Vasco Da Gama Pillar in Malindi

Vasco da Gama pillar is one of the many tourist attractions in Malindi. At top of the list of places to visit in Malindi and the pride of Malindi, the Vasco da Gama pillar was built by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498. The Vasco da Gama Pillar is named after Vasco da Gama, one of the most famous and celebrated explorers of the Age of Discovery


Where is Vasco da Gama Pillar located?

Vasco da Gama pillar is located on the seafront road along the beach in Shela Neighbourhood.  The pillar was first erected at the Sheikh’s house but later removed and re-erected where it is today. The Vasco da Gama pillar and the cross are both made from original Portuguese limestone material.  The Portuguese built it to give direction to those following the sea route to India. This antique was built about a century before Fort Jesus in Mombasa, making it one of the oldest European installations in East Africa. The monument has become the most renowned attraction site for both local and international tourists visiting Malindi.

Vasco da Gama pillar

Vasco da Gama pillar in the background during high tides

History of Vasco da Gama Pillar

Vasco da Gama pillar in Malindi according to many people in the world history study believes is a unique monument and the circumstances that led to its erection ought to be a subject of study in a detailed manner.

The pillar looks like a regular lighthouse only that, unlike other lighthouses, the Vasco da Gama pillar has no lights in it. It is believed, from historical accounts, that the Portuguese explorers were able to see the pillar while at sea as they approached the shores of Malindi. In other historical accounts, it is believed that the main intention of Vasco da Gama in putting up the pillar was to enable the Portuguese sailors to get a bearing on India. Through this account, it is believed that the Vasco da Gama pillar played a very vital role in the navigation and trade between India and Portugal.

One of the popular accounts, an account that has been supported by many historians is that the Vasco da Gama Pillar was built as a symbol of appreciation for the hospitality shown to the Portuguese explorers by the Malindi rulers and the locals.

Who is Vasco Da Gama?

Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese explorer who, in 1497, became the first European to sail around the Cape of Good Hope and reach India. He did this by sailing down the west coast of Africa and rounding the southern tip of Africa, thus discovering an alternative route to Asia. He then sailed south along the east coast of Africa and rounded the Cape of Good Hope, reaching India in 1498. The southern route, as it became known, was quicker than the northern route. For this reason, Portuguese ships began to use this route and eventually dominated the trade between Europe and India.

When was Vasco Da Gama born?

Vasco Da Gama was born in the 1460s, in the town of Sines in Portugal. He was the son of Estêvão da Gama and Isabel Sodré. Isabel Sodré was the daughter of a well-connected scion of English origin, João Sodré (João de Resende) Vasco Da Gama’s early life was very eventful.

Vasco Da Gama in his youth

In 1473, when he was about ten years old, the town of Sines was attacked by the armies of John I of Castile, and Vasco da Gama was caught up in the fighting. During this attack, Vasco Da Gama killed a Moorish man who had taken his father’s boat and then took a ship belonging to one of his uncles. He sailed all over the country in this uncle’s ship. At about 16 years old, when he was a merchant seaman on board an expedition to India led by King Joao II of Portugal, he encountered heavy storms off the coast of India and lost sight of his ship for two weeks. When they saw that they were too far from land to return home, they set sail for Lisbon where they arrived after 28 days at sea.

The first voyage around Africa in 1482

At the age of 20, in 1482, Vasco da Gama was already a very experienced and skillful sailor. This year he started his first voyage across the Atlantic to India. He traveled by himself to Morocco where he was arrested because he did not have the correct permission from the sultan of Fez. After being held prisoner for six months, he managed to escape and continued with his journey by ship. He stopped in Lisbon where he spent nine days trying to get money from his friends for travel expenses. On April 15th, 1482, Vasco da Gama sailed from Lisbon with a crew of about 50 people on board a Portuguese carrack called O Pescador (The Fisherman). His first goal was Tangier which is now in Morocco. They left at 8 am on the high seas and it took them three months to reach Tangier where they arrived on September 19th (or October 4th).

The discovery of the sea route

On September 23rd they sailed out of Tangier and reached Cape Bojador at about 3:30 pm on November 2nd. This is a part of the coast of Morocco in which there are many coves and shoals with shallow waters. Vasco da Gama sent his crew members to investigate the coast but they could not find a way around the cape. When he tried to sail into that sea, his ship was attacked by five armed galleys from Mogador. Two ships were captured but the captain managed to escape with his crew in an open boat.

He then sailed back to Portugal where he reported what had happened. King Joao II was so pleased with this news that he promoted Da Gama and gave him 300 days’ wages for his voyage around Africa, as well as giving him 150 slaves from Barbary who were forced to do hard work aboard Da Gama’s ship on their way back home, for six months after reaching Lisbon in February 1483.

Discoveries of Vasco da Gama

During his first voyage (1497–1499) Vasco da Gama discovered two islands off India’s east coast: St. Mary’s Island (Pondicherry), which is now part of Puducherry state; and Calicut Island (Malabar), which is now part of Kerala state. He sailed past them on his way to Calicut, but it was only later that they were identified as islands. This discovery of islands provided navigational aid to ships that were following his route, since they would know where they were relative to the mainland, in case of any doubt or confusion.

It is believed that Vasco da Gama also discovered the Cananore harbour (Kannur) and Cannanore city (Kannur) during his first voyage to India. Both are on the coast of Kerala state, some 300 km from Calicut Island. The Portuguese explorer also took some Indian sailors with him on this voyage in order to explore India’s east coast for future exploration and trade. These people may have been part of a second expedition organized by him after his return from Africa in 1499–1500 and which consisted of two ships: one heading towards China with an estimated crew size of 60 sailors; and one heading towards Lisbon with a crew size close to 110 men according to other sources. It is possible that he may have discovered the Kaveripattan am harbour (Kaveripayattu) on the southwest coast of India and the city of Cochin in that same year, which was not recorded by any other Portuguese explorers.

It is estimated that during his second voyage to India in 1499–1502 he visited and mapped two-thirds of the Indian coast: from Cannanore (Kannur) to Goa. He also discovered the harbour of Calicut city, then called Quilon or Cilão (near Calicut Island), before leaving for home.

This part of his exploration was recorded by some contemporary sources such as João de Barros’ Décadas da Índia (1455). The route used by da Gama was very well mapped by a French explorer, Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, during his 1565–1568 expedition. Although his records were mostly lost during the voyage he made in 1566 to investigate reports about a gold-rich island to be discovered by Columbus, the French explorer managed to obtain information about some Portuguese discoveries around India.

Vasco da Gama Pillar images


Frequently asked questions about Vasco da Gama Pillar

Let us finish off things by answering a few common questions about Vasco da Gama Pillar in Malindi Kenya

When did Vasco da Gama reach Kenya?

Vasco da Gama reached Kenya on April 7, 1498, on the port of Mombasa

How was the Sultan of Malindi helpful to Vasco da Gama?

The Sultan was helpful by being kind and welcoming him contrasting the treatment Vasco da Gama received in Mombasa

Who built Vasco da Gama Pillar?

Who built Vasco da Gama Pillar is a popular question and the answer is pretty straight forward, Vasco da !

When was Vasco da Gama pillar built?

The question When was Vasco da Gama pillar built has been asked severally. The Vasco da Gama pillar was built in 1498 by Vasco da Gama himself.

What hotels are near Vasco da Gama Pillar?

What hotels are near Vasco da Gama Pillar is a commonly asked question. There are plenty of such hotels. Check out the best on

Do you need to book in advance to visit Vasco da Gama Pillar?

Do you need to book in advance to visit Vasco da Gama Pillar? This is a Yes and No kind of an answer. This depends on the specific hotel you have checked into. However, Vasco da Dama pillar entry does not require advance booking.

Tourist Attractions near Vasco da Gama Pillar

  1. Portuguese Chapel
  2. House of Columns
  3. Malindi Pier (Buntwani)
  4. Falconry of Malindi
  5. Silversands Beach
  6. Golden beach (Malindi Beach)
  7. Malindi Marine National Park
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