History - Nelson Mandela Bay

Port Elizabeth’s rich cultural heritage guarantees history lovers a unique insight into the Eastern Cape’s diverse and remarkable past.

The nomadic San were the earliest group of indigenous people known to live in the Eastern Cape. The Khoi displaced the San into the mountains and semi-desert, early in the second millennium AD. The forefathers of the isiXhosa speaking people arrived on the banks of the Kei River in about 800 AD.

Whilst on his epic voyage of discovery searching for a sea route to the East, the Portuguese Bartholomew Diaz rounded the “Cabo da Roca” in February 1488 and entered “Baia da Roca” – Cape and Bay of the Rock (now Cape Recife and Algoa Bay). Diaz also gave the name “Ilheus Chaos” (Flat Islands) to the Bird Islands. In 1497, Vasco da Gama, successor to Diaz, entered Algoa Bay on his voyage to India and noted the Bird Islands. His charts gave Cape Recife its name – “Cabo do Arricife” – Cape of the Reef. The Bay was later named “Baia de Lagoa” by navigator and cartographer Manuel de Mesquita Perestrelo in 1576, referring to the lagoon situated at the mouth of the Baakens River.

By the middle of the 18th century, the number of ships passing the Bay had increased. Occasionally, survivors of shipwrecks were given hospitality by Dutch trekboers (farmers) who had trekked from the Cape in search of good farmland. At the end of 1799, the English, fearing that the French would render military assistance to the Graaff-Reinet rebels, decided to construct Fort Frederick overlooking the mouth of the Baakens River as a permanent military post.

Altogether 4000 British Settlers arrived by sea in 1820, to become the first permanent British residents in the Albany District. On 6 June 1820, Sir Rufane Donkin, Acting Governor of the Cape Colony at the time, named the new sea port in memory of his late wife, Elizabeth. Before the up-country gold and diamond booms, Port Elizabeth developed into one of the major commercial cities in South Africa, trading in wool, mohair and ostrich feathers. As a result, the harbour became a bustling port. People travelled to the city in search of trade and labour opportunities. Early Port Elizabeth was characterised by the settlement of European, Cape Malay and immigrant communities.

We look forward to showing you our remarkable city, and will tailor make a trip to suit your requirements.

Our service is personalised. Transfers to and from your B & B, Guesthouse, Lodge, Hotel or Airport can be arranged, should you not be staying with us at "Ebubeleni".

For more information please feel free to contact us at info@ebubeleni.com. We can facilitate your arrangements and make your stay in Port Elizabeth - (Nelson Mandela Bay) a lifetime memory.

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