Every morning I always make it a point to visit the ocean for at least 15 minutes, before letting the craziness of the day get the better of me. I started doing this a couple months ago as the ocean always gives me peace. Over the course of this time, nearly every morning in the same spot, I have witnessed our beautiful beaches and glistening Caribbean Sea transform by the day as Sargasso has swarmed up on the shore like on what some days can seem like an alien invasion. Some days it’s a monsoon of Sargasso, other days it’s livable and others it’s just barely there!
On Friday I made my daily visit and saw the ocean the worst I have ever seen it as mounds of seaweed (Sargasso), not only piled onto the shore, but also consumed about the first 10 feet of the ocean – completely packed in seeming as if it could actually be land and not water. Only the brave would have walked past it to enter fairly clear swimmable conditions.
As the weekend went on I missed a few days of my visit and, when I returned, only a few days later I was completely baffled to see that the seaweed had diminished about 90 percent leaving completely swimmable waters and fairly pretty beaches. Like magic! I mean, don’t get me wrong, there was still some seaweed sprinkled along the shoreline and floating pieces hanging around in the ocean but it was nothing like what we have seen in the past couple of weeks.
I share my story to stress to people that this is a true act of Mother Nature! And while tourists, as well as locals, are extremely disappointed, it’s important to be educated and remember that this is out of human control. The local hotels and beach clubs are suffering dearly facing negative Trip Advisor reviews, angered guests at the front desk and even diminished tips to beach club wait staff.
While some can be rational and understand that this is not the fault of a beach front business owner there are many people who arrive shocked, not understanding the circumstances and coincidentally look for someone to put blame on. This has made it extremely difficult for local beach front business owners during this time as they are still working to try and maintain a good reputation for their property and service.
What you need to know about the Sargasso situation!
You can’t forecast, in advance, what the situation will be like. Unlike weather patterns such as rain, wind and temperature, which we can successfully forecast in the near future, we truly have no idea how the Sargasso will behave from one day to the next. Some have studied the patterns and can make guesses based on forecasted weather patterns but even then it’s been really difficult to nail down. When making hotel reservations your reservations department may update you on the current situation as of that day, but they will have no way of giving notification on the conditions you can expect during your upcoming stay.
Cleanup is out of your hotel’s control and here’s why! Research shows that the Sargasso is actually quite beneficial for our beaches at it prevents erosion. It should not be thrown away, rather properly buried to allow it to do its job at keeping our beaches beautiful in the future. For this reason, and due to the ecological respect in the region, hotels, beach clubs another beach front ownership is generally prohibited from participating in any clean up activity. Some select resorts are given permission based on how much property they have to properly burry the sand but this permission is only issued to a select few. For those who don’t have this clearance, the government contacts a special crew called Zofemat who makes routine stops throughout the Riviera Maya for cleanup activity.
It should be noted that more action is being taken by the local government, that in conjunction with cleaning up the beaches themselves, they are also going to try and work to catch the Sargasso in the water before it hits the shore – hopefully creating better control of the situation.
Sargasso smells, after about one hour sitting in the sun. Unfortunately the smell you smell at your local beach club has nothing to do with how the ownership maintains their beaches. It stinks and until it goes away once and for all we have to make peace with it. Although this might be upsetting to travelers it’s important to keep in mind that the hotel, your beach club, your waiter or beach attendant have their hands tied. They are working extra hard to provide you the best service possible despite the circumstances.
This problem is not isolated to one area! The Sargasso which we are experiencing is affecting those all over the Caribbean and even those beaches in Florida and Texas. The Sargasso comes from the Atlantic and when the conditions are exactly right it flows down in abundance right to our shores. In our immediate area we have seen heavy problems in Playa del Carmen, Akumal and Tulum. If it’s a heavy Sargasso day you can’t simply escape it by heading in another direction.
What can you do about it?
Try to understand. All of us who live and work here understand your disappointment and all hotels, concierge departments and beach clubs will all work hard to make sure you have a wonderful experience despite the situation.
If you do have to experience the wrath of Sargasso during your vacation, there is plenty to still love and appreciate when visiting the Riviera Maya. It might be a good opportunity to tour through the Mayan Ruins, visit and adventure park or simply explore nature. And if you are looking to keep cool, visiting a cenote is an amazing way to see something beautiful and new while spending time in the water.
And remember, the sun still shines beautiful and margaritas still flow freely in this paradise!