The continued presence of sargassum (a.k.a sargasso, sargazo) on the beaches of Mexico continues to be a concern to many travelers. For those wondering what their experience will be like on their upcoming vacation, we invite you to read more about the problem and how local authorities, hotels, and students are handling the situation.
As reported in our post “Mexico and Mother Nature – What you Need to Know 2015“, the sagassum occurrence – which actually has many ecological benefits – is not dangerous nor continuous and often unpredictable. One week there may be large mounds of sea weed heaped on the beaches and obscuring the translucent sea, while others the beaches are perfectly clean. Many hotels are taking measures to provide clear beach access through clearing the sea weed and removing it from the beach, while others are unable or unwilling to do so due to a lack of human and financial resources, an unwillingness to alter naturally occurring patterns, or long-term concerns that the sea weed will actually protect and enhance their beaches in the long-term. The sea weed accumulation has been most prolific on the stretches of exposed beach and less noticeable in areas that are protected by natural headlands, bays, or coves. In general, and as of writing, the highest accumulations seem to be concentrated around Tulúm with less density of sea weed deposits as you head north to Cancún. Cancun is almost unaffected by the current episode as is Isla Mujeres. Read more: What You Need to Know about Sargassum Invading the Caribbean.
Update August 5: Mexican authorities say they will spend about $9.1 million and hire 4,600 temporary workers to clean up mounds of seaweed that have accumulated along the coast. The seaweed removal will cover Holbox in the north through Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Playa de Carmen, Cozumel, Akumal, Tulum and as far south as Mahahual. Read more: Mexico to Spend $9.1 Million on Seaweed Cleanup .
Update August 8: Government officials plan to place mesh nets over a two kilometer stretch of Tulum beach. Once caught in the mesh, the Sargasso seaweed is then picked up by boats and returned in the sea current that is directed toward the Yucatan Channel. Read more: Mexican Authorities Finding Permanent Solution to Sargasso Problem.
Update August 18: The innovative concept to prevent seaweed from reaching beaches using nets has produced positive results. By using the nets, up to 80 percent of the sargassum is caught before reaching hotel beaches. Not all beaches have implemented this system as there are concern about disturbing nesting turtles and other sea life. While not entirely effective, it has helped to keep some beaches clear of seaweed for tourists. Read more: Sea Nets Catching Sargasso, Clearing the Way for Tourists.
Update August 20: A group of technology students from a local university are searching for ways to positively use the masses of unwanted sargasso. They are studying to see if it can be composted and used as fertilizer on farms in local villages. Mexico’s Ministry of Evnvironment has designated certain areas for research and have provided workshops about the treatment of sargasso and its benefits for production purposes. Read more: Local Technology Students Turn Sargasso into Fertilizer
- Maroma: They have been cleaning the beach twice a day with a machine that has enabled them to keep their shores more clean. They have not received any complaints.
- Le Reve: They clean the beach daily and believe that the situation is improving. Some week they see an 80% decrease in seaweed .
- Fairmont Mayakoba: They clean their beach daily and the arrival of seaweed on their shores fluctuates greatly.
- Rosewood Mayakoba: They feel that there are weeks the seaweed decreases however, it does fluctuate.
- Esencia: “I can tell you that the seaweed situation is completely unpredictable. The beach is perfect white snow for one week or ten days and then we have seaweed for 3-4 days even a week. We are incredibly lucky because Esencia is on a protected bay so most of the heavy seaweed is usually diverted but sometimes the wind changes and it comes our way. I have a team of 8-10 people who come daily to clean it so our beach is usually spotless except at the shoreline if it’s actively coming in. We are fortunate that most people consider our beach one of the least affected, and best maintained, but of course like the weather it’s nothing we can predict and no one is predicting this as a trend. We do have access to a blue lagoon directly next door to the hotel which is protected with no seaweed, and of course we have two large swimming pools. I can assure you that the seaweed is not sitting on our beach in a mountain like in other places where they don’t pick it up.” – Reservations Manager of Hotel Esencia
- Grand Velas Riviera Maya: “The amount of seaweed that we receive is minimum and we do not consider it a problem any more. We continue to clean the beach on a daily basis to make sure our guest have the best conditions.” – Jr. Sales Manager of Grand Velas
Update October 1:
Journey Mexico’s Cancun office reports that the situation in Cancun has been improving a lot. They confirm things are getting better and hopefully everything will be back to normal soon. As our staff conducts hotel inspections on a regular basis, it is most accurate to report situation in Riviera Maya and Tulum really does fluctuate greatly from day to day and from hotel to hotel. The water in some areas along the Riviera Maya continues to be cloudy but its now standard to see the hotels and staff work around the clock to try and pick up the sargassum throughout the day.
Update October 15:
H. Barber & Sons and CDO Innov, two equipment companies leading in beach-cleaning and manufacturing for environmental use respectively have been called to Mexico to help control the sargassum issue. H. Barber & Sons are responsible for introducing 50 SurfRakes that are now in operation along the Mexican-Caribbean Coast. The SurfRakes enable the pick up 95% of the sargassum and leave wet sand behind so the beaches do not erode. Some large resorts have invested in a SurfRake for exclusive hotel use while others have been bought by contractors hired to clean up the beaches.
Among the resorts in Cancun and the Riviera Maya that have the SurfRake in their seaweed-cleanup regimen are said to include: Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Fairmont Mayakoba, Rosewood Mayakoba, Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort, Mayan Palace Riviera Maya, Grand Palladium Riviera Resort & Spa, and Grand Riviera Princess. Read more: Caribbean, Mexico Fighting Sargassum with Heavy-Duty Machines
Update October 23:
In communication with partner hotels in Tulum, they share that the problem has been less frequent and that the currents and weather changes have helped clear the beach. They are optimistic as holiday, high season is just around the corner but continue to monitor the situation and rake the beach whenever necessary.
- Coqui Coqui Tulum: Management reports that the water has cleared up and there is only a bit of seaweed left on the beach. They expect the problem to resolve within the coming days and hope it continues to stay clear.
- Maroma: “The beach looks pretty awesome. There is a little bit of wind right now and the ocean is a little bit choppy and due to the bad weather conditions we had in the past weeks, we have a very very small of sargassum right now, however, we have a machine cleaning twice a day the sand to keep it clear and our team is doing a great effort to recollect the remaining by hand when necessary.” – Marisol Ledesma, Communications Manager, Nov 11
- Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa: Staged a cleanup initiative involving teams of employees who competed to collect and remove the most seaweed from the resort’s beach, with cash prizes going to the top three teams. The resort reported that over the past three weeks, more than 23 tons of the weeds and resulting muck were collected and removed. (Travel Weekly)
- Banyan Tree Mayakoba: “We have seen a decrease in the amount of sargassum coming to our side of the beach, this along with the work of our staff that cleans every day the beach area for it to be in the best conditions possible for our guests have resulted very well for us.” – Arturo Garcia, eCommerce Sales Manager, Oct 15
- Be Tulum: Management reports that they no longer view it as a problem and the beach is clear. They continue to rake the beach as part of normal activity, as they have always done.
- Rosewood Mayakoba: “Seaweed did affect the Mexican Coast including Rosewood Mayakoba. As you may know this is a phenomenon related to climate and water currents. We had never experience it in the past, it was a first for this year. Most days the beach looked great but several days we did have seaweed. I am happy to say that since Aug, we have had no seaweed, with the exception of few days. We also have an entire staff working on the cleanliness of the beach every day.” – Johanna Nieto, Sales Manager, Nov 11
Update December 4: Journey Mexico has a large team based right in Cancun, allowing us to have close contact with the hotels and first hand knowledge of local happenings. Here is a detailed update from management about how they currently view the issue:
We are constantly in touch with our closest hotel partners to monitor the situation and have real-time updates about any issues, sargassum and otherwise. In regards specifically to the seaweed, we have been rating the hotels’ beaches weekly on a scale from 1-10 (1 being very little, 10 a lot) and on average viewing them at a 3. Now this of course can change slightly day-to-day or hotel to hotel, but the main hotels we work with (Rosewood, Le Revé, Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Belmond Maroma, Coral, Ana y Jose, Jashita, Be Tulum & Esencia) make a terrific effort to keep their beaches clean on a daily basis. Since the problem started, we have not had any complaints from our travelers and re-iterate that the hotels continue with an intensive cleaning program.
One thing worth emphasizing is that the situation, while we believe has been considerably improved over the months, can vary. Just recently we had some unexpected rain which did increase the presence of sargassum on the beach. However, moving into winter, we are leaving the summer’s rainy season and therefore anticipate the problem to continue to dissipate.
If travelers continue to have any concerns about their upcoming vacation at a certain hotel outside of the ones we work with/report on, we suggest reaching out to them via social media or e-mail to inquire if they have a beach cleaning program in place and real-time photos they can share.