Footloose Forays

Footloose Forays is a small travel business begun in 1983 while I was still in graduate school at San Francisco State University. It has grown slowly and organically through the intervening years. I have taken over 10,000 people on various natural history outings ranging from 4-hour night hikes on Mt. Tam to three week adventures in Ecuador. I have enjoyed nearly every minute of this work. The Buddhists refer to the importance of right livelihood and I have been lucky enough to find that. I lead every single trip. Footloose Forays = Michael Ellis. I have no staff except when I enlist my lovely son to help me. I have a very high repeat business and most trips fill up way in advance. One of the many blessings is the lovely relationships that I have with my fellow naturalists all over the world.

Currently I am concentrating on international travel and only offer a few of my favorite Footloose Forays trips in this country, mostly week-long camping in the mountains or deserts. If any of these trips interest you please feel free to contact me.

In addition to my own natural history forays, I often lead trips for a number of Bay Area organizations. I have a BS in Botany and Masters in Marine Biology, though I firmly believe that formal schooling is only a small part of the educational process. I have been a regular contributor to the KQED-FM Perspective Series since 1988 and write the Ask the Naturalist column for Bay Nature Magazine.

Latest News

Greetings from Bali

April, 2014
I’ve been in this beautiful country of Bali for more than a week  and  the time has sped by. It is been a true holiday for me, it seems the first I’ve had in years. This is a quick note. I have been staying  for the last  several days at the most beautiful and romantic place I have ever been in my entire life. The  combination of the tropical setting, architecture, accouterments,   interior design, delicious and fresh food,  the sweet staff, and the landscaping  is unimaginably fantastic. I do not want to leave the Villa Bodhi ( About 30 minutes outside of Ubud) for those of you who know this country.

 There is nothing here that has not been thought about to the nth degree. The gardens are a sensual delight to the eye. The infinity pool drops off into the green tangled vegetable world of the Indonesian tropics. And everywhere you look at this Villa there are amazing details that even the uninitiated into architectural wonders (like me) cannot fail to notice and appreciate.

Right now there is a gentle rain falling. One of the wonderful things about living in the tropics is the smooth transition from inside to outside. There is so much outdoor living I could get really used to this style of life.  and this place has made that intercourse between interior spaces and exterior spaces seamless.  And I haven’t even mentioned the nocturnal sounds of the frogs, the insects and the giant geckos barking. The place is vibrating  With life.

I have two more full days in this country and then I fly  back to Las Vegas and then out to the Mojave Desert to pick up my camping stuff and then drive back to Santa Rosa. What a blessing it has been. I am so grateful of every day of my life. Thank you Marcy and Jennie  for inviting me to this gorgeous place.

I just may have to return here with a footloose foray adventure. I’ve begun to explore dovetailing my love and passion for natural history with the sacred and spiritual aspects of life.  it seems like a great and  complementary match.

The people of Bali are imbued with immense creativity and artistic expression like I’ve never experienced  before. Every single day we have had a grand adventure. Unexpectedly a  procession moving down the road, a private gamelan  performance just for us at a nearby village. the children especially seem extraordinarily happy here. I think it’s because the adults do such cool things  and have such an easy manner about moving through life. There is no franticness here, there is time to just be. (not totally true there are alot of loud motorbikes!) There’s always some kind of celebration or an honoring of a place or a dance or a gamelan performance  constantly every day of the week. The place  is alive with spirits everywhere. You don’t even have to try hard to feel it. It pervades the air, the atmosphere, the water, the vegetation  even the buildings – it’s everywhere. I  understand why so many people have a love affair with Bali. I will be back.


April, 2014

Hello everyone:

I am off to the Mojave Desert until April 5 and then I go on a holiday! I know what you're thinking–every day is a holiday for you, Michael. Well that's sort of true. But I'm joining a friend in Bali, which has been on my bucket list for years.  I will be back in Santa Rosa on April 22.

I will try to check my e-mail periodically but I will be out of phone range. So the Internet is the best way to contact me.  My upcoming trip to Bhutan in May still has a little room. Let me know if you need any details or have questions and I'll be happy to answer them. The Lakes Basin camping trip, the Farallon Islands, Natural History/Natural Mystery at The Cedars, Mono Lake and the Birds outings still have space. I’m sorry to say that the Ecuador trip in January is full and that the Tanzania February 2015 trip is also full. I'm looking to add a trip to Ecuador in 2016 and I'm taking reservations already for the two trips to Tanzania in 2016. If you think 2016 long ways off you must be young, because the rest of us know how fast time goes.

Here is an excerpt from a blog I sent midway through my THREE consecutive trips to Tanzania:

I'm in the middle of my second trip in northern Tanzania. Everything is perfect. Fantastic electrical storms and the rain pounding down, the lions are roaring, the hyenas are whooping, the cheetahs are hunting, frogs are tinking, the wildebeests are gnuing and calving, and the ringneck doves are singing "play harder, play harder, play harder".

 I am at my favorite spot in the world – Moru Kopjes #3. We had the opportunity to go up on the rock to welcome the day nearly every morning we were here. I go with one of the guides to clear the rock of danger – that is leopards, lions, Cape buffaloes, and elephants. Three weeks ago there were 10 lions on these rocks right above camp.

 There have been many highlights. Yesterday morning when Leonard and I were clearing the rocks at 6:45 AM what should walk right by camp but a female rhinoceros and her four-year-old young – nearly full-grown. There are 32 rhinos in this area but they are hard to find. Unfortunately one was just poached out of this region just before we came, the first in two years. We yelled immediately down for everyone to grab their binoculars and their camera and head to the vehicles.  We cut them off at one of the roads and were able to get very good looks at them as they trotted off into the brush. These animals were once very widespread across Africa. Their problem? There horn, a valuable commodity to some human beings. Now there's very few of them left. So to see them like we saw them that morning is extraordinary.

Michael (far left) and friends overlooking the Ngorongoro Crater in February 2009. I have spent every February since 1993 in Tanzania. The adventure in the Serengeti remains one of my favorite Footloose Forays trips.

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