Enriched Air Diver is PADI’s most popular specialty course. Here’s what you need to know about earning an enriched air certification and the pros and cons of diving nitrox.
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What is nitrox?
Humans are accustomed to breathing air that’s approximately 79 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen. Technically, any mixture of nitrogen and oxygen is nitrox – that includes the air you’re breathing right now.
In the scuba realm, “nitrox” (also known as enriched air nitrox and EANx) typically describes breathing gas that is 32-36 percent oxygen. More oxygen means less nitrogen, and that has some nice benefits.
As you learned in your Open Water Course, nitrogen absorption is one of the things that limits our ability to explore underwater. Enriched air nitrox allows you to:
- Extend your bottom time
- Shorten surface intervals
- Dive deeper on repetitive dives
Is a nitrox certification “worth it”?
If you fancy staying down longer and getting back in the water sooner, then yes; getting nitrox certified is worth it. You can take more photos, wave to more turtles, and spend more time exploring at depth.
Many divers wait too long to try nitrox. They don’t realize the benefits of an enriched air certification until they’re on the water. Imagine this scenario:
There you are, on the second day of your diving adventure on Maui. Your first dive at Lanai’s Cathedrals or with the hammerheads on Molokai was deep, lets say 100 feet. After a relaxing surface interval, you’re eager for dive two – another cavern dive or another shot at swimming with sharks.
During the briefing, the divemaster tells divers on air to mind their depth and don’t go deeper than 60 feet. Enriched air divers, however, can explore the entirety of the dive site. You watch with envy as the nitrox divers drop to the bottom, exploring the Cathedrals more thoroughly or getting closer to the schooling hammerheads.
All joking aside, Nitrox allows you to spend more time at depth compared to diving on air, which means you’ll get a lot more out of your dive trip.
Even if you’re only making one dive, but it’s deeper than 50 feet, nitrox is beneficial. Consider this:
- If you plan a dive to 70 feet on air, your maximum no-stop limit is 40 minutes.
- If you’re diving 32 percent enriched air, the no-stop limit is 60 minutes
(unless you use up the air in your tank before then).
What are the pros and cons of nitrox diving?
If enriched air is so great, why doesn’t everyone use nitrox all the time? Good question, there are a few reasons:
- Cost – enriched air tank fills typically cost more than regular air fills
- Depth limitations – the maximum depth limit for nitrox is different than air and depends on the blend (something you’ll learn as part of your nitrox certification).
- Availability – not every dive shop offers enriched air
- Cylinder requirements – you need a dedicated cylinder for enriched air fills
Start Your Nitrox Certification Online
Getting nitrox certified only takes a few hours. You can complete most of your nitrox training online before your Maui vacation. Then all it takes to finish up is a short in-person session with your Dive Maui Instructor where you’ll practice analyzing air (and a few other things). If you complete the eLearning at home, you can easily learn to analyze tanks at our dive shop the morning before your boat trip and dive Nitrox for you two dives that day!
Ready to get started on your Nitrox Course? Contact Dive Maui to start your certification process today at firstname.lastname@example.org.