Key West sargassum is probably the last thing you had in mind when planning your trip to the Florida Keys. Unfortunately, it’s a natural occurrence year after year in South Florida. If you’re hearing about this problematic seaweed in Key West but don’t know anything about it, we’re here to help you understand why this sargassum is a problem and how to avoid it to have a marvelous beach vacation in Key West.
Key West seaweed made an early appearance in Monroe County this year, making it a challenging season for the popular summer destination in South Florida. However, the city is doing its part to make sure the sargassum problem hitting beach shores doesn’t ruin a summer full of family vacations or romantic getaways.
Enjoy Your Fun In The Sun Without Smelly Seaweed
Let’s kick this off on a high note! The first thing to remember is that your Key West getaway is not ruined just because of smelly seaweed washing ashore on public beaches. Key West Boat Trips offers the best opportunity for you to enjoy the sun and sand of the Florida Keys without getting trapped on a beach full of sargassum seaweed.
Choose from a variety of private tour options to customize the experience. Most of our boat tours accommodate up to six people, but we have an option catering to 12 people. Our expert captains know the ins and out of the shallow waters of Key West and know which beach shores are the cleanest. That means you’re guaranteed to enjoy your time in the water or on the sand without contending with sargassum seaweed.
Be sure to book your boat trip in advance so you are guaranteed a private excursion around the crystal clear waters of Key West.
What Is Sargassum Seaweed?
If you’ve ever been to the beach, you’re probably at least slightly familiar with seeing seaweed in the sand. It’s never very much, so why should this seaweed in Key West be any different? Before we get into why it’s problematic, let’s get to the bottom of what sargassum is.
Sargassum seaweed originates from brown algae found in the waters of the Sargasso Sea of the Western Atlantic Ocean. That brown algae collects together to form a seaweed that, when inspected closely, has a very intricate leaf pattern with small, pearl-like balls of air nestled within the brambly seaweed.
These air-filled sacs make the seaweed float, and as it works its way through the nutrient-rich waters flowing into the Atlantic Ocean from the Amazon and upwelling currents from West Africa, the sargassum forms into a huge mass headed right for the east coast of Florida. This floating mass is now what we call the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt.
What Is The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt?
Once all the sargassum floats together to form the huge mass known as the Sargassum Belt, it collects over time to create a 5,000-mile-long island-like mass of sprawling seaweed stretching from West Africa toward the Caribbean Sea. This large mass of brown seaweed is constantly moving on the surface of the water, so it never connects to the sea floor, which acts as a floating habitat.
Some of the creatures that find a safe haven within this massive web of seaweed include:
- Tropical Fish
- Marine Birds
Is Sargassum Seaweed Dangerous Or Just A Nuisance?
As sargassum washes ashore every year in Key West, locals and visitors alike are primarily annoyed by the smell of the sargassum quantity on the beach. This giant blob of seaweed breaks up along the shore to create a mess on public beaches in Monroe County, but there’s not too much danger involved.
Decaying sargassum starts to emit the gas hydrogen sulfide as it rots in the sun, and while it’s mostly bothersome for its potent stench of rotten eggs, people with respiratory issues, including asthma, should be mindful around the seaweed. Not only can this emission give you breathing problems, but it could potentially make you feel weak and ill if you aren’t careful.
Another annoyance sargassum seaweed brings is its hindrance to swimming! It’s very uncomfortable swimming in and around sargassum as its winding web of floating seaweed makes it hard to navigate through. If there’s a significant sargassum quantity in the water, it’s best to stay out until it can be cleaned up.
Does The Sargassum In Key West Play A Significant Role With Wildlife?
The stinky seaweed that floats in from the Gulf of Mexico each season turns from a flourishing habitat to a potential death trap for many sea turtles in the Caribbean Sea. As the sargassum washes ashore, it creates a tangled-up mess along the water that makes it hard for nesting mama turtles to make it to the sand to hide their eggs. She can also get tangled in it as she pursues her matronly mission, which can create its own set of problems.
If the mother turtle does successfully nest her eggs in the sand, once the babies are born, the clots of seaweed make it challenging, if not impossible, to reach the water, which can create a deadly problem for the population of beloved turtles in the Caribbean Sea.
Does Anyone Do Anything About The Seaweed Problem In Key West?
The short answer to that question is yes! The city of Miami and Monroe County employ beach cleaning contractors that travel around the east coast and the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to dispose of the putrid decaying sargassum.
Some beaches like South Beach and Higgs Beach work to make sure their beaches are cleaned twice a day for the comfort of visitors.
When Is Sargassum Seaweed The Worst In Key West?
While the seaweed shows up from the Gulf of Mexico around June each year, it always piles up the most between July and August. If you’re looking to schedule your trip to Key West when it’s least likely to be consumed with seaweed, you’ll want to make plans to arrive between October and May.
The cooler months of the year might not always be ideal for a beach lover, but you can almost guarantee you won’t have to worry about sargassum or the smell of rotten eggs at all during your stay.
What Can I Do To Avoid Sargassum On The Beach?
If your plans are already made, and it looks like you’ll be visiting during sargassum season, there is still lots of fun to be had here in Key West. Hit Duval Street for the best boutique shopping, endless eatery options from high-end menus to family-pleasing mom-and-pop shops, and lots of lively bars and nightclubs for a night on the town.
Head to Old Town Key West to hop on and off the Old Town Trolley Tours for the ultimate sightseeing convenience, and be sure to stop at all the top Key Lime pie bakeries in town to find your favorite. Even if you can’t hit the beach, there’s still tons to do in Key West!
Make The Most Of The Sun And Sand In The Florida Keys
You don’t have to give up on your sun and sand time while visiting the Florida Keys during sargassum season! Key West Boat Trips can help you curate a fun-filled day with the family or a romantic date day with your couple of friends with our vast selection of touring selections.
Our captains know the area like the back of their hands and can take you out to the sandbars, where you won’t have to contend with sargassum to enjoy a dip in the cool waters. We also have lunch tours available if you’d like to enjoy a picnic on a secluded beach or out on the boat.
Let us help you make the most of your trip to the Florida Keys. Don’t let a little bit of stinky seaweed ruin the fun! Head to our website to select your tour and book an excursion with us today!