Today, only twenty of the islands are inhabited and the others have only small populations of the Bijagós people. The southern islands are today a nature reserve. The islands of Bubaque, Bolama, and Caravela are the most populated and are visited by tourists. This continued even during the years of unrest in Guinea-Bissau as the islands remained isolated from those events.
They constitute a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, known for animals including marine turtles and monkeys and are mostly forested. The population mostly speaks Bijagó and has a considerable degree of autonomy.