In recent years there has been a natural phenomenon that has clouded and frightened bathers: the sargassum season, a problem that although it is not dangerous for humans, it is quite worrying.
If you are about to travel and you are concerned about sargassum in Cancun, this article is for you. We have put together a good summary of what you need to know about these nasty seaweeds.
What is sargassum?
Sargassum is a floating macroalgae that occurs in tropical areas of the planet, especially on the Caribbean coast, with accelerated growth due to climatic conditions.
Although the arrival of this algae on the coast is the consequence of a natural phenomenon that occurs during the year and in a controlled manner, pollution and changes in temperatures and water currents in the Atlantic mean that their quantity is disproportionate.
Under normal conditions, sargassum is a beneficial algae for the water ecosystem, being an excellent habitat for shrimp, crabs, fish and turtles. But its uncontrolled growth constitutes a risk for the local fauna and for the tourist system.
Why does sargassum arrive in Cancun?
Since 2014, the arrival of sargassum on the coasts of the Riviera Maya and Quintana Roo has increased considerably, without specifying the causes of this.
The Autonomous University of Mexico believes that it is due to the following reasons:
- Increased temperatures in sea waters as a result of global warming.
- The contamination of the sea by poorly managed human waste that becomes a source of nutrients for the growth of algae.
The formation of this planktonic macroalgae occurs in the Sargasso Sea reaching Cancun by water currents, which in many cases also moves them away from the Mexican coast.
Why does sargassum reach Cancun and the Riviera Maya?
Sargassum can reach Cancun throughout the year as a result of the movement of currents in the Sargasso Sea, an important group of algae in the Atlantic Ocean in the region known as the Bermuda Triangle.
The formation of sargassum and its constant movement increased due to changes in the sea caused by global warming and pollution of the oceans, causing the macroalgae to arrive in large quantities in Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
Sargassum season in Cancun 2019
Those responsible for tourist life in the area have proposed to better study this phenomenon to specify the sargassum season and its duration on the coast of Cancun.
The Cancun Sargassum Monitoring Network annually evaluates the movement of water currents in the Atlantic Ocean and warns of the arrival of sargassum on the coasts. According to its official website, the start of the sargassum season in Cancun is from April 30 or May 1.
The municipal president of Cancun, Mara Ledezma, showed in a video on March 2 of this year the massive arrival of sargassum and reported the importance of beginning response measures to this event.
What and who is doing something in Quintana Roo about sargassum?
The municipal and national government, as well as the Ministry of Tourism and the same hotels in the tourist area of Quintana Roo, work together to protect and care for the beaches during the arrival of sargassum.
The government of the state of Quintana Roo has 62 million for the tasks of care and cleaning of the beaches, in the National Fund for Natural Disasters (FODEN). However, the authorities have expressed the difficulties involved in dealing with this phenomenon, especially in budget matters.
Some of the actions that have been taken to deal with the problem are:
- Cleaning of the beaches with volunteers.
- Beach cleaning with special machinery.
- Placement of floating containment barriers to try to prevent the arrival of sargassum on the coasts.
- Collection of sargassum in the open sea before it reaches the beaches.
- Research on the behavior of sargassum, its possible use in the future and how to prevent its growth.
Can I have a health problem from having contact with sargassum?
Sargassum can be harmful to the marine ecosystem of Cancun waters, but not to human health. No danger to tourists or locals has been recorded.
Why shouldn’t you worry about sargassum?
In addition to the fact that it is not a dangerous algae for bathers, sargassum only affects 3% of the coasts of the state of Quintana Roo, which means that it does not completely ruin the possibility of vacationing.
Cancun is one of the least affected areas compared to other beaches on the coast, so you should not worry about losing your vacation.
Tips and health precautions you should take about sargassum
The presence of sargassum is quite annoying for vacationers because it prevents them from swimming and walking freely along the coasts. We recommend the following to avoid encountering this macroalga as much as possible:
1. Find out based on your travel date: check before traveling if your visit coincides with the arrival of sargassum. If so, take action on it.
2. Be well informed about the phenomenon: the Secretary of Tourism of Quintana Roo offers and updates its information about this event. Make sure you are well aware of its implications and importance.
3. Contact your hotel or resort service: the hotel staff will be able to inform you about sargassum and how it can affect your vacation.
4. Do not trust the rumours: there is a lot of misinformation about sargassum. Pay attention only to official information.
5. Not all beaches will be affected: sargassum has an unpredictable behavior and it is possible that it does not affect or arrive at all the coasts of Cancun. It means that there will still be beaches to visit.
6. If you go to a beach with sargassum, act carefully: although it is not harmful to health, it can cause mishaps because it gets tangled up in your feet. Be careful if this is the case.
What are the best beaches in the Riviera Maya
With or without sargassum, the Riviera Maya has a good list of beach options to enjoy. Among these we have:
1. Xpu-Há: 20 kilometers from Playa del Carmen, it is a wonderful option to relax and do water sports such as snorkeling or diving.
2. Kantenah: It is in front of one of the most important luxury hotels in the Riviera Maya, the Gran Palladium Kantenah. It is a harmonious landscape of coast and coconuts.
3. Chemuyil: 22 kilometers from Tulum. It is a bay surrounded by jungle with excellent facilities for camping, eating, swimming or fishing.
4. Akumal: an excellent destination to see sea turtles lay their eggs between April and October. It is 37 kilometers from Playa del Carmen and is one of the favorites of the Riviera Maya.
5. Playa del Secreto: perfect for camping on the beach. It is surrounded by properties where you can rent a room, as well as a rustic residential area where you can find houses for rent.
Enjoy North Beach in Isla Mujeres
If it comes to finding options without sargassum in Quintana Roo, Isla Mujeres is an excellent alternative. The impact of the phenomenon has been little, if not null.
On the island, a very good alternative is Playa Norte, often compared to a natural pool due to the crystalline blue color of its waters, the gentle waves and the shallowness of the beach.
Discover the Mayan culture with the best archaeological sites in Quintana Roo
Not everything is beaches in Quintana Roo. An excellent way to pass the time without worrying about sargassum is by visiting the archaeological sites.
Here you have the possibility to know the Mayan culture first hand through the following places:
1. Cobá: ancient Mayan capital where you can visit the Church, residential buildings, palaces and even the Nohoch Mul pyramid.
2. Tulum: the most important Mayan city in the Yucatan Peninsula. There you can visit the walls, the main ceremonial buildings of the Maya and the upper temple, El Castillo. Also the Temple of the Descending God, the Temple of the Frescoes and the House of the Cenote.
3. Kohunlich: An excellent place to discover and enjoy one of the best water harvesting systems of ancient times. It is also the place to visit the Temple of the Masks, one of the most important in Quintana Roo.
Although sargassum can be uncomfortable to look at and a headache for the authorities, it is in itself a natural phenomenon with unpredictable behavior that is not capable of ruining your vacation.
Have you come across sargassum in Cancun?
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