Multilevel Diving

Multilevel diving is a type of dive profile wherein a diver spends time at various depths during a single dive. This diving technique allows divers to maximize their time underwater while effectively managing their air consumption, decompression obligations, and no-decompression limits (NDLs). Multilevel diving offers a more engaging and diverse experience, enabling divers to explore different marine habitats, interact with diverse marine life, and visit multiple dive sites within a single dive.

Origins and Development

The concept of multilevel diving can be traced back to the early days of scuba diving, as divers sought ways to extend their bottom time without significantly increasing the risk of decompression sickness (DCS). The development of dive computers and decompression models, such as the Bühlmann Algorithm and the Reduced Gradient Bubble Model (RGBM), have facilitated the advancement and adoption of multilevel diving techniques.

Planning and Execution

A successful multilevel dive requires careful planning, taking into account factors such as depth, dive time, air consumption, and decompression obligations. Several tools and resources can assist divers in planning and executing multilevel dives:

  1. Dive Tables: Traditional dive tables provide guidance on no-decompression limits and required decompression stops for various depths and times. However, they do not account for multilevel diving profiles, so divers must use conservative estimates when planning a multilevel dive with dive tables.
  2. Dive Computers: Dive computers are electronic devices that continuously monitor a diver’s depth and time, calculating their decompression obligations and no-decompression limits in real-time. Many modern dive computers have built-in multilevel diving capabilities, making them an invaluable tool for divers engaging in multilevel dives.
  3. Multilevel Dive Planners: Software and mobile applications that allow divers to input their intended dive profile and receive information about no-decompression limits, decompression stops, and air consumption estimates. These tools are beneficial for planning and visualizing multilevel dives.
  4. Dive Buddy: A well-coordinated dive buddy team is crucial for a successful multilevel dive. Divers must communicate their dive plans, including intended depths, dive times, and decompression stops, to ensure both divers can effectively manage their air consumption and decompression obligations.

Multilevel Dive Techniques

There are several techniques for executing a multilevel dive, including:

  1. Square Profile: The square profile involves descending to the maximum planned depth and ascending to shallower depths at fixed intervals. This technique is simple to execute and minimizes decompression obligations.
  2. Progressive Ascent: The progressive ascent technique involves gradually ascending throughout the dive, spending more time at shallower depths. This method maximizes bottom time while minimizing decompression obligations and air consumption.
  3. Yo-yo Profile: The yo-yo profile involves alternating between deeper and shallower depths during the dive. This technique can be advantageous when exploring dive sites with varying topography or when observing marine life at different depths.
  4. Custom Profile: Custom profiles are designed based on the specific dive site, diver experience, and objectives. Divers can use dive planning tools to create a custom dive profile that meets their needs and minimizes decompression risk.

Safety Considerations

Multilevel diving poses unique risks and challenges, making proper planning, execution, and safety precautions essential. Key safety considerations for multilevel diving include:

  1. Decompression Sickness (DCS): Divers must monitor their decompression obligations and no-decompression limits throughout the dive to minimize the risk of DCS.
  2. Air Consumption: Multilevel diving typically requires more air consumption due to the extended bottom time. Divers must monitor their air supply and ensure they have enough air to complete the dive safely, including any required decompression stops.
  3. Ascent Rate: As with all scuba diving activities, maintaining a controlled ascent rate is crucial in multilevel diving. Divers should not exceed an ascent rate of 30 feet (9 meters) per minute to minimize the risk of DCS and other complications.
  4. Nitrogen Narcosis: The risk of nitrogen narcosis increases with depth, and divers engaging in multilevel diving may experience varying levels of narcosis throughout the dive. Divers must be aware of the symptoms of nitrogen narcosis and take appropriate action if they or their dive buddy experience any symptoms.
  5. Equalization: Frequent depth changes during a multilevel dive require divers to equalize their ears and other air spaces more often. Divers must be proficient in equalization techniques to prevent barotrauma and ensure a comfortable dive.
  6. Buoyancy Control: Effective buoyancy control is essential for maintaining the desired depth and reducing the risk of uncontrolled ascents or descents. Divers should practice buoyancy control techniques and use appropriate weighting to achieve neutral buoyancy.
  7. Dive Equipment: Multilevel diving may require additional equipment, such as redundant air sources, decompression lines, or underwater markers. Divers must familiarize themselves with the required equipment and ensure it is in good working condition.
  8. Emergency Procedures: Divers should establish emergency procedures for situations such as low air supply, equipment malfunction, or diver separation. Regularly reviewing and practicing emergency procedures can help divers respond effectively in case of an emergency during a multilevel dive.

Environmental Considerations

Multilevel diving allows divers to explore diverse marine habitats and interact with a variety of marine life. Divers must be aware of the potential impact of their activities on the environment and adhere to responsible diving practices, including:

  1. Marine Life Protection: Divers should maintain a safe distance from marine life, avoid touching or disturbing animals, and refrain from feeding or handling them. This helps ensure the health and well-being of the marine ecosystem.
  2. Coral Conservation: Coral reefs are fragile ecosystems that are easily damaged by physical contact. Divers should avoid touching, standing, or anchoring on coral and practice good buoyancy control to minimize their impact on these delicate structures.
  3. Sustainable Dive Practices: Divers can contribute to the preservation of marine environments by choosing dive operators that adhere to sustainable practices, such as limiting the number of divers at a dive site, using environmentally-friendly equipment, and participating in marine conservation initiatives.


Multilevel diving is a versatile and engaging dive technique that enables divers to explore diverse underwater environments and maximize their bottom time. With careful planning, proper execution, and adherence to safety and environmental considerations, multilevel diving can provide a rewarding and memorable experience for divers of all skill levels.