Ports & Ships advises as follows:
“The idea of Durban as a port dates back to 1824 when the first European settlers made a landing with the intention of setting up a trading post.
The Bay of Natal (Durban Bay) was one of the few natural harbours available along the east coast of southern Africa between Algoa Bay and Delagoa Bay (now Maputo Bay).
Vasco da Gama is said to have sighted the Bay on Christmas Day, 1497, when he hove to off the Bluff with his three small ships San Gabriel, San Raphael and Berrio, before naming the land Natal as a mark of respect for the Nativity. However subsequent studies by Professor Eric Axelson have suggested da Gama’s ‘discovery’ was actually further south in the region of the present Port St Johns.
A later paper by Brian Stuckenberg, director emeritus of the Natal Museum and an entomologist by training, undertook extensive research into certain aspects of the Portuguese voyages of discovery and concluded that da Gama was indeed off the present KwaZulu Natal coast on Christmas Day 1497 (Natalia Vol.27 pp 19-29).
History appears to have decreed that it was while off the KZN coast and not Pondoland that the Portuguese named the land they saw ‘Natal’ in honour of the nativity.
Since then ships called sporadically over several centuries, and who knows which honest merchantman or perhaps pirate ship sheltered behind the protection of the Bluff, that wooded peninsular that forms a dramatic landmark of present Durban.”
The photo below was taken at 05:18 shortly before sunrise.
The view is from the Bluff overlooking Durban harbour towards Umbilo, Glenwood and Berea.