But the rolling hills around have been close-cropped by grazing animals. "The reserve has no buffer zone," says Vashlovani director Paata Khumarashvili. "This makes it very sensitive to human impact."
The Georgians are developing a program to expand strict nature reserves like Vashlovani and integrate them more effectively into the land and lives of the people who surround them. Some of the land around Vashlovani will become a national park, where herders will lease the land for a generation or more, and be encouraged to use traditional materials and herding methods.
In the evening, Amiran takes me to meet Sardo, one of the local herders. In a few days he will walk with his cows and sheep along the migratory passage to summer pastures in the high mountains of Tusheti. As this traditional route passes into private hands, it is becoming more difficult for the herds to find grazing along the way. Georgia's new system of nature protection aims to safeguard these corridors.