The people of the Batu Islands have had substantial interaction with the populations of Nias, to the north, whose language they share. The islands have occasionally been a destination for slaves who escaped from Nias, and in the past decade have become a destination for surfing boat charters from Padang, on the Sumatran mainland. The population at the 2010 Census was 18,848.
The equator passes through the archipelago, north of Tanahmasa and south of Pini. Administratively, Pini forms the Pulau-pulau Batu Timur District of South Nias Regency; the rest of the archipelago forms the Pulau-pulau Batu District of the same regency. The islands were visited by Simon Reeve during Equator, a 2006 BBC TV Series.