Wildlife Wednesday - Pansy Shells and Lamp Urchins | South Africa Portfolio Travel Blog
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Wildlife Wednesday - Pansy Shells and Lamp Urchins

A shell story from Milkwood Manor in beautiful Plettenberg Bay...

Some of our guests went for a walk along the serene Keurbooms Beach and came across this interesting shell:

Lamp Urchin


It looks similar to our Plett icon, the Pansy Shell, but where the Pansy is flat this shell was larger and domed, but still intricate and delicate. We did some research and found that it is called a Lamp Urchin. It is a part of the urchin family, as with the Pansy Shell and it is incredibly rare to find one intact on the beach.  Plettenberg Bay beach walkers and nature lovers still delight in the shelly wonders washed up by the Indian Ocean. 

Both the Pansy Shell and Lamp Urchin live and burrow just beneath the sand in both shallow and deeper waters. Covered in velvet-textured “spines” and fine “hairs”, they feed on crustacean larvae and algae. The classic bone-white shell found by beachcombers is once the spines and hairs have fallen off and the skeleton has been bleached white by the sun.

In other parts of the world, relatives of the Pansy are known as the Sand Dollar, Sea Cookie and Snapper Biscuit and the shell has attained mythical proportions and wonderful tales of its origins, including the lost coins of Atlantis or mermaids.  A wonderful little Christian poem:

There's a pretty little legend
That I would like to tell
Of the birth and death of Jesus
Found in this lovely shell

If you examine closelyyou'll see that you find hereFour nail holes and a fifth one
Made by the Roman spear

One on each side is the Easter lily

The Christmas poinsettiaits centre is the star

That appeared unto the shepherds
and led them from afar

Etched on the other side
Reminds us of His birthday
our happy Christmastide

Now break t

he centre open
and here you will release
The five white doves awaiting
To spread goodwill and peace

This simple little symbol
Christ has left for you and me
To help us spread His gospel
Through all eternity.

In Plettenberg Bay, the Pansy Shell has been collected to near extinction and its sale is now prohibited. Slowly the population is growing again. The Keurbooms Beach is an ideal spot for searching for Pansies and other beautiful seashells.  The Pansy Shell with its delicate beauty seems to embody all that is peaceful and magnificent about Plettenberg Bay.



4 Star Plettenberg Bay Accommodation


Milkwood Manor is located on the oceanfront in Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route. Awake to the sound of breaking surf and seagull’s cry. Enjoy the Manor’s breathtaking views of the ocean’s white-crested waves tumbling onto a sandy beach on the other side of a vast lagoon, against the backdrop of the Tsitsikamma mountains.

Take a dip in a sea cove or the lagoon, or kayak across to the opposite shore for an exhilarating long beach walk, away from the crowds, and admire the beautiful seabirds. The Manor has no neighbours but nature, yet is not isolated, as it is a short stroll from the town centre’s charming shops and Continental restaurants. Central to all Garden Route attractions.

The in-house Thai restaurant, Lemon Grass, serves the freshest fish and seafood, to mouth-watering meats and game, all drawing influences from either International or traditional local cuisine.  

Contact res@portfoliocollection.com for bookings and info.

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