What is Nitrox? Nitrox is a breathing gas that has a higher percentage of oxygen compared to normal compressed air. A typical "mix" of nitrox that you'll find available at most dive shops is usually 30-32% oxygen (rather than 21% oxygen that is normally in air). Nitrox usually does cost a bit more compared to air, but some dive charters and resorts offer great deals on Nitrox because they recognize the safety benefits of having their clients using Nitrox rather than air.
Who dives with Nitrox? All levels of divers can dive using nitrox, including newly certified beginner divers. You do need to be a certified Nitrox Diver in order to obtain and dive with Nitrox. Understanding the benefits and risks of diving Nitrox is important. Contrary to popular belief, Nitrox is actually considered a "shallow gas", meaning that it is mostly used by divers who remain within recreational diving limits and often shallower than 100 ft (33m).
Why dive with Nitrox? Because Nitrox has a higher level of oxygen, it therefore has a lower level of nitrogen. You'll remember from your Open Water Diver course that nitrogen is the main culprit in causing things like Decompression Illness (aka "the bends") and Nitrogen Narcosis. Lower levels of nitrogen will reduce the diver's risk of getting "bent" or "narced" while scuba diving. Because of the lower level of nitrogen being breathed, your no-decompression limits will increase compared to diving with air. Therefore as long as you still have air in your tank, you will be able to stay down longer at depth compared to breathing air (although you will still breath at the same rate so it doesn't magically make you "better on air"). Some divers claim to feel less tired and fatigued when diving Nitrox. Factors like age can increase your risk of decompression sickness, so many divers will dive with Nitrox but use a dive plan based on diving with air in order to be more conservative and reduce the risks. Diving with Nitrox gives you the extra-added safety cushion if followed properly.
Where can I find Nitrox? Most dive shops around the world will offer Nitrox as an option when diving. You shouldn't have a problem finding Nitrox at most resorts, liveaboards, boat operators, and local dive shops.
How can I get certified? The Nitrox Diver Specialty course is the one course that a new diver is allowed to take and get certified in prior to obtaining their Open Water Diver course. So if it's something that you're interested in doing, there's no requirement to wait until you're certified. The course has some pre-study that you can do either online or with a paper textbook. Then a couple of hours in the classroom with the instructor to review the important information and then some hands-on learning of how to analyze the air in a scuba tank. There are no required dives for the Nitrox course. Courses are offered on a regular basis and with 2 or more students we can usually accommodate almost any day/time that you need.