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As the weather warms up, we have just the solution for keeping cool. Head to these idyllic protected areas and spend the day on the water – in a kayak, canoe or even on a SUP. By Arnold Ras

#1: Langebaan Lagoon

Shaka the rest of the week! . . . #southafrica #sup #langebaanlagoon #dji #beach

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Few spots are as incredibly beautiful as the turquoise waters of Langebaan Lagoon. Part of the West Coast National Park’s Marine Protected Area, the lagoon is nestled between dunes covered in fynbos. During summer its crystal-clear water attract thousands of visitors – of the feathered kind. While the lagoon is a hot spot for birds, the beaches never get crowded. Exploring by SUP or kayak means breathtaking panoramic views, fresh Atlantic Ocean breezes, and all-day water recreation. Take your own kayak or rent one from Gravity Adventures; they also offer guided trips. After a refreshing dip, head to Tsaarsbank or Kraalbaai beach for a scrumptious summer picnic next to the ocean. Don’t forget to take your binoculars along; there are three bird hides around the lagoon.

#2: Knysna Lagoon

The Garden Route National Park is home to many glorious seaside destinations, but the Knysna Lagoon has to be seen to be believed. Paddle around Thesen Island, make your way to the popular and impressive Knysna Heads (conditions permitting), or simply float around while sharing the water with the many sail boats this time of year. For those adventurers ready for the challenge, there’s no need to stress about equipment. Rent a kayak from the SANParks Thesen Island office, or give them a call on +27 (0)44 302 5600 for more information. Knysna Lagoon is simply a must-see location when enjoying a Garden Route holiday – this lagoon will recharge your batteries in no time!

#3: De Hoop Camp Site

The unique geological landscape of the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is sure to enthral. South Africa’s only true mountain desert is a place of hardy succulents and craggy peaks. Between these lava mountains runs the Orange River, ideal for many water activities. A favourite camping spot is on the riverbank at De Hoop, with space for just 12 tents. There’s no hot water, but when life’s bare necessities and the beauty of nature collide, memories are made. Could there be anything more relaxing than floating on the river while listening out for the cry of a fish eagle? Take along your own craft or contact the hospitality manager on +27 (0)27 831 1506 to enquire about kayak trails. The Richtersveld is a completely different experience that will have you returning in no time.

#4: Amatigulu Nature Reserve

This coastal reserve, situated between the Amatigulu and Tugela river mouths, is any paddler’s dream. Think seclusion, tranquillity and game sightings – all elements that make this a great escape from your busy lifestyle. Who knows, you might even get up close and personal – while in your canoe – with wildlife such as giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, and the rare aquatic African finfoot. Canoes are for hire and no motorboats or noisy water sports are permitted. Only one hour’s from Durban, Amatigulu is all-round fun for the whole family. And if paddling in the river seems too relaxed, give your adrenalin a boost on the Indian Ocean’s warm waves.

#5: Groenvlei Lake

Goukamma Nature Reserve is an unspoiled treasure often overlooked among the Garden Route’s bustling attractions. The reserve’s Mvubu Bush Lodge offers stunning views of Groenvlei Lake and provides accommodation for four guests. Part of the deal is a double canoe so you can paddle to your heart’s content – row across the lake, take in the beauty of the milkwood forest, and keep your eyes peeled for otters, African spoonbill, Knysna turaco and even caracal. The lake is singular in that it has no in-flowing river or link to the sea. It’s an incredible setting that will definitely be the icing on your summer break cake.