Mighty Volga a magnet for tourism

The lower Volga's Astrakhan region, where the great river reaches the Caspian Sea, has been attracting more than half-a-million visitors a year for a hunting and fishing season that never ends. It's a place where the Volga splits into a fan of more than 2

They occupy about ten per cent of the region, dividing it into a unique tapestry of islands and plains, home to a vast population of wildlife.

Rich bird habitats and nesting sites make the area a prime destination for growing numbers of Russians reckoning hunting their favourite pastime.

Fishing for the most valuable species – sterlet and sturgeon – is restricted, but tourist resorts hire professionals advising visitors which species can be fished without harm to nature.

But the Venice of the Volga is no mere adult playground. “Tourism is a very profitable business, a sector bringing in a lot of revenue to the local budget,” says Olga Gai of the Astrakhan tourist centre.