Planning Your Time
If you have more than a handful of days in the area, split them between the mountain scenery of the escarpment and wildlife-viewing in the lowveld. You could complete a tour of the Drakensberg Escarpment area in two days, but you're better off budgeting three or more if you plan to linger anywhere. To take in parts of Kruger National Park or one of the private game lodges, which are simply a must, add another three days or more.
3 Days: One of the prime reasons for visiting Mpumalanga is for big game, so fly into the airport nearest your destination and either rent a vehicle and take off into Kruger or get picked up by the private game lodge of your choice. Driving anywhere else in such a short time is not really an option.
5 Days: Your biggest decision will be how much time to spend wildlife-watching and how much to spend exploring the escarpment and its historic towns. A good suggestion is two days for the mountains and three in Kruger. Driving from Johannesburg, plan an overnight in Sabie after driving the awesome Long Tom Pass. The next day, head to the former mining town of Pilgrim's Rest and soak up some of the colorful local history. Spend the night there or at one of the friendly and superb value-for-the-money bed-and-breakfasts in the area, and start out early the next morning for Blyde River (Motlatse) Canyon, with its hiking trails and magnificent escarpment scenery. Then it's off to Kruger, Sabi Sand, Manyeleti, Timbavati, Thornybush, or any of the other game reserves adjacent to Kruger, but make sure you get to Kruger or your private lodge in time for the afternoon game drive.
7 to 10 Days: Spend four or more days in the bush—half at Kruger and half at a private lodge, perhaps. A minimum of two nights at either one is nonnegotiable. Then split the rest of your time between the escarpment and the lowveld outside Kruger, as in the previous itinerary.