Rhino Close Encounter


Just how bad is a rhino’s eyesight?  Here was the plan, if you can call a crazy off the top of your head idea that no one in their right mind would consider doing a plan, we were going to get out of our vehicle and see how close we could get to a wild white rhinoceros. There was a method to the madness. I was at South Africa’s Sabi Sabi Game Reserve where they were helping me with a story on rhinos.  Part of the story was to see if the old theory of rhinos having bad eyesight is true.  By the way, although Sabi Sabi does offer walking safaris to tourists, they would never do this with one of their clients.  Being with National Geographic occasionally gives you some privileged access.  Well, after you watch the video you can decide if this was a priviledge or not.

What did we learn from our test?  Do rhinos have eyesight so bad they can’t tell a person from a bush at 20 feet?  At 10 feet?  Or closer?  Did it prove I have a very small brain to even attempt this eye test?  This video shows the results.

Boyd Matson, in his work for National Geographic, has been bitten, scratched, or pooped on, and occasionally kissed by most of the creatures found at your local zoo. What he refers to as his job, others might describe as a career spent attending summer camp for adults. Currently Matson is the host of the weekly radio show, “National Geographic Weekend.” Conducting interviews from the studio and from the field, Matson connects with some of the greatest explorers and adventurers on the planet to transport listeners to the far corners of the world and to the hidden corners of their own backyards. Matson also writes about his experiencs in his monthly column, “Boyd Matson Unbound” for National Geographic Traveler magazine, produces videos for National Geographic.com, and serves as a spokesperson for the National Geographic Society.
  • David Braun

    I had the great fortune to go on the “Wilderness Trail” in Imfolozi, a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province and home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of wild rhinos. We hiked through the wilderness for five days, armed rangers in front and behind us.

    Our instructions were to disperse and run for cover behind trees and bushes if a rhino charged, and come together and stand still in a tight outward-facing group if a lion charged.

    On the second day we got such a fright when we were charged by a black rhino that we all stampeded as a herd, diving into a shallow gully. There was no thought of dispersing and finding small bushes for cover. The rhino glared in its squinty way at the pile of cowering humans, before trotting away.

    Fortunately, we were never put to the test of the charging lion.

  • Richard de Gouveia

    As a ranger at Sabi Sabi and having regular encounters with these incredible creatures it is always nice to see people trying to understand them better. We once did our own test to find out at what distance the rhinos could pick up movement so that as walking guides we could understand the practical side of rhino vision to ensure guest safety! We found that the rhinos picked up our movement at about 50 metres (approximately 160 feet) but had no idea what we were. This caused them to do an investigatory charge to get closer in order to figure out what we were.

  • Sue McColl

    I love all your videos, the humor, interesting facts and the new appreciation one finds for some “unloved” animals! Do more soon!

  • Sue McColl

    Who knew a rhino or a walrus or a tern could be so interesting! Thanks!

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