In October 2011, The New York Times ran an article about the overwhelming amount of seaweed on beaches in St. Martin and Anguilla, claiming that these Caribbean islands were covered in sargasso seaweed.
Here is my good friend Kristin Bourne's response to the article...
I felt compelled to write after having read the NY Times story (dated October, 11, 2011) entitled "Caribbean Beaches Dig Out From Massive Seaweed Invasion" - "Where's the Beach? Under the Seaweed".
Understanding that a headline needs to be attention-grabbing and therefore be a bit dramatic, I was encouraged to read on given that I have not seen anyone "digging" out from under anything in Anguilla. I can't speak for other Caribbean islands.
It seems as though this topic brings out some oddities in people and their respective responses. As with anything, it is ideal when people react realistically, granted opinions are all relative.
I saw internet posts that said, "What seaweed?" and I heard of people who aren't officially associated with tourism that were angry that the topic was even addressed.
Let's address it realistically.
Currently, I live in Anguilla.
The Anguilla I know... (beautiful Rendezvous Bay)
Anguilla is, in my opinion, the very best in all capacities, of all of the Caribbean islands that I have experienced. This is part of why I continued to come back to it over and over again, and a large part of why I live here now.
Never have I been anywhere where the people are so nice to speak with, the beaches seem to be all your own and breath-taking. Never have I felt so welcomed anywhere else.
The water here is silky, the sand powdery, and every single sense is fully pampered in a dreamy way.
It saddens me to think that someone might chose to not experience Anguilla due an article that makes it seem as though every beach on the island is covered in seaweed - they are not.
I see many of the beaches on the island and I have seen this Sargasso seaweed. It has been washing up on the shores. Denial of it is unrealistic.
The claims are that it started arriving as early as June 2011.
This is the eastern end of Rendezvous Bay
in late July 2011
After nearby Tropical Storms passed by this year it did intensify slightly, as it goes when storms churn up sea life and bring it ashore.
Anguilla relies so heavily on tourism that it understandable that an article on seaweed that supposedly "smells of rotten eggs as it decomposes" and "attracts flies" may make some people nervous in an already declined tourist market.
I guess this is part of why it is a story... The down economy + seaweed = some concern.
This should not be.
Ideally those concerned about what they are hearing would do themselves a favor by getting out to at least several beaches on a regular basis and have a look for themselves.
Tourists and snowbirds who already have been to and love Anguilla will not be swayed, I'm 99% sure of that.
Those who have never been and are considering Anguilla for all that is has to offer, would do themselves a disservice by being swayed.
Anguilla is as pristine as ever. In fact, it's greener than I have ever seen it thanks to the above average rains that passed by this year. Inland is almost as gorgeous as the beaches are right now.
This is Meads Bay in mid-August 2011...no seaweed. And yes! That is Nori and Yuki!
As for the seaweed: I've yet to smell rotten eggs and I've walked a long walk along side Sargasso seaweed that has washed up. Perhaps the incredible tradewinds that bless Anguilla blow the would-be smell right out from under your nose?
I've seen flies here and there, but I always see flies. Flies exist everywhere that I have ever lived. They most certainly are not hundreds of them swarming around the seaweed. If they were, at least you know that you are not going to be a target for them over seaweed.
I do not know of a single person living in Anguilla, with the incredible beaches at their fingertips all of the time, that has opted to not go to a beach due to seaweed. That leads me to believe that a tourist spending a precious week here would not be deterred either.
Sandy Ground in mid-September 2011
A twig of seaweed passing by in the water has never harmed anyone that I know of. A passing twig or two is the most I've seen while being in the sea at Shoal Bay, Cove Bay, Rendezvous Bay, Savannah Bay, and Meads Bay since the claimed start of the Sargasso seaweed arrival.
I have seen an unremarkable minimal amount at Sandy Ground and I am there almost every Sunday.
This the worst I've seen.
The non-resort area of Sandy Hill Bay /
Seafeather on the southeastern side in mid-October
The worst accumulation of it that I've seen was at Sandy Hill Bay / Seafeather Bay. I still was able to walk my dog up and down the beach without any issue.
It is lying on the beaches in some places, yes. Is it there consistently? No.
One of my friends and I were walking on Rendezvous Bay and she remarked how beautiful she thought the seaweed was.
It almost gives off a glow reminiscent of autumn colors (like gold and copper) and reminds you that you are on an island in the middle of the ocean.
Anything can wash up... A message in a bottle, a starfish, an old oar, how glorious is that?
I've spent some time speaking with a local friend after this article surfaced and I saw some of the reactions to it.
He was explaining how important the seaweed is for the beaches and how it can be "blamed" for the Anguilla beaches being even as voluptuous as they are.
Over time as seaweed washes up and sand then covers it, it helps build a more solid beach foundation.
Storms come and heavy surf does its best to break down the beach. I've seen this in Anguilla. The shoreline changes over time.
What is amazing is that it has a way of protecting and correcting itself, it seems.
Seaweed breaking down on a beach, during the off and closed season when very few tourists are in Anguilla has been a best case scenario.
Lower Shoal Bay in mid-October 2011
Upper Shoal Bay in mid-October 2011...the same day as above.
Location makes all the difference!
The Anguilla beaches will only build up over this decomposition and likely handle next years' storm season with a even more resistance. How grand considering many come here for just that - the beaches.
Bottom line is that the Sargasso seaweed is still showing up, but the quantity appears to be diminishing which is good timing.
The resorts are reopening and clearing the beaches, which only requires a little effort due to the small quantities.
In fact, Cuisinart Resort Anguilla rakes the beach in front of their property, as they did long before Sargasso seaweed was making its approach. I personally don't like it raked but for those who do, it ensures that your foot is touching only sand and hardly a trace of anything else.
The beaches are just as perfect now as the first time I laid eyes on them 8 years ago.
A choppier Rendezvous Bay in late September 2011
Sandy Ground in late October 2011
Here's hoping that my response doesn't come off an any way other than loving. I'm sure the seaweed story was not created in malice however, my interpretation of it doesn't reflect what I have been seeing in Anguilla. It may be informative in regards to the islands that were more heavily focused on.
Anguilla is so very unique and immensely beautiful in so many ways: its beaches, people, and flora and fauna. So, seeing it lumped in with other Caribbean islands who are suggesting hazardous swimming due to seaweed isn't fair to Anguilla.
It seems Anguilla has fared better than some islands that were being written about, assuming the reports from those islands are accurate.
As always, the best judge is always your own eyes and ears. I share my perspective out of caring and because I know some who can't in Anguilla at the moment will value it. I encourage others to see for themselves.
I for one, am happy to know that the Sargasso seaweed is not bad for the island - in fact, it's helpful. I share my recent images to show what I see here regarding the seaweed. It is under control. The seaweed has served its purpose and Anguilla's beaches will only be better because of it.
And, if you are concerned about the seaweed on your upcoming Anguilla vacation in the high season... Fear not. The sargasso seaweed will float away as the hurrican season comes to an end.