--During the early 1400´s, Portuguese explorers concentrated their attention on the west coast of

Africa. Prince Henry, a son of King John I of Portugal, became known as Henry the Navigator. He never went on a voyage of exploration himself, but he encouraged and sponsored many explorations. Henry wanted to increase Portugal´s trade along the African coast and find the source of the gold that African Muslim traders had been carrying north from central Africa for centuries. He also hoped to find a legendary Christian kingdom that was supposed to exist somewhere in Africa.


 Vasco Da Gama sailed from Portugal to India in 1497 and 1498. His historic voyage, which is shown on this map, opened a new trade route between Europe and Asia.   Trip after trip, Henry´s crews sailed farther and farther south along the African coast. By the time Henry died in 1460, the coast had been traced as far south as present-day Sierra Leone. During these voyages, the Portuguese collected gold dust and African captives who were sold into slavery. After 1500, when the settlement of the Americas created a demand for slaves, other Europeans began to sail to the west African coast to take part in the slave trade.

During the late 1400´s, the Portuguese became increasingly hopeful of reaching the southern end of Africa. They believed that such a discovery would reveal a way of sailing to India.

In 1487, the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias (BAHR tul uh MEH oo DEE uhs) set out to find a route around Africa. As he sailed along the continent´s southwestern coast, a violent storm blew his ships south of the tip of the continent. Dias then turned east and sailed into the Indian Ocean in early 1488 without sighting the tip of Africa. After turning north again, Dias reached the east coast of Africa, but his crew then forced him to return to Portugal. On the return voyage, he saw a point of land jutting out from the continent´s southern tip. The Portuguese named it the Cape of Good Hope because its discovery indicated hope that a sea route to India had been found.

News of Columbus´s discoveries caused much excitement in Spain. But the Portuguese did not believe that Columbus had reached the Indies because he had not brought back spices or other known Asian products. They remained convinced that the best route to Asia would be found by sailing around Africa.

In 1497, King Manuel I of Portugal chose the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama (VAHSH koo duh GAH muh) to sail all the way to Asia. On July 8, da Gama set out from Lisbon, Portugal, with four ships and a crew of about 170. Instead of sailing close to the west African coast, he swung out into the Atlantic to find the most favorable winds. He rounded the Cape of Good Hope on November 22 and then sailed into the Indian Ocean. At Malindi, in present-day Kenya, he found an experienced Arab pilot, Ahmad Ibn Majid (AHM ahd IHB uhn MAH jihd), who agreed to show the way to India.

The Portuguese reached Calicut on the southwest coast of India on May 20, 1498. Calicut´s Hindu ruler was not interested in the goods da Gama brought to trade. The Muslim merchants there were not happy to see da Gama, whom they considered a possible business rival. But the explorer obtained some gems and spices, including pepper and cinnamon, to take back to Portugal to prove he had reached Asia. Da Gama made a second voyage to Calicut in 1502. He arrived with a fleet of 20 ships, bombarded the town, and established Portuguese rule there.