex). Jackals occur all over the lower-lying parts of the country.
Georgia also supports 360 recorded bird species, including 11 types of eagle and four vultures, and over 4000 plant species (300 endemic to Georgia). The Caucasus is connected to the ‘Lesser Caucasus’ ranges of southern Georgia by the Likhi Range, which you’ll cross between Khashuri and Kutaisi on the M1 highway.
This forms a barrier between wetter, more lushly vegetated western Georgia and the drier east. Georgia’s main river, the Mtkvari (or Kura), rises in northeast Turkey and flows through Borjomi, Gori and Tbilisi and on into Azerbaijan, where it enters the Caspian Sea.
Environmental protection has moved forward since Georgia passed its 1996 Law on the System of Protected Areas, and 6.6% of national territory is now under protection of varying levels, including five national parks. Sustainable tourism is seen as an important support for protected areas, and well-organised visitor facilities are in place at places such as Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, Kolkheti National Park and the Lagodekhi Nature Reserve. There’s useful information about protected areas on the website of the Department of Protected Areas (www.dpa. gov.ge).