What is enriched air diving? Why do a speciality Nitrox scuba dive course?

Jan 28, 2022 BY Cara Rees

What is enriched air diving? Put simply, enriched air is any air mix with extra Oxygen added. Diving with a higher percentage of Oxygen exposes you to less Nitrogen. Thus enriched air diving allows a longer bottom time or more dives in a day. Why do a speciality Nitrox scuba dive course? Read this article to find out my reasons and how it might benefit you.

Nitrox diving at Utila, Honduras Photo copyright of UDC and Ashley Kirkham

What is enriched air diving? (Technical background)

Enriched Air is also known as Nitrox or Enriched Air Nitrox (EAN or EANx). The air that we breathe everyday is close to 79% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen. Standard scuba tanks are filled with air in these proportions. EAN is any air mix enriched with more than 21% Oxygen.

Breathing air under pressure when scuba diving causes the body tissue to absorb more gas. If your body has too much dissolved Nitrogen and you surface too quickly bubbles form causing decompression sickness (DCS) aka the bends.

The deeper you go the more pressure you are exposed to and the more nitrogen you absorb. If you stay too long at deeper depths you need to complete a decompression stop during your accent to offload some of the Nitrogen you’ve absorbed.

To reduce the risk of DSC, recreational diving is completed within no decompression limits. These limits are calculated based on the amount of time you spend at depth. Diving within these limits you should not absorb enough Nitrogen to require a decompression stop.

What is enriched air diving? Photo copyright of UDC and Ashley Kirkham

The offloading of Nitrogen takes time. This means completing multiple dives in a given period adds to the amount of Nitrogen in your body. There are calculations that account for repetitive dives and give you new ‘no decompression’ limits with shallower depths and reduced bottom times.

Why do a speciality Nitrox scuba dive course?

The beauty of enriched air scuba diving is that you breathe less Nitrogen so you absorb less. This increases your no decompression bottom time so you can stay deeper for longer.

I love being underwater, I find it calming and enthralling. Wanting to spend more time underwater is a no brainer for me. It means more time exploring the water world. Stopping longer to study interesting fish behaviours or take a great photo.

Another great benefit of scuba diving with Nitrox is that by reducing your Nitrogen load you can do more dives over a period of time. It is super exciting to book a scuba diving holiday and you want to make the most of the dive location you’ve chosen. Using EAN enables you to safely dive more frequently on a multi-day vacation.

Wreck dive in Utila Honduras Photo copyright of UDC and Ashley Kirkham

In my case I chose to do a specialty Nitrox diving course because I have a medical condition which requires me to minimize my Nitrogen absorption. I was advised by a specialist dive doctor that I can only dive to 15m or air equivalent once a day. Using an enriched air mix my maximum depth increases to 22m.

I found it very hard to come to terms with having a condition which increases my risk of DCS and limits the diving I can do. Diving with EAN reduces those limits. Plus by using EAN I can dive to 18m with my partner who is a newly qualified open water diver.

The speciality Enriched Air scuba diving course

The PADI enriched air qualification is a classroom based course. Mine took 5hrs but the length of time depends on students’ prior knowledge and completion of pre-course study.

The course consists of a video introduction, written materials with practice questions  and practical exercises including gas analysis. I found it interesting and liked the variety of teaching methods used.

UTD Nitrox / enriched air diving course materials

The PADI course materials include; a manual, Enriched Air dive slates with instructions for use and study guide. This package provides all the information you need to plan Nitrox dives. And the course gives you the knowledge to apply it.

Review of Enriched Air course by UDC

I chose to train with Utila Dive Centre because they are a career development center. All their instructors are qualified to be master scuba dive trainers at a minimum. My medical condition meant it was extra important to me to know I was receiving the best instruction.

My instructor Anton was great. He was very patient with me. He even develop additional exercises for me to practice the required calculations until I was completely confident I understood everything.

Utila Dive Centre has an inclusive fun learning and diving environment. The instructors and dive leads are extremely knowledgeable with lots of experience. A bonus for me was that the classrooms are air conditioned.

Utila Dive Centre Pontoon in Utila Honduras

Also the UDC equipment room looked immaculate and their gear was well maintained. The social atmosphere they have cultivated was really enjoyable. I felt instantly welcome and loved joining in with the special events they regularly host.

Should you train in enriched air?

By now you have answers to what is enriched air diving and why do a speciality Nitrox scuba dive course. I would advise all avid divers to complete EAN training simply because Nitrox allows you to have longer bottom times and/or complete more dives in a period of time.

My training and diving with UDC was comprehensive and awesome fun. I would highly recommend Utila Dive Center for a dive holiday and scuba dive training. Wishing you happy diving!

We hope you found this guide to enriched air diving and speciality Nitrox scuba dive courses in Utila helpful. I thoroughly recommend learning or diving with UDC. For more info head to their website: www.utiladivecenter.com

Bay Islands, Caribbean Sea, Central America, Honduras, Mesoamerican Reef, Utila
Scuba Diving
Nitrox, PADI

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