Smelly brown algae called sargassum is invading the most popular Caribbean destinations

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A brown, smelly algae called sargassum is invading the most popular Caribbean destinations, potentially ruining vacations for millions of travelers this summer. While most travelers head to the Caribbean in search of soft sands, clear blue seas and vacations that are a feast for all the senses, the reality this summer could be quite different – with destinations flagships such as Cancun, Punta Cana and Jamaica which have all recently succumbed. to long and difficult battles with foul-smelling algae.

While not exactly a new problem, the unfortunate moment of the Sargassum invasion comes as many travelers have been anxiously awaiting to return abroad after years of hell during the pandemic, which means their long-awaited journeys are at serious risk of seaweed damage. Here’s a look at what sargassum is, which destinations have been affected by it, and how the battle to remove it from beaches is unfolding.

What is sargassum? Information for travelers

Sargassum is a type of brown algae that frequently washes up on beaches in the Caribbean and even the United States. When the mountains of washed up seaweed rot, they release hydrogen sulfide – a gas that has an unpleasant odor similar to rotten eggs. Although completely harmless to humans, the unsightly and stinky nature of rotting sargassum means it risks ruining beach-based activities for potentially millions of travelers this summer.

Where does sargassum cause problems? What travelers need to know

Sargassum is a serious problem in Mexico, where the presence of algae has a huge negative impact on tourism. Cancun is expecting its worst Sargassum season in five years, which is sure to affect local tourism levels and see travelers pick more Sargassum-free areas to visit, like Los Cabos. Extreme solutions have been mooted, such as the installation of a 60 km long sea barrier, as the country struggles to solve the problem.

The Mexican Navy has also been working for years to prevent seaweed from reaching the beach, with little success. This year, using tools such as boats and nets, the navy managed to collect only about 1% of the total amount of Sargassum from the coast. The Navy cited equipment failures as the reason they failed to prevent more from running aground on the beach, and led them to conclude that they were unsuccessful in their efforts.

However, Mexico is not the only country to suffer from stink algae. Sargassum has also invaded several beaches in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, with large concentrations found near the Iberostar Selection Bavaro and Bahia Principe Punta Cana hotels in particular. Rather than the pristine beaches travelers are accustomed to in the region, they’re faced with unattractive and smelly brown beaches – the problem is expected to worsen in the coming months.

Sargassum washed up on the beach

Like Mexico, the Dominican Republic has tried unsuccessfully to control the spread of Sargassum. A 12.7km barrier has been erected to stop it reaching the beaches, and armies of hoteliers have tried to clear them, but it’s costly and time-consuming work. As in previous years, the prevalence of Sargassum is expected to have a negative impact on the number of hotel bookings in the region.

Jamaica’s National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has also warned that the country could face a large influx of Sargassum in the coming months. Several beaches in the parishes of St. Mary, Portland, St. Thomas and St. Catherine are already suffering from its presence, with the agency explaining that the prevalence of sargassum in the Caribbean is part of the “new normal”. Barbados is also suffering from a sargassum infestation, and the problem is expected to spread further across the region this summer.

Read more:

The 10 best destinations Americans can travel to without any tests this summer

Travel insurance that covers Covid-19 for 2022

The latest travel advisories for your favorite Caribbean destinations

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