Trans Eurasia travel

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Just 6km northwest of Kutaisi in the 2,000-year-old Kolkhuri Forest is Mount Sataplia (Honey Mountain), a forested area in which a cave 300m in length (up to 10m high and 12m wide) and full of stalagmites was discovered in 1925 by Peter Chabukiani, a Kutaisi teacher. There are in all five karst caves here, although only the largest is open to visitors; in addition about 200 footprints of dinosaurs have been preserved in Cretaceous limestone (120 million years old). This is said to be the only place where prints of both carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs are preserved together, although they are separated in time by several thousand years. They have suffered from tourism, and although Sataplia has been protected as a reserve since 1935, until recently it has mainly been seen as an excursion for the people of Kutaisi rather than as being of any great scientific value. However, the Regional Union of Scientists has established an EcoSchool here, to teach environmental awareness to the pupils of the city's elementary schools, and a plush new tourist complex to international visitors was completed at the end of 2010. The reserve covers 354ha, on the slopes of Mount Sataplia (494m) and Mount Tsinara (520m), with a humid subtropical climate (with an annual average of 1,380mm precipitation). Nevertheless, the average temperature in January is as low as -5°C, and 24°C in August, with an annual average of 14.5°C.

However, the reserve is of interest as 95% of its area is covered with Colchic forest, where 544 species of flora have been recorded (66 of them trees and bushes). These include hornbeam, alder, box, chestnut, beech, ilex, medlar, ivy, rhododendron, bilberry and blackberry. There are small mammals such as moles, hedgehogs, hares, foxes, jackals and badgers, and birds such as larks, goldfinches, tits, jays, woodpeckers, hawks, sparrowhawks, cuckoos and hoopoes; the bees that produced the plentiful honey that gave the mountain its name are now few in number.

To reach Sataplia, take a bus towards Gumbra from the Paliashvili Bridge by Kutaisi Market.