Close to Vedi, Goravan State Natural Reservation or Goravan Sands Sanctuary represents approximately 175 ha of desert, a type of ecosystem that only covers a very small area in Armenia. It is protected by national law since 1959, and listed by the IUCN (Protected Area category III/IV) and WWF (Caucasus Biodiversity hotspots). The area still harbours a unique flora and fauna, among which a number of rare, threatened, red-listed species. We wanted to include this area in our itinerary because of our wish to see a variety of habitats and to find one of its specialties, the rare and endangered Persian (or sunwatcher) toad-headed agama (Phrynocephalus persicus).
Despite the area’s legal protection, (this part of) the reserve seemed to be under pressure due to human activities (trucks, sand-mining, some building acitivities). We stayed for only a couple of hours, and although we arrived at noon, temperatures being rather high already, we were fortunate enough to find all the species we expected, including four Persian toad-headed agama’s. They were small and hard to find, but beautiful and rather tame, so taking pictures wasn’t that difficult. Other highlights were Pleske’s runner, the most abundant reptile here, golden skink and a large blunt-nosed viper. Caucasian agama was quite common between rocks. The finding of a spur-tighed tortoise, our only one in Armenia, was also good news for Marine, who studies this species in Armenia.
Besides reptiles, we encountered lots of interesting other animals, such as beetles, grasshoppers and spiders, as well as a large fat-taild scorpion, Androctonus crassicauda. The area is also renowned for its birds, but we saw only few, probably due to bad timing. You can’t have them all …
Aslan then invited us for supper at his home in Vedi, which again illustrated the tremendous hospitality of Armenians. After having met his friendly family, we sat in the shade, were offered refreshing beer and tasty Armenian food, and were, well, …. just happy.
|Reptiles & amphibians||Goravan Sands|
|Spur-thighed tortoise||Testudo graeca||1|
|Caucasian agama||Laudakia caucasia||>10|
|Persian toad-head agama||Phrynocephalus persicus||4|
|Pleske’s runner||Eremias pleskei||>50|
|Strauch’s runner||Eremias strauchi||>10|
|Golden Skink||Trachylepis auratus||2|
|Blunt nosed viper||Macrovipera lebetina||1|
….. turned out to be very yummy! And with three meals a day, we were never hungry. During our stay, we had the pleasure to be offered a variety of local dishes, well-prepared by our Armenian hosts. This all started on arrival in Yerevan, when our stomachs were filled with delicious grape-leaf dolma’s, made by Marine and her mother. In Khosrov, we were taken care off very well by the farmers who owned our bedroom. We weren’t always sure what exactly we were eating, but generally these dishes were considered by us as very tasty indeed. Meals were usually accompanied by flatbread. Pieces of this ‘lavash’ were supposed to be filled with cheese and herbs, such as dragon’s-wort, another typical feature of Armenian cuisine. The above pictures give an impression of our meals in Khosrov. Bottom-right: The hotel near Sevan served us crayfish (Astacus leptodactylus– an introduced species) from the lake.