December 21, 2023

Sargassum Holbox: Why is there less seaweed than in other Mexican islands?

Orlando Osorio
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Imagine you spend the whole year planning a vacation at the sea, months dreaming about the beach to enjoy the sun, the white sands, the crystal-clear waters. But when the time to travel to the Mexican Caribbean comes, a sargassum layer covers the coast.

In Isla Holbox, unlike other areas of Mexico, the probabilities of something like this happening are lower in some beaches. Want to know why? We explain it here!

What is sargassum?

Sargassum is a brown macroalgae that grows in a zone of the Atlantic Ocean called the Sargasso Sea, a floating habitat where hundreds of sea species coexist. 

Basically, it has an important function of ecological balance; however, due to the influence of human activity and the impact of climate change, its growth has unleashed uncontrollably.

Is there sargassum in Holbox Island?

Isla Holbox, located north of the Yucatan Peninsula, is not exempt from the presence of sargassum, but is one of the destinations with less overflow of algae, according to the Sargassum Citizen Science Network, which has updated information you can access through a free app.

Punta Mosquito and Punta Cocos are two beaches of Holbox marked as places sargassum-free or with very low levels of sargassum, as hydrobiologist Esteban Amaro, director of the Sargassum Monitoring Network explained to EFE news.

The specialist said that whether this seaweed is a problem in the Mexican Caribbean, there are beaches where the amount of sargassum is minimum or nonexistent. Amaro extended the invitation to those who want to visit the island to check the map of the Monitoring Network in order to see which beaches are free from the seaweed and which are not.

This is what one of the beaches of Holbox looks like. Image: August 2023

Sargassum is a phenomenon that affects many beaches in Quintana Roo, but its impact in Holbox is less because the ocean currents move that algae mass away from its white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

For that reason, this small island has become one of the tourist’s favorites both on weekends and vacation. Many tourists come from the Riviera Maya, where the presence of Sargassum is stronger. 

Sargassum in Quintana Roo

It is normal to find small amounts of sargassum on the coast, but since year 2013 it has excessively increased in the Mexican Caribbean, which has affected some tourist destinations like Playa del Carmen, Cancún, Cozumel, Puerto Morelos and Tulum.

The increase of sargassum seaweed is caused by several factors such as the climate change and the contamination of the ocean with nutrients that come from sewage waters and agricultural fertilizers discarded at sea.

Sargassum can cover large areas of the beach, affect marine ecosystem and local economy. The Caribbean Sea is one of the most damaged areas because the sargassum mass runs into the shore and starts spreading.

In Mexico it is commonly accumulated in bays rather than peninsulas or open beaches, but it is not a rule. Algae can be found all over the coast and in bigger amounts. However, sargassum affects less some destinations like Holbox, Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy.

Authorities of the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources, the Mexican Secretariat of the Navy, tour operators and the people in general coordinate actions to face the arrival of sargassum to the Mexican coasts.

What to do to avoid sargassum on the beach?

Sargassum invades the Caribbean beaches from February or March to October. So, it is better if you follow these tips we give you below when traveling to Quintana Roo in the months when it appears.

Check the conditions of the beach

There are several monitoring accounts available for you to know which beaches on the island are affected by sargassum.

The Sargassum Citizen Monitoring Network offers real time information about the situation of the Holbox and Chiquila coasts. You can also download the Sargassum Monitoring app on your phone to know about the most affected beaches and the forecast for the next few hours. There is also Sargasso Tracker , another internet option.

Choose one of the beaches least affected by sargassum

You can visit beaches like Punta Cocos and Punta Mosquito in Holbox to enjoy the white sand and the crystal-clear waters. There you will have the opportunity to do some snorkeling, kayaking, live the adventure of swimming along with the whale shark, observe the flamingos in the mangroves, part of the things to do in Holbox.

Do not touch the sargassum

Sargassum  itself is not toxic, but when algae decompose they release hydrogen sulphide, a gas with a strong odor of rotten eggs. Nevertheless, due to the contamination of the ocean they might have a high concentration of toxic metals, which become dangerous for the human health and the marine life.

For that reason, if you are in a beach with sargassum, the recommendation is not to touch it and move to an algae free zone.

If you are looking for a magical place to explore, fall in love with its dream landscapes and connect with yourself in a quiet milieu, Isla Holbox is the best place and in Casasandra we welcome you to the most complete experience.

Visit us and experience first hand how life is in a paradise like Holbox. Book with Us and be ready for relaxation and enjoyment!

👋 ¡Hola! Es Orlando, el autor del artículo.
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