In the Riviera Maya, the sargassum season started early this year but it slowed down a bit in March after a significant arrival of the brown seaweed in February.
Now, though, it is returning in huge amounts to the popular Mexican Caribbean vacation destination of Playa del Carmen.
This has led Playa del Carmen officials to issue an advisory as nearly three feet of sargassum arrive and cover the city’s beaches, making it difficult to clean and enjoy them.
According to the Mexican Navy Secretariat (Semar), “The sargassum accumulates in mounds from [27 to 35 inches] high in less than 24 hours, covering almost the entire beach area and making it impossible to move on foot and with machinery.”
Sargassum is a brown seaweed that affects not only Mexican Caribbean beaches but beaches all along the Atlantic coast of Florida too.
It has been around for a long time but has worsened in the last decade or so, flooding beaches in popular vacation destinations throughout the Riviera Maya region.
It comes all the way from the northern Atlantic (where there is so much sargassum that they refer to the mass of it as the Sargasso Sea) to the Mexican Caribbean.
@aliciasadventures sorry playa #playadelcarmen #mexico #travel #stinky #seaweed #sargassum #travelmexico #beaches ♬ original sound
While sargassum can arrive at any time throughout the year, there are certain months when it is worse than others, and some months that might be nearly sargassum free.
Typically the season starts around May, although this year was much earlier and generally lasts until about October.
The peak of the season is around June and July, and the months where you’ll usually see the least amount of sargassum are during the winter time.
@sargassummonitoring 01/04/2023 #Mexico #Mexique #PlayadelCarmen ♬ original sound – Sargassum Monitoring
Sargassum In The Mexican Caribbean
The entire Mexican Caribbean deals with sargassum but some areas get it worse than others.
Currently, Cancun is dealing with very little sargassum, whereas many of the beaches in Playa del Carmen are already dealing with moderate to abundant amounts of it.
The beaches in Isla Mujeres, an island off of the coast of Cancun, are completely free of sargassum right now, and often see very little of it, even during sargassum season.
@fortheroadtravels Sargassum in Playa del Carmen? No problem! #islamujeres #islamujeresmexico #mexicotravelguide #traveltiktok ♬ original sound – For The Road | Travel Mexico
Playa Del Carmen’s Efforts At Combating Sargassum
It was just recently announced that new sargassum barriers will be installed in Playa del Carmen in the near future.
The decision was made with the expectation that sargassum levels are going to rise and that the area is expecting to see more seaweed this year than in 2022.
Barriers help to keep the sargassum out to sea and off of the beaches that are so loved by tourists visiting the region.
30/03/2023 #Playacar #PlayadelCarmen #Mexico #mexique Location on the official map here–> https://sargassummonitoring.com #sargassum #sargasso #sargazo #sargasses #sargassi #algues #springbreak #sargassumbelt #algea #sargassummonitoring♬ original sound – Sargassum Monitoring
How Sargassum Affects Vacation Destinations
Many travelers who already know and love places like Playa del Carmen are not really deterred by sargassum.
But that’s not to say that it doesn’t affect tourism at all, as there are still tourists who would rather not visit during the months when the seaweed is excessive.
A significant amount of tourism dollars are lost each year because of it, and even more money is spent on prevention and cleaning measures.
@maxim3co11in il n'y a plus de plages à #playadelcarmen t'as envie de te baigner dans une soupe de #sargasse ?😭 #sargasso #problem #algue ♬ son original – Maxime Collin
Sargassum Effects On Tourists
It’s important to note that there are no known serious health risks posed by being around sargassum.
It can carry small fleas with it that might bite and irritate the skin, but beyond that, the biggest issue for tourists is the sight and smell of it.
As it decays, it produces a very unpleasant smell, and having it on the shore makes it difficult to enjoy the beauty of the Caribbean Beaches that so many visit the region to enjoy.
@jbaymedia #mexico #sargassum update Feb 7, 2023. #vacation in #playadelcarmen or #cancun is still great but have expectations for this #seaweed that is normally like this in #summertime , not Jan-March… 🏝️ ☀️ ✈️ @jbaymedia #travel #vaca #traveltiktok #contentcreator #youtuber ♬ Epic Music(863502) – Draganov89
Sargassum In The Future
Mexican officials, scientists, tourism industry experts, and academics are all trying to figure out a better way to deal with sargassum.
For now, though, tourists should expect to see as much as three feet of it in Playa del Carmen.
And those with vacations already planned for the near future might want to look for some other things to do during their Playa del Carmen vacation.
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