On my first visit to Mossel Bay my brother and I went to the Bartolomeu Dias Museum. Mossel Bay (Afrikaans Mosselbaai) is a harbour town of about 130,000 people on the Southern Cape of South Africa. It is an important tourism and farming region of the Western Cape Province. It is actually best known as the place at which the first Europeans landed on South African soil,Bartolomeu Dias and his crew arrived on 3 February 1488.
Here they found a spring from which to replenish their water supplies. Dias had been appointed to search for a trading route to India by King John II of Portugal, and, without realizing it, actually rounded the Cape of Good Hope before landing at Mossel Bay.
The museum has a full sized replica of his ship. It was built in Portugal in 1987 and set sail for Mossel Bay, arriving on 3 February 1988. It is a 25 ton vessel and an exact replica of the 1487 ship.
You can clearly see the Red Cross of the Order of Christ emblazoned on the sails of the Portuguese caravel.
In 1487 Bartolomeu Dias made several landfalls on the West African coast and in February anchored off the South African coast here at Mossel Bay. In the mid 17th Century the Dutch East India Company decided to set up a refreshment station at the Cape, and it was yet another hundred years before any settlement at Mossel Bay itself was planned.
The best part about the museum is definitely that you get to climb onto and explore the replica!!
The Bartolomeu Dias museum complex was officially opened on 3 February 1989, it is situated at the very site where European explorers came ashore and made contact with the indigenous people. Information about the Khoi-Khoi and explorers can be seen in the Maritime museum.
We had loads of fun exploring the ship and reading about all the first explorations around the tip of Africa. We learnt all about Dias’s explorations in school so it was lovely to actually get to see the nautical charts, and get to climb onto the ship and see how it actually looked.
Here you can see the cramped confines which were the crew’s quarters on the voyages. I can not imagine how awful it must have been to be stuck on the open seas in such small quarters. I think there must have been a couple of fights on their voyage.
This museum overlooks the beautiful harbour and beach right in front of it. Can definitely understand why it is a very popular holiday destination.