After incubation period of about 60 days the young turtles or “hatchlings” begin to break out of their shells and move about in the nest. After a further 2 days most of the eggs will have hatched. The movement of all the hatchlings causes sand from the roof and sides of the nest to fall down to the floor and form a platform. This platform rises as more sand falls and the hatchlings are pushed to the surface with and “elevator-like” movement.
The hatchlings emerge from the nest at night when it is cooler and they are less conspicuous to predators. This is a particularly dangerous time for the young turtles as there may be many predators such as rats, crabs, dogs and in the morning, birds. Therefore, they immediately and rapidly crawl towards the brightest, lowest horizon, which under natural conditions is the reflection of the moon and stars on the sea.
But even those hatchlings that reach the water are not out of danger. The inshore waters are home to many sharks, large fish and seabirds. As soon as they reach the sea, hatchlings swim constantly for about 48 hours.
During this time, they do not feed. Instead they rely on the remains of the egg yolk in their stomachs for nutrition. This is known as the “juvenile frenzy” and is an essential behavior, which allows the hatchlings to escape the predator rich inshore waters and be carried away by the open ocean currents.
Once they reach these currents, they start feeding on tiny, floating sea animals.
We know very little about the lives of turtles in the year between hatching and reaching sexual maturity. It is believed, however, that when the female turtles reach maturity they will return to nest on the same beach where they themselves hatched. It has been estimated that under natural conditions only one in a thousand eggs survive to eventually become mature adult turtles.