Tourists Can Once Again Enjoy Their Vacations Free Of The Foul Smelling Seaweed
Sargassum season is finally over in Cancun and the resort of Quintana Roo. After months of some of the highest volumes of the macroalgae plagued the Mexican Caribbean, tourists can now travel with little to no concern for the enjoyment of their vacation.
The season typically runs through the warmest months of the year, starting in April before peaking in August and July before lessening until October. From then on, the region enjoys a relatively clear sand period before preparing to deal with it again.
Tourists often avoid visiting the region during this time, as it can drastically impact their enjoyment of their vacation, especially if they’re traveling for the beach more than anything else. The period can be slightly less busy than other times, but many won’t risk it and would rather brave the crowds than deal with the smell.
For those unaware, sargassum is a brown seaweed variant. Technically classed as macroalgae, it forms miles out to sea in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. As it grows, it knots and tangles into itself, creating massive island-like structures that float along the ocean currents.
At sea, it’s actually an incredibly valuable resource. Tiny sealife feeds on it, and small fishes and other critters use it as a sanctuary in the typically vast ocean. It helps provide vital nutrients to the water, creating a better underwater environment in general.
But when it hits the coast, that all changes. The unsightly brown seaweed turns the shallow and typically crystal clear water of the Mexican Caribbean into a murky mess and can even be a drowning threat for young children who get their feet tangled in it. When it arrives on land, it piles up, sometimes over a meter thick, on the pristine sands, blanketing entire portions of beaches in brown slimy material. It also begins to decompose, producing a putrid sulfur-like smell that drives tourists away.
To understand how big the problem is. Over 800 tonnes of sargassum was collected in June alone.
The Mexican Caribbean is strongly affected thanks to its location and the funnel created by Cozumel. This funnel forces the sargassum towards Cancun and Playa del Carmen, among other areas. Local businesses pour thousands into prevention and clearing efforts, with many taking on new hires for the sole purpose of shoveling seaweed in the early hours before tourists arrive for the day. Hotels took it upon themselves to offer daily updates on the sargassum levels for their guests, giving them the best chance possible of avoiding disappointment.
Many major projects have been considered, and others have been implemented and failed. This year, the problem was so serious that the Mexican Navy commissioned twelve ships to collect sargassum at sea long before it hit the coast. Their impact was almost negligible, thanks to poor or faulty equipment and bad weather.
It was thought that hotel rates were even impacted by the high levels of investment in the sargassum problem. With so many new hires and equipment to be purchased, visitors often had the difference passed along to them, combined with the bells and whistles that came with working through the pandemic.
With that in mind, it might be a good time to jump on any last-minute deals to the Mexican Caribbean. The Winter surge isn’t quite here, and with the beaches likely clean, it could be the perfect recipe for a wonderful getaway. Of course, it’s still technically hurricane season, but do remember that even if Cancun is affected by tropical storms, it very rarely takes a direct hit.
Thankfully, when the problem returns in the future, Cancun will have the Maya Train to help distract travelers. Instead of a beach day, visitors will soon be able to hop on the train and visit another town in the region or some of the world-class cultural sites in Quintana Roo and Yucutan.
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