Mauritius: enjoying the gluten-free food of paradise
(Before starting, just let me tell you that this post was written by Isabel! What an awesome trip!)
There are places that make us feel closer to paradise and, with no doubt, Mauritius is one of them! And yes! celiac people included!
In the trip with my parents of this summer, we felt like traveling to an exotic place. We wanted to see stunning beaches! And, as long as there is a direct flight from Madrid to Mauritius, it automatically became the best choice for us!
We flew with Evelop, a Spanish airline that travels to destinations like Cuba, the Caribbean, Jamaica… Evelop? It was the first time we heard about this airline… Would they serve gluten-free food? Well, they do! After booking the tickets I logged on to their website and clicked on ‘Special Menus’ tab to book my gluten free menu for both flights.
And the journey begins! I forgot to confirm the gluten free menu at the check-in counter, but as I was carrying snacks I did not worry too much. On the plane, as it happened on the trip to New York, they served a main meal at 2:00 p.m. and another lighter 2 hours before landing (we left at 4:30 p.m. and arrived at 6:00 p.m. the next day, which It was 8:00 am there, the longest flight I have ever taken!). Shortly after taking off they came to confirm that I had a gluten free menu.
The first meal consisted of rice with chicken, salad and fruit, and the second on a ham and fruit sandwich. This time I was served at the same time as everyone, but my meal was perfectly labeled as GMFL and there was no problem at all.
Almost 12 hours later, we arrived at Mauritius, feeling very sleepy, and after one hour drive through the small roads of the island, we got to the hotel.
For our stay there we chose the ‘Long Beach Golf and Spa Resort’ on the east coast. When I made the reservation I sent them an email to inform them about my celiac condition, because I had no idea what the ‘gluten-free’ would look like in that island. A few days later they answered me very kindly, explaining that there was no problem and that they would take it into account. They also asked me to remind them when I would arrive to the hotel.
To eat there we could choose from five restaurants: a buffet (where breakfast was served), an Italian restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese restaurant and a pool buffet that served a bit of everything.
When we arrived at the buffet to have breakfast the first day, one of the waitresses came to ask if everything was OK and I took the opportunity to ask her about the gluten free food. She repeated that there was no problem, that I could go to any of the restaurants. Then she introduced me to the chef at the buffet. I had a really good impression, as they had an area in the kitchen apart for gluten free food only.
The biggest challenge was to explain them that I am allergic to oats, and depending on the country it is used in gluten-free products. Luckily, I had the gluten-free travel cards with me! (Although the official language is English – and more or less everyone speaks it -, the languages most used are Creole – a mixture of French and African – and French. I would recommend you to take the travel cards in English and in French, as well). Even though it was difficult for them to understand, not because of the language, but because it gave me the impression that some did not even know what oats is. In any case, they seemed very sure that nothing contained it.
In general, almost every day we had breakfast at the buffet, we ate at the pool and had dinner again at the buffet.
We didn’t go to the Chinese and Japanese restaurants. We went to the Italian one, as they told me gluten free pasta was available. In fact, they had gluten free pasta, and to proof it, they even showed me the package. About the salsa, I could choose any of the menu (there were about 15), but as I like the classics I ate them with “alla carbonara”.
But hey! We did much more than eating there! We spend a lot of time in the pool, walking along the amazing beaches and seeing the coral reef. Yes, Mauritius is one of those lucky places that have a coral reef. I had never seen one before, so I took the opportunity to go there snorkeling and see the fish more closely. Do you know another of its advantages? Keeps sharks away from the beach, thank goodness! At the hotel you could do many other water sports, although we did not take advantage of it as the water was not as hot as we expected. It was winter time there!
Note: If you are planning to travel there during Spanish summer time, be aware that it is winter time there. Even though it is the best time to visit this island – mainly because there are no cyclones – the temperature is not too high (about 20-25 °), so remember to put a Jacket in your luggage and, if you are cold-natured, put some long trousers too. Especially if you go to the South or East of the island, where it is colder and windy.
Near the infinite pool, there was another restaurant. I did not have any problems for eating there, because they could adapted all the dishes. Besides, they also had some kind of gluten-free bread (it looked more like a brioche, you know what I’m talking about). Almost every day I ate grilled fish, because it tasted great, but one day I was encouraged to ask for curry and I also got it right. No gluten in any of the dishes I ordered!
Finally, I have to tell you about the buffet. Every time I came in, I asked the chef to tell me what I could eat and what not. Usually, excluding some of the sauces that were already apart, nothing contained gluten, so I was not really worried about cross-contamination. There they do not put flour in everything like here, but they use a lot of spices, luckily not very spicy.
In the case of breakfast, as special gluten free packed products they only had muffins. They could prepare you anything, so I ordered gluten free crepes, which were delicious (incredibly good, really). I could put butter and jam, or chocolate cream. They didn’t have bread for toasts, but as I brought it from Spain, and I had a toast bag, like the one Santi used when he went to visit India (you can read the first and second part of his trip here), I could prepare them avoiding cross contamination.
And what happened outside the hotel? We did some excursions: one to the north and one to the south, and again without problems.
The south was incredible! If you go to the island you cannot miss that part. We began by seeing Trou aux cerfs, the crater of an ancient dormant volcano; then they took us to Grand Bassin, a sacred Hindu lake, and then we could see one of the last parts of the island where there is still a virgin forest and it really is worth it (at the moment almost all the island is occupied by sugarcane crops).
To eat we went to a restaurant called ‘Varangue Sur Morne’ that on our way. I had already informed our guide, because it was almost the first thing they asked (if anyone had allergies or intolerances), but when we got to the restaurant we talked again. I made sure there was no problem and although I emphasized the possibility of cross contamination in the sauces, just in case. They had prepared a typical menu of the island: first, pumpkin puree with coconut milk, second chicken with rice and a tomato sauce, and dessert coconut ice cream with tapioca. The only thing I did not eat was the dessert, because I was not sure if I could eat tapioca and I had never tasted it, so they put fruit for me. Once at the hotel I looked for it and saw that there was no problem, so I’ll have to try it next time!
In the afternoon we went to see the waterfall of Chamarel and the Land of the Seven Colors, both precious, and we looked at the west coast of the island and the huge storm that was coming from one of the lookout areas they had there. After that it was time to return to the hotel.
We took dinner almost every night at the buffet. I used to order fish or grilled meat (they had exclusive plates for that), salad, cheeses … and fruit, lots of fruit. If you like it as much as me, traveling to these countries is a good opportunity to eat rare fruits, such as passion fruit, which they had at all times and was great, or coconut.
If there is a ‘but’ it is that many people have no idea what celiac disease is or what ‘gluten free’ means (although sometimes, you do not need go that far for this to happen), and in fact when I asked, some waiters thought I was talking about milk! But as soon as I explained it they were going to ask the chef. If they finally confirmed that something had nothing, it was true. The important thing is that if they didn’t know, they went in to ask, instead of just saying a quick yes or no, in order to get rid of me.
The second excursion we did was to the north of the island. First we went up to see Cap Malheureux, which is the northern tip and from it you can see several smaller islands; Then we went to the Botanical Garden of Pamplemousses (curiosity: that pretty word means ‘grapefruit’), with its thousands of palm trees and their giant water lilies.
To finish the morning we went to the museum of an old sugar factory, called L’aventure du sucre, and ate there. It was quite curious because you could taste 12 varieties of sugar (nothing to do with the one we have in Spain) and 6 rum. The menu consisted of a salad, chicken with a second curry (they made me roast chicken, although I do not have photo because I was very hungry) and a chocolate dessert (I took fruit).
Time passed by so fast there and, suddenly, it was time to go back home!
I am sorry to say that the trip did not end as well as it began. In the flight back, I did not prepare “emergency sandwiches”, since in the first flight everything went very well. Error! Good thing I still had two packs of cookies. This time we left Mauritius at 8am and arrived at 8pm in Spain. Again they served a strong and light meal, none was suitable for me.
When they started serving the first meal, they came to explain me that they did not have my food because at the airport, instead of putting the gluten free food, they had put me Indian food. Although it was labeled as gluten free I didn’t take it. My face expression should have been funny to see (I was afraid of living the same bad experience Santi had with Fly Emirates when he flew to Johannesburg: you can read the first and second part of that trip here). Luckily, they had fruit and yogurt. As you can imagine with the second meal the same happened, although on that occasion they put me a salad. My breakfast and lunch that day consisted of a salad, a yogurt, two apples and my lucky two packets of cookies. What did I learn from it? That I will never forget my sandwiches on such a long trip. Everyone can make mistakes, even those who prepare your food, but in the end, who will be hungry or in risk is you.
To avoid finishing the post with bad news, I reserved for the end my favorite part of the Island: its people. Both inside and outside the hotel, everyone was incredibly friendly and easy going, even though they did not speak English very well. Nobody complained about my special dietary needs. Totally the opposite! Everyone tried to help me and adapted what was needed. Beyond its white sand beaches and its incredible landscapes, the friendliness of its inhabitants was a great aspect of Mauritius. So if you want to travel to this small corner of the Indian Ocean, I can just tell you one thing: stop doubting and start packing!
BY CLICKING ON THE GLUTEN FREE RESTAURANTS MAP YOU WILL SEE ALL THE RESTAURANTS WE TALKED ABOUT LOCATED IN THE MAP:
BELOW YOU WILL FIND THE CELIAC TRAVEL CARD:
You can see the pictures of the trip here.
P.S.: Please keep in mind that in this blog I share my trips, anecdotes and experiences about gluten free travel around the world. It is possible that, in any of my trips, I go to some restaurant not trained by the associations where the risk of being contaminated with gluten exists.
I kindly ask you to also take into account that the list of references can change. Please, always double check before eating in the restaurants we recommend.
Thank you very much!
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