The Sargassum Seaweed Phenomenon in Quintana Roo: Silver Linings

Filed under: Things to know - by Louise Hennessy

Sargasso seaweed. Eager, as always, to catch a glimpse of the turquoise water washing up into the beautiful cove, we peeped over the cliff-edge…and then looked at each other, stupefied.

“Why does it look so murky?”

Our first sighting of the so-called sargassum phenomenon, which appeared upon the shores of Quintana Roo (and various other idyllic destinations within the Caribbean) in the summer of 2015, was right there, at the archaeological zone of Tulum. Mats of golden brown algae started to form a thick outline along the ivory beaches of the Caribbean Sea, with remnants floating about on the blue waves close to the shore, annoyingly brushing against swimmers looking to cool down in the usually pristine waters.

sargasso seaweed

To keep things simple and in layman’s terms, large amounts of seaweed drifted in from a natural open-ocean ecosystem in the North Atlantic (roughly around Bermuda), logically known as the Sargasso Sea; and was most likely due to changes in climate and rising sea temperatures.

Not what you would expect, or hope, to find on the pearly-white sand, as you open the curtains of your hotel room, or head down to the water’s edge with your bucket and spade; but perhaps it’s time to ignore the social media scaremongering for two minutes and take a look at the silver linings:

  • It is by no means an annual occurrence – like anything cyclical, there have been periods of algal abundance (2011, 2015), and occasional dribs and drabs outside of these.
  • It is only ever short-lived – its temporary nature means that there is no danger of it spoiling your holidays!
  • Along with many other hotels and the tourist sector, in the event of any sign of the seaweed mats, we have ensured our gorgeous sand is seeped every morning and evening, so you can actually end up with ultra-paradisiacal beach stretches!

Curiously, for those of us who like a bit of trivia, these little-known facts may also be of interest:

  • Sargassum seaweed has been noted as beneficial for treating hernia pain.
  • The temporary settlement of these algae beds helps to combat wind and water erosion, as well as being a source of fertilizer for beaches which are well worn. Who doesn’t want healthy, resilient, long-living beaches?
  • Our adorable friend the sea turtle loves to find patches of Sargassum seaweed; not only does it provide him with a food source, but can be used as shelter for him as he makes his way out across the ocean.
Back to Blog