Skip links

Facts about Vasco da Gama for Kids


Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira, was a Portuguese explorer, one of the most successful in the Age of Discovery and the commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India. He is one of the most famous and celebrated explorers from the Discovery Ages, being the first European to reach India through sea. This discovery was very impactful and paved the way for the Portuguese to establish a long lasting colonial empire in Asia. The route meant that the Portuguese wouldn’t need to cross the highly disputed Mediterranean nor the dangerous Arabia and that the whole voyage would be made by sea.

  • After decades of sailors trying to reach India with thousands of lives and dozens of vessels lost in shipwrecks and attacks, Gama landed in Calicut on the 20 May 1498.
  • Reaching the legendary Indian spice routes unopposed helped the Portuguese Empire improve its economy that, until Gama, was mainly based on trades along the Northern and coastal West Africa.
  • For his contributions he was named in 1524 as the Governor of India, under the title of Viceroy, and given the newly created County of Vidigueira in 1519.
  • Numerous homages have been made worldwide in Vasco da Gama’s honour for his explorations and accomplishments.
  • In 1492, John II dispatched Vasco da Gama on a mission to the port of Setúbal and to the Algarve to seize French ships in retaliation for peacetime depredations against Portuguese shipping – a task that da Gama rapidly and effectively performed.
  • It remained for an explorer to prove the link between the findings of Dias and those of da Covilhã and de Paiva and to connect these separate segments into a potentially lucrative trade route into the Indian Ocean.
  • The four ships were: The São Gabriel, commanded by Vasco da Gama; a carrack of 178 tons, length 27 m, width 8.5 m, draft 2.3 m, sails of 372 m² The São Rafael, whose commander was his brother Paulo da Gama; similar dimensions to the São Gabriel The caravel Berrio, slightly smaller than the former two (later renamed São Miguel), commanded by Nicolau Coelho A storage ship of unknown name, commanded by Gonçalo Nunes, later lost near the Bay of São Brás, along the east coast of Africa The expedition set sail from Lisbon on 8 July 1497.
  • This course proved successful and on November 4, 1497, the expedition made landfall on the African coast.
  • Not having enough crewmen left standing to manage three ships, Vasco da Gama ordered the São Rafael scuttled off the East African coast, and the crew re-distributed to the remaining two ships, the São Gabriel and the Berrio.
  • Reconstructing from other sources, it seems they continued to Cape Verde, where Nicolau Coelho’s Berrio separated from Vasco da Gama’s São Gabriel, and sailed on by itself.
  • The Berrio arrived in Lisbon on July 10, 1499 and Nicolau Coelho personally delivered the news to King Manuel I and the royal court, then assembled in Sintra.
  • His path would be followed up thereafter by yearly Portuguese India Armadas.