The largest national nature reserve in the Moravský kras PLA (Moravian karst) covers an area of 556.5 ha on the slopes of the Punkevní údolí valley, Suchý and Pustý žleb gulleys and a part of the surrounding plateau. The NNR was declared in 1997 and lies in the north of the Jihomoravský kraj – South Moravian Region.
The substrate in the reserve is of Devonian limestones with magmatic rocks of the Brno massif in the western section. A wide range of surface and underground karstic phenomena are richly represented in the reserve and include swallow holes and exsurgences, sinkholes and karren fields and of course the caves with a variety of types of sediment fill. Paleontologists have found evidence of Quaternary fauna in many of the caves (cave bears, beavers etc.). The artificial entrance to the longest cave system in the Czech Republic – Amatérská jeskyně cave – lies within the reserve. The central point is the 188 metre deep Macocha propast abyss (138.5 metres to the surface of the Spodní jezírko pool). Notable surface karstic phenomena include the remains of the Čertova branka cave in the Pustý žleb valley and the Čertův most bridge in the Suchý žleb valley.
The reserve represents a classic forested area with a submontane character and with very strong Carpathian influences. A vegetation inversion is characteristic of the area. The shaded talus slopes are typically covered with forest stands of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) along with Norway spruce (Picea abies), silver fir (Abies alba) and yew (Taxus baccata) all of which grow naturally here. In the herb layer we can find rare and protected species such as perennial honesty (Lunaria rediviva), the bugbane Cimicifuga europaea and hart’s tongue fern (Phyllitis scolopendrium). The primrose Alpine bells (Cortusa matthioli) also grows here and its endemic subspecies, the primrose Alpine bells (Cortusa matthioli subsp. moravica) grows in the Macocha abyss on its only locality in the Czech Republic, and is considered to be a glacial relict. On the sunny, rocky edges of the gulleys we can find xerothermophilous communities with whitebeam (Sorbus aria), the oak Quercus dalechampii, barberry (Berberis vulgaris), cowslip (Primula veris) and the feather-grass Stipa pennata. Beechwoods are predominant on the karst plateau and rare species which grow in the herb layer here include narrow-leaved helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia), dark red helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens) and lady’s slipper (Cypripedium calceolus). Primary forest-free areas can be found on the limestone rocks and talus. Among the rare plants which grow here we can name livelong saxifrage (Saxifraga paniculata), buckler mustard (Biscutella laevigata subsp. varia), green spleenwort (Asplenium viride), basket of gold(Aurinia saxatilis subsp. arduini) and others.
The inversion character of the territory is also reflected in the fauna distribution. The cool valley floors are inhabited by the moths: the geometrid carpet mothEntephria infidaria and barred carpet (Perizoma taeniatum), while xerothermal localities are the home of the large blue butterfly (Maculinea arion).. Research has proven the occurrence of 1115 species of butterflies in the reserve, which is 33% of all species occurring in the Czech Republic. The endemic worm Bythonomus absoloni lives in the bottom of the Macocha abyss. On the banks of the Punkva river we may observe grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea), dipper (Cinclus cinclus) and occasionally a kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). Another important group of protected animals are the bats. The lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) hibernates in the caves, although greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis) is more numerous. The population of barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus) is also relatively numerous. We can often see Bechstein’s bats (Myotis bechsteinii) around the Kateřinská jeskyně cave in late summer and early autumn.
The most notable historical monument in the reserve is the Blansek castle ruins. An exceptional monument to medieval defensive architecture can also be found in the Rytířská jeskyně (Knight’s Cave) where a “cave castle” was built in medieval times.
One of the main factors which influence the NNR territory today is the intensive tourist load. Certain regulatory measures had to be implemented to restrict the negative impacts of such high visitor numbers. These measures include a ban on motorised transport in the Pustý žleb and Suchý žleb gulleys and the introduction of organised transport of tourists to the Punkevní jeskyně cave and the introduction of limits on visitor numbers to the Punkevní and Kateřinská jeskyně cave systems. The “Macocha” themed nature trail allows public access to attractive localities.