Vasco da Gama was the first person we can name who successfully commandeered a voyage around Africa’s southernmost point, the Cape of Good Hope. It is a treacherous passage, where warm currents from the southern part of the Indian Ocean clash against the icy currents of the south Atlantic, leading to dangerous waves that have swallowed many ships. (Indeed, at the time it was known as “the Cape of Storms”.) Da Gama gave the cape wide berth, sailing far the sight of land, before turning northward and poking his way along the eastern coast of Africa, where many hijinks ensued.
This was in 1497, and Europeans were keen to find some route to Indian spices that didn’t involve crossing lands controlled by some sultan or other. Da Gama showed everyone the way, and the Dutch and the English rushed through and established colonies along the coasts of the Indian Ocean. Da Gama’s fellow Portuguese established colonies as well, of course, but not with equal success. Part of the reason was that Portuguese sailors as a whole were not very interested in following da Gama’s Cape Route because they knew damned well there was a monster down there that ate ships like snacks.