The Masai Mara is probably one of the best-known reserves in all of Africa. The popularity stems from the annual wildebeest migration, the density of wildlife and the variety of bird life as well as the big sky and open savanna. The landscape is spotted with acacia trees, which probably brought about the name "mara" meaning mottled in the language of the Maasai.
The altitude of the Masai Mara makes for a temperate climate, the rain generally falls in late afternoon or evening.
The reserve borders Tanzania, the Mara is the northern extension of the Serengeti and wildlife roams freely between Kenya and Tanzania in search of food. Wildebeest, zebra, impala, topi, giraffe, Thomson's gazelle, leopards, lions, hyenas, cheetah, and jackal are found in the thousands on the plains of the Masai Mara National Reserve. Annually, in July, the wildebeest travel from Tanzania's Serengeti plains to the Masai Mara and then in October or November they travel back to the Serengeti. Hippos and Nile crocodiles are abundant in the Mara River.
The Oloololo Escarpment, on the western border, has the largest concentration of animals while the eastern border has a large forested area making it more difficult to spot the wildlife.
The Maasai have inhabited this area since the 17th C, living in harmony with the wildlife. Because the Masai Mara does not have National Park status, the Maasai can live and graze their animals within the reserve.