By Tika Bujiashvili
Georgia is a unique country where the tourism industry has strong untapped potential to be developed. Kolkheti National Park and Paliastomi Lake is one of the real candidates, among those places that can contribute to tourism development in Georgia. The Lake is located between Guria and Samegrelo. Paliastomi means ‘an old bay of the sea’ in Greek. One amazing thing connecting with Paliastomi Lake is that until 1924 the water in the lake was fresh. It is unusual a large lake to be so close to the sea with fresh water. Though, several years ago Paliastomi Lake was connected to the Black sea by a specially dug channel. Consequently, the water became salty. Paliastomi Lake is fed with rain water and tributaries-the river Pichora flows into it, while the River Kaparchina flows from the lake.
Not to mention spectacular landscapes of its unique gorges, Paliastomi Lake is also a unique place to watch migratory birds. Therefore with approaching winter the environs of the Lake are filled with flocks of birds creating unique conditions for birdwatching lovers. Special observation towers have been installed for them.
Kolkheti National Park was established in 1999. Despite the protection of the park, the Georgian government has recently found a way to attract tourists whilst maintaining and protecting the natural habitat. The park was opened to tourists in 2007. National Park offers organized boat trips to several beautiful destinations which last 1-3 hours. Boating tours, notably on Lake Paliastomi and on the Pichori River are offered, as are diving, bird watching, hiking and horse riding. The route starts at the entrance of Paliastomi Lake. Tourists will see the beautiful shores of Paliastomi Lake and an amazing view of the Pichori River mouth. At the resting areas, tourists have the opportunity to see Kolkheti’s wetland relict forests that are spread along the river bank.