Price range, per nightmin R max R
*All distances listed are as the crow flies, and not actual travel distances.
From a distance, the pansy shell appears as a pale, anonymous-looking shell that blends in with the surrounding sea sand but upon closer inspection, an intricate design can be seen, as though an unknown artist has been given licence to decorate the shell. At its centre is a realistic five petal flower design. The pansy is the skeleton of a type of sea urchin and is commonly found along the southern shores of South Africa. Plettenberg Bay appears to be their preferred destination as they are mostly spotted in this bay and have become the symbol of the region.
When the creature is alive, it resembles a furry purple shell, the fur consisting of thousands of spikes that are used both as a form of protection and to propel itself below the sand. It is a sequential hermaphrodite, meaning that it’s born a male and later changes form into a female in order to breed. Thousands of eggs and sperm are released from the tiny holes that make up a small star formation at the centre of the flower pattern. Fertilisation then takes place in the open waters and the resulting larvae are washed into shore where they gradually develop under the sand.
Those fortunate to find a pansy shell that has lost its spines but hasn’t yet been bleached by the sun will see the amazingly intricate purple patterns on the underside.
The live creatures are protected and should never be removed. In fact, the shells should be left where they surface, rather take a holiday snap with the pansy shell and return it to its place for others to appreciate.
In the Americas and Caribbean, a similar creature can be found which are called sand dollars.